Executive Headteachers: What's in a name?

July 8, 2016

The Future Leaders Trust, National Governors' Association and NFER

This report examines the role and impact of Executive Headteachers (EHT) in England's schools.


Download the full PDF report here.


Key messages and recommendations

In this study, we found that the remit and responsibilities of individuals working as EHTs varies in terms of the number of schools they work with, the structure linking those schools, whether or not they have a substantive headship role, and the schools’ strategic priorities.

We propose that an EHT be considered as a lead professional of more than one school; or who manages a school with multiple phases; or who has management responsibility significantly beyond that of a single school site. An EHT provides a leadership and management layer to increase strategic and collaborative capacity. Scale and size are important considerations; however, at what point another form of strategic leadership may be required, for example a chief executive officer (CEO) was outside the scope of this current study and needs further exploration.

Our study’s focus on the difference between HTs and EHTs highlights that the roles of EHTs are distinctive from traditional HT roles in requiring higher levels of strategic thinking; greater emphasis on coaching, delegating and achieving change through others; and capacity to look outward.

Key recommendations: 

  • More clarity is needed at a national level around the true scale of the role and the purpose of EHTs in a school-led system.
  • The DfE should facilitate a profession-led definition of executive headship with associated skills, competencies, organisational structures and indicative remuneration – allowing for a range of appropriate operating models.
  • Workforce planning must ensure sufficient numbers of leaders progress upward to fill new EHT positions while also sustaining traditional HT positions and Head of School (HoS) roles.
  • Governing boards should actively decide whether to add a level of strategic leadership, and whether this is structured as an additional layer or replacement for other forms or leadership (or a mixture). They must consider who will step into the HoS (or similar) role.
  • Governors should be supported with guidance on what role an EHT might play, appointing procedures, indicative remuneration and job descriptions.
  • More professional development and support networks for EHTs and aspirant EHTs are needed. Action is needed to increase the proportion of women in the role.
  • The role and effectiveness of EHTs should be carefully evaluated and kept under review, as this new and expanding leadership role develops.
  • National data recording systems need to be developed to more accurately record information about EHT posts and accountability arrangements.
  • More research is needed to explore the role of Head of School (HoS) and CEO to further understand how they relate to EHTs.


This blog post originally appeared on the website of The Future Leaders Trust. In November 2016 The Future Leaders Trust joined forces with Teaching Leaders to form Ambition School Leadership. Together we will tackle educational disadvantage faster and more effectively, improving the life chances of more of our most disadvantaged pupils. Click here to find out more about Ambition School Leadership.

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