Spotlight on Leadership

This spotlight outlines the important findings of the Leadership BES and provides links to resources to help educational leaders solve problems and accelerate learning for diverse learners. It provides a quick way in to a key resource for those responsible for raising achievement and reducing disparity in primary and secondary schools.


System Leaders

To be effective, system leaders need access to understandings about the complex relationship between educational leadership and student outcomes and the particular leadership dimensions that are crucial for improving student outcomes in both English and Māori medium schools. The primary conclusion is that the more leaders focus their influence, their learning, and their relationships with teachers on the core business of teaching and learning, the greater their influence on student outcomes.

Senior and Middle Leaders

Principals are tasked with demonstrating:

  • A school culture focussed on enhancing learning and teaching
  • Learning environments in which there is an expectation that all students will experience success in learning
  • Management systems to support and enhance student learning
  • Communications and relationships to enhance student learning.

Senior and middle leaders are tasked with demonstrating:

  • Professional leadership
  • Policy and programme management
  • Relationship management
  • Financial and asset management.

The School Leadership and Student Outcomes: Identifying What Works and Why | Best Evidence Synthesis identifies 8 leadership dimensions.

For more information on each of the 8 Leadership Dimensions read:


This figure details the 8 leadership dimension identified on page 39 of the School Leadership and Student Outcomes BES

The Educational Leaders website explains that "the changing demographics of our schools are reflected in the increasingly diverse mix of students who attend them. Our students are from a variety of cultural backgrounds, and come with a range of experiences and needs. This means that schools have to respond to different and greater challenges than ever before. The principals who lead our schools need to have the personal and professional qualities, knowledge, and leadership skills required to meet these challenges."

Promoting and participating in teacher professional learning and development

Of all the dimensions derived from the meta-analysis, in the high impact areas of principal practice, Dimension 4 "Promoting and participating in teacher learning and development" produced the largest estimated effect size.

What to look for when choosing professional development for your school:


Building relational trust

In the context of a school, gaining significant shifts in student achievement and wellbeing requires the collective efforts of all members of the school community. Building relational trust is critical to harnessing the collective will, energy and skill of the school community.

Find out more about what builds and erodes relational trust and why it works:


Diagram on relational trust

Read an example of relational trust in action in:

Engaging in constructive problem talk

When NZ school leaders were asked in a recent study to identify the issues that challenged them, they nearly always indicated people problems. Leaders indicated that many of their people problems were long-standing, difficult to resolve, and had negative consequences that spilled over into other areas of school life.

The open-to-learning conversations model provides an approach with trustworthy evidence in support of its effectiveness:


Watch Distinguished Professor Viviane Robinson discuss building effective relationships and trust to in an educational context.

Creating educationally powerful connections

Research analysis has shown that particular kinds of school-family connections can have large positive effects on the academic and social outcomes of students, especially those who are under-served or at risk. Schools can also invest considerable time, energy and resources in activities that end up having minimal or even negative impacts on student outcomes.

Planning, coordinating and evaluating teaching and the curriculum

Leaders in high-performing schools are distinguished from their counterparts in otherwise similar, low-performing schools by their personal involvement in planning, coordinating, evaluating teaching and the curriculum.

Find out more about Dimension 3: Planning, co-ordinating, and evaluating teaching and the curriculum:


Read more about how to maximise these important relationships to achieve positive outcomes for your students:


What makes a difference graph

Establishing goals and expectations

Goal setting is a powerful leadership tool. How does goal setting work?

How goal setting works

Read more about how it works in theory and in practice, and common problems to avoid in:

In addition, check out the table below, which outlines common problems you might encounter during the goal setting process and ways you might overcome them.

Problem Strategy
People lack the skills and knowledge to achieve the goal. Set relevant learning rather than performance goals
Individuals' goals may be in conflict with others' goals. Set team or superordinate goals.
Failure to achieve goals is seen as a risk. Encourage and reward learning from mistakes.
Successful goal attainment can reinforce old strategies that are inappropriate in a changing environment Invite robust critique and review of goals and strategies for reaching them.
Accountability for goal attainment can lead to biased and inaccurate reporting. - Check validity of a small sample of reports.
- Leaders model an ethical culture to show no tolerance for deviations. 
Important outcomes that are not set as goals may be ignored. - Set more inclusive goals.
- Set goals for all critical outcomes.
- Inquire into goal interrelationships.


Leading teacher appraisal

Senior and middle leaders play a crucial role in determining whether teacher appraisal is used as a tool for improving the quality of teaching and learning or not.

Read Case 1: Leading Teacher Appraisal
See an example of one appraisal tool Educational Leaders use with:


Planning, coordinating and evaluating teaching and the curriculum

Leaders in high-performing schools are distinguished from their counterparts in otherwise similar, low-performing schools by their personal involvement in planning, coordinating, evaluating teaching and the curriculum.

Find out more about Dimension 3:
Read Case 2:

Teacher leaders

Teachers are tasked with demonstrating:

Teacher leaders "show leadership that contributes to effective teaching and learning (and):

Teacher and student use of learning goals

We hear a lot about the use of learning goals and success criteria. But what do we know about what makes these practices effective and ineffective?

Read more about how this plays out in three teachers classes in BES Exemplar 3 (Appendix B):
pdf icon   Teacher and student use of learning goals [PDF 4.1MB]
        BES Exemplar 3 | Ngā Kete Raukura He Tauira 3  (Refer to Appendix B)