The School Leadership Challenge: 2022

‘The School Leadership Challenge’ projects the possible supply and demand for school leaders until 2022.

Download the full report here.

Read James Toop's commentary on the report here.

'The School Leadership Challenge' from The Future Leaders Trust, Teach First and Teaching Leaders delivers the first integrated, nation-wide view into the challenges around developing and identifying school leaders.

In the analysis, school leaders are defined as assistant head, deputy head, headteacher or head of school, executive headteacher or CEO.

We know that schools in England face real challenges in attracting, developing and retaining leaders - assistant heads, deputy. This report projects that England may face a shortage of between 14,000 and 19,000 school leaders by 2022, affecting almost one in four schools in England. 

More importantly this report presents solutions, highlighting successful initiatives in the UK and elsewhere. There are a number of ways that all three organisations already and will continue to work to encourage more people to become school leaders.

Finding the new leaders

Our report proposes four interventions:

  1. Develop a new generation of school leaders
  2. Expand the pool of candidates for executive roles
  3. Drive system change to support leaders more effectively and provide clear career pathways
  4. Build the brand of school leadership

In combination, ‘The Leadership Challenge’ projects that these interventions could deliver the number of leaders needed by 2022.

Working towards a solution

A literature review, a review of high-performing education systems and expert interviews identified clear characteristics of good practice (Appendix, slides 27-28).

The leadership pool is not representative of the teaching population. Compared to teachers, headteachers are older, less likely to be from Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups and less likely to be female.

This under-representation suggests there are many potential leaders in the female and BAME workforce, so identifying these existing teachers could contribute to addressing the problem.

With five years of experience, high-performing teachers can be ready to move into senior leadership. There are 240,000 teachers with this level of experience who are not in leadership roles and may also represent untapped potential.

A structured career pathway of development could provide these ‘missing leaders’ with the support and direction that will encourage and enable them to become school leaders.

There must also be a dramatic shift in the culture of schools. It should change to a culture that ensures aspiring and existing leaders have access to personalised development combining academic and practical learning, mentoring and coaching and peer-to-peer support networks.


"Our challenge is to fill this gap. We’re contributing by providing leadership development from the start via Teach First’s Leadership Development Programme; and providing an integrated career pathway for middle leaders to multi-academy trust chief executives via the upcoming merger of Teaching Leaders and The Future Leaders Trust.

"This will accelerate more people to leadership roles and we believe it will increase retention too. We must also encourage those to consider headship who may have ruled it out – particularly under-represented groups including women and Black, Asian and minority ethnic leaders.

"If we are to realise our vision of a society where every child achieves, we need excellent school leaders and this report finds that we need many more of them."

Brett Wigdortz OBE, Founder and CEO of Teach First

James Toop, CEO of Teaching Leaders and The Future Leaders Trust

Further discussion of these interventions can be found in the Appendix slides. Analytical support was provided by McKinsey.

Download the full report here.