The NASUWT has set out below information, advice and guidance on the use of the Headteachers’ Standards in schools. This includes their use for best practice, in appraisal and performance management, and as objectives for those seeking to obtain a leadership role in the future.

The Union has published separate guidance on the use of the Teachers’ Standards for the purposes of the formal appraisal/performance management of teachers.

The scope and applicability of the Headteachers’ Standards

Headteachers play an integral role in the school and wider education system. Their leadership has the ability to ensure high-quality teaching, achievements of children and young people, and a well-rounded experience of education for pupils.

Parents, pupils and wider society hold high expectations of headteachers. The stated purpose of the Headteachers’ Standards is to provide a framework of how headteachers can meet these high expectations, offering important benchmarks not only for headteachers themselves, but also for those who hold headteachers to account. They also provide direction to those who train and develop school leaders.

The new Headteachers’ Standards came into effect on 13 October 2020. These standards replace the National Standards of Excellence for Headteachers (2015). Unlike the Teachers’ Standards, they are non-statutory and therefore offer a framework of guidance only.

The Department for Education (DfE) outlines the range of purposes the Headteachers’ Standards can be used for, including:

  • to shape a headteachers’ own practice and professional development, within and beyond their school;
  • providing guidance in relation to the recruitment and appointment of headteachers, including the development of job descriptions and person specifications;
  • supporting the training of school leaders, including both current and aspiring headteachers; and
  • informing the performance management of headteachers.

The Headteachers’ Standards will also be reflected in the reformed national professional qualifications (NPQs) to ensure consistency of standards in best practice and professional development across the teaching profession.

The updated NPQs will be available to teachers and school leaders from September 2021. We have provided more detailed information on our National Professional Qualifications (England) page.

Relationship to the Teachers’ Standards

While the Headteachers’ Standards are non-statutory, like all other teachers with contracts that include duties related to teaching, headteachers are expected to meet the Teachers’ Standards. The specific Headteachers’ Standards set out how headteachers can meet both the additional responsibilities of their leadership role and the requirements of the Teachers’ Standards.

The first section of the Headteachers’ Standards outlines the ethics and professional conduct that is expected of headteachers. This is developed from part 2 of the Teachers’ Standards and subsequently brings together a set of statements that define the expected behaviour and attitudes of headteachers.

The second section sets out ten Headteachers’ Standards. The first six build on the Teachers’ Standards, with the remaining four focusing on leadership responsibilities specific to a headteacher role. The full details of the Headteachers’ Standards can be accessed via the DfE website.

Arrangements for the use of Headteachers’ Standards

The Headteachers’ Standards are designed to be relevant to every headteacher. In some settings, headteachers are responsible for leading more than one school. There are also instances where headship is shared, either through a co-headship role or a job share. Employers will, therefore, want to decide which standards are applicable to roles in these circumstances.

To ensure the appropriate use of the Headteachers’ Standards, the NASUWT has identified key principles that must be reflected in the protocols in all settings where they are used.

NASUWT principles for acceptable practice on use of the Headteachers’ Standards

The Headteachers’ Standards are not to be used as checklist for appraisal or performance management

As with the Teachers’ Standards, it is not necessary to check a headteacher’s performance against every standard. This approach does not consider that professional standards, whether statutory or non-statutory, should be only part of a more holistic appraisal, rather than purely a checklist of professional practice criteria.

The Headteachers’ Standards may be used as a tool to form part of a headteacher’s assessment of their own practice and professional development. They can also be used to support the identification of objectives in the appraisal process, providing the appraisal is undertaken as a positive and supportive process of professional development.

More information and guidance about the setting of appraisal objectives can be found in the NASUWT’s practical guides on appraisal on our Performance Management web page.

Headteachers do not have to provide evidence that they have met and continue to meet each Standard

Setting objectives should enable employers to have sufficient evidence that a headteacher’s performance continues to be effective. Therefore, statutory or otherwise, there should be no expectation from an employer that headteachers need to gather evidence that they are meeting each of the Teachers’ Standards.

Furthermore, appraisals of headteachers should begin from the assumption that the Headteachers’ Standards are being met. It is unacceptable to develop appraisal objectives that presume headteachers are not meeting the Standards with the headteacher being responsible for demonstrating they are in fact doing so.

Aspiring leaders can use the Standards to inform their professional development

One of the reasons for the development of the Headteachers’ Standards is to provide an important benchmark for headteachers, while providing direction to those who train and develop school leaders. Therefore, it would be appropriate that teachers who are looking to undertake a leadership role in the future can use the Standards as part of their professional development.

For example, teachers can request that one or more of the Headteachers’ Standards are included as a performance management objective. By meeting this objective, the individual will then be able to use this as evidence when applying for a leadership position.

Employers must be able to demonstrate that the Headteachers’ Standards are applied on an equitable basis for all relevant headteachers

Employers are under a legal responsibility to ensure that where they use the Headteachers’ Standards, they are applied in a way that does not discriminate unlawfully on the grounds of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership status, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, part-time working, fixed-term contract or trade union activities.

Further information and advice

Detailed information on performance management and appraisal can be found on our Performance Management web page.

School leaders should contact the NASUWT if they have particular concerns about their employers’ appraisal and performance management practices.