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What are the top five challenges for school leaders everywhere?


A friendly debate among a group of teachers led by a major conference speaker has now become a viral Twitter discussion: What are the top five challenges for school leaders everywhere?

Earlier this week, Andy Hargreaves Boston College and University of Ottawa professor, tweeted this question, which has since sparked significant debate among school leaders worldwide.

So, what exactly do school leaders consider to be their top five challenges?

One respondent, Ruth Luzmore, primary headteacher and Tes columnist based in London, believed these are: “1. Funding of schools; 2. Increasing numbers of statutory assessments; 3. An accountability framework which provides judgement and not support; 4. Retention of staff; 5. Funding of wider services to support vulnerable families/pupils. Falling onto schools to do so. Then see number 1.”

The Catholic Schools Partnership TSA in Bradford & Keighley also reflected some specific concerns as well as broader ones: “1: Daring to say ‘enough’ to old OTT workload things when in a category. 2: Inflexible definitions of disadvantage that don’t reflect modern life. 3: Recruitment. 4: Budgets. 5: Fragmentation of the education system that can lead to schools, and children, slipping though the net.”

Some respondents considered mental health and wellbeing above addressing other challenges. Hobart-based principal Julie Bird expressed a single, dominant concern: “mental health, trauma, anxiety: issues growing in number and complexity. We need the knowledge and understanding to respond, and the professional staff to work with students. Until this is addressed well, all other matters related to learning and improved outcomes are secondary.”

Similarly, Alexandra Harper, educator and children’s wellbeing advocate, highlighted the importance of relationship-building in eradicating challenges not only for staff, but for families and children: “Invest in building r’ships with all school staff, families & chn. Get to know their strengths & find ways that they can use them in the school. Know your context. Have a vision & share it. Actively listen to other points of view. Be open to change & adapt.”

Encompassing mental wellbeing of students and school leaders alike, Reuben Moore, Belfast-based executive director at Teach First, expressed the following belief: “Attracting and retaining great people, aligning and prioritising when there are so many good things we could be doing. Everyone having the bandwidth to focus on the areas that make the most difference. Implementing with fidelity and making it habit.”

Do you agree with these challenges? If not, what are the top five challenges your school faces? Join the conversation by commenting below.

One thought on “What are the top five challenges for school leaders everywhere?

  1. Cathy Tooze on said:

    1 – recruitment of high quality staff to all posts, particularly to teaching posts
    2 – finances and lack of recognition on the part of the ESFA of the trust’s own fundraising successes
    3 – mental health and wellbeing of staff
    4 – mental health and wellbeing of students
    5 – reductions in quality and quantity of external services

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