Research report: Formal Middle Leadership in NSW Public Schools

About the report

The School Leadership Institute (SLI) commissioned a research report into the role and professional development needs of assistant principals and head teachers, to help us develop tailored, responsive and evidence-informed professional learning programs and other support.

The research was conducted by researchers from the University of Sydney, the University of Wollongong and Macquarie University. The research term interviewed more than 2600 formal middle leaders from schools from around NSW.

This is the first comprehensive research into the leadership needs and aspirations of formal middle leaders in NSW schools. These are the school leaders with a direct impact on classroom teaching and therefore student achievement, so it is vital their voice is heard.

The final report makes a number of key findings about middle leaders and provides 10 recommendations to the department.

The research

The aim of the research project was to build an understanding of formal middle leadership and middle leadership professional learning needs across NSW public schools. This will help inform future NSW public school middle leadership initiatives.

There were 6 research questions:

  • Which teachers are being appointed to formal middle leadership positions?
  • What are the roles and responsibilities formal middle leaders are enacting?
  • What perceived impacts are middle leaders having on student learning?
  • How are middle leaders collaborating with and influencing others?
  • What are the professional needs and preferences of formal middle leaders?
  • What are the leadership trajectories and aspirations of formal middle leaders?

The findings provide an understanding of the current responsibilities, practices, professional learning and career trajectories, and aspirations of formal middle leaders in NSW public schools.

Key findings and recommendations

This study has provided the department and the SLI with a deeper understanding of middle leadership in our schools.

There were a number of key findings. They included

  • The main responsibilities of middle leaders were supervising staff, student-centred roles and curriculum-centred roles.
  • 75% of middle leaders believe they have a high to very high impact on student learning through their leadership role.
  • Middle leaders are seeking professional learning specific to their leadership roles.

The report authors also made a number of recommendations to the NSW Department of Education and the SLI. They included:

  • developing a more formal definition of leadership roles
  • identifying and supporting aspiring middle leaders
  • providing tailored professional development opportunities for current middle leaders.

Our response

We are already working to implement the recommendations of the report.

Find out more

Read the full list of recommendations and the department's response.

Formal Middle Leadership in NSW Public Schools

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