Identification of Future School Leaders in NSW Public Schools: preliminary report

Overview of report

The School Leadership Institute has developed a School Leadership Identification Framework (SLIF) to identify and develop potential future school leaders. As part of this process the SLI conducted research into how best to identify and develop teacher leaders who aspire to formal leadership roles.

This Identification of Future School Leaders in NSW Public Schools report (PDF 3MB) examines:

  • behaviours and capabilities of teachers that indicate their readiness for leadership development;
  • relationships (or correlations) between leadership behaviours and capabilities;
  • the alignment of the SLIF to the NSW Department of Education’s Performance and Development Framework (PDF); and
  • how teaching staff within the department perceive teacher leader behaviours and capabilities.

The report is based on an in-depth focus group as well as a random survey of more than 900 teaching staff.

It found there are consistent behaviours and capabilities that identify teacher leaders; and that aligning the SLIF to the Performance and Development Framework was strongly supported.

The report has been used by the SLI to develop the SLIF resources that will be available in selected schools as part of a pilot project in 2021.

Teacher leaders

Teacher leaders are teachers whose sphere of influence extends beyond themselves and their own students and impacts positively at a year or stage, school or even a system level.

Teacher leaders will be able to use the SLIF to reflect and assess whether they are ready to undertake learning for formal leadership or develop their leadership capabilities. The SLIF will help them by setting out the specific steps to take.

The SLIF is the first time that the DoE has produced a framework aimed at developing teacher leaders. Supporting teacher leaders will help:

  • improve teacher retention rates in our schools, encouraging high quality and effective teachers to remain in the profession
  • encourage collaborative classrooms and positive school cultures
  • develop teacher capacity across the public education system by sharing expertise and knowledge within and across schools.

Report methodology

The research basis of this report was drawn from an initial focus group of NSW public school educators, a statewide survey and a review of relevant literature.

The initial focus group was held in November 2019 to gather data from teachers and leaders in NSW public schools. The group comprised 33 teachers from a range of settings, substantive positions, gender, school type and experience, who were then split into smaller focus groups.

The survey was emailed to a random sample of 3000 educators with 906 responses. This survey asked participants to reflect on the behaviours relevant to teacher leaders using a five point Likert scale. Participants reflected on how frequently each behaviour - derived from the AITSL Principal Standard and adapted for the teacher leader context - was demonstrated in a teacher leader. This constituted a series of 47 questions. Participants were given the opportunity to respond to two open-ended questions exploring typical teacher leadership behaviours and to provide further comments.


The report has two conclusions.

  • It identified behaviours and capabilities as reliable indicators of teachers who have transitioned to teacher leaders. These could be used to identify teacher leaders who have the potential to undertake further leadership learning and prepare for formal middle leadership positions or enhance their impact on student and teacher learning.
  • The strong respondent data justifies connecting the SLIF to existing processes, policies and procedures. In particular, the study found that there were high levels of support for aligning the SLIF to the PDP process. Respondents also strongly supported the process of self-nomination as a teacher leader, the ability to select a mentor and a higher frequency of observations and feedback meetings as key features of the SLIF.

Next steps

The SLIF resource guide uses the findings from this report to ensure that it is purpose-built for NSW public schools. It provides a method for identifying teacher leaders based on validated groups of associated behaviours and capabilities. It also guides the teacher leader to assess their preparedness to undertake leadership learning and provides a flexible development cycle through which to build leadership goals.

The reliability and validity of the SLIF as a resource will be tested during a pilot study in 2021.

Read the Identification of Future School Leaders in NSW Public Schools report (PDF 3MB).

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