The importance of support for middle leaders

Ofsted, in its recently published review of the E-ACT Academies, highlighted key weaknesses across many of the 16 academies.

One item in the list of shortcomings was “poor quality assurance by middle leaders”.

According to Ofsted’s handbook inspectors look at:

  • How well leaders, managers and governors pursue excellence, modelling professional standards in all of their work.
  • The effectiveness of monitoring and evaluation and the extent to which it is shared with governors.
  • The use of performance management and effectiveness of strategies for improving teaching.
  • How well leaders and managers ensure that the curriculum is of a high quality.
  • How well leaders and managers demonstrate the capacity to bring about further improvement.

Both Ofsted and the Department for Education appear to have a renewed focus on this cadre of professionals who occupy a challenging position in the number of roles they fulfil.

The goals we all share for England’s education system – that all children, but especially the most disadvantaged, have the chance to achieve their potential at good or better schools – cannot be achieved without good middle leadership.


With the introduction of performance related pay and school-led initial teacher training, it is easy to see why there is a focus on the performance of the school’s middle leaders. Not only will they be responsible for overseeing much of the training of the new entrants into the profession, but they will also have to undertake a rigorous and objective appraisal process which will determine their colleague’s pay for the coming year. In addition to this, they could be involved in designing new curricula, creating assessment levels, keeping on top of the latest developments in their subject area and leading on evidence-based practice. And yet many individuals are often appointed to middle leadership positions with inadequate training for the role based on the assumption that great teachers make great leaders.

 “Senior leaders need to ensure that middle leaders are given the skills and confidence to promote improvement.

                        Mike Cladingbowl, Ofsted

With appropriate training and support, this cadre of the teaching profession can approach their tasks with confidence and ensure that they are providing the quality assurance asked for by Ofsted.

Recent extracts from Ofsted Reports Recommendations from Schools Requiring Improvement in the last three months:

  • Improve leadership and management by developing the skills of the newly appointed middle leaders and providing them with more opportunities to check on teaching and its impact on pupils’ progress in the subjects for which they are responsible.
  • Strengthen leadership and management by ensuring that middle leaders play a full part in checking the quality of teaching and learning in the school.
  • The role of middle leaders is strengthened through training and support in order to build further capacity for improvement.
  • Improving the effectiveness of leaders and managers in improving the quality of teaching and raising standards of behaviour by ensuring that all middle leaders take full account of the effect of teaching on students’ progress in lessons, and over time, when making a judgement on the quality of teaching making sure that all leaders regularly check that all staff consistently apply school policies in relation to behaviour management.
  • Further developing middle leaders to take more responsibility for the quality of teaching and progress of students in their subject area, as well as in the sixth form.