Top of the class: How better management boosts education

Words David Waller

Head teacher Andrew Martin CMgr FCMI explores the difference that quality leadership can make to the sector

Shortcut to start of content
You can tell a lot about the culture of a school from the way students’ work is displayed, says head teacher Andrew Martin CMgr FCMI. Image: Shutterstock / PhotoMavenStock

How can you tell if a particular school has good leadership? There are several obvious things to look for – whether that’s glowing exam results or low exclusion rates. Head teacher Andrew Martin CMgr FCMI takes his own novel approach: he looks at the artwork in the corridors.

“If there isn’t any, that sets off alarm bells,” he says. “If the art is behind screens that are a bit battered, I’d ask what's going on. But if the corridors have sculptures on the wall that haven't been picked at or damaged, it says something about the ethos and the way the children move around the premises. Schools can achieve that through fear and domination, but that isn’t sustainable. If it’s because children are thriving and happy there, that’s a true sign of success.”

Andrew is one of the country’s many “virtual heads”. Every local authority has one, whose job it is to provide extra support and improvement to looked-after children and young care leavers in the area’s schools. Throughout his career, Andrew has encountered many educational establishments – and knows what strong leadership can do.

According to the latest government figures, almost 40,000 teachers left the state education sector in 2021/2022 – up 7,800 on the year before. That’s the biggest exodus since 2017/2018. The percentage of teachers leaving after just two years grew from 17.3% to 19.9%.

“At the very best schools, you can feel an ethos where everyone is valued,” he says. “Their leadership teams understand and empathise with individuals – the teachers as well as pupils. Their systems and processes are reflective of that empathy and they’re driving forward and working, taking into account any direction from the Department for Education. They’re successful within the regulatory Ofsted framework. And their parent body is on side as well, so they’re managing all those stakeholders.”

But if those are the “very best schools”, what of the rest? From 2017–2023, an average 30% of UK schools and colleges received an Ofsted rating of “inadequate” or “requires improvement” for their leadership and management.

Want to learn more about the difference that quality management makes to the education sector?


If you are already registered as a CMI Friend, Subscriber or Member, just login to view this article.

Confirm your registration

Login below to confirm your details and access this article.


Please confirm that you want to switch off the "Sign in with email" remember me feature.

Register for Free Access

Not yet a Member, Subscriber or Friend? Register as a CMI Friend for free, and get access to this and many other exclusive resources, as well as weekly updates straight to your inbox.

You have successfully registered

As a CMI Friend, you now have access to whole range of CMI Friendship benefits.

Please login to the left to confirm your registration and access the article.