Press release

New scheme to boost middle management in challenging schools

Excellent school middle leaders will be placed in underperforming schools in a drive to raise standards.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


One hundred exceptional middle leaders will be placed in some of the most challenging schools across England in a move to raise standards and improve the quality of teaching and subject leadership, Schools Minister David Laws announces today (25 February 2015).

The secondment programme will invite up to 100 ‘outstanding’ middle leaders - such as heads of department, subject or year group heads - to apply to spend a year in underperforming schools, including those in deprived, coastal and rural areas.

The 1-year scheme will enable schools which face some of the greatest challenges to benefit from the skills, expertise and knowledge of strong middle leadership to help raise attainment. It will also provide an important professional development opportunity for participants with a view to training the excellent school leaders of the future.

Schools Minister David Laws said:

We know that strong leadership and high-quality teaching are vital to improving pupil outcomes. That is why we launched the Talented Leaders initiative last year, placing ‘outstanding’ headteachers into struggling schools. Today we are announcing a new programme to do the same with ‘outstanding’ heads of department and subject leaders.

This new programme will allow schools facing some of the greatest challenges to benefit from the skills, expertise and knowledge of an exceptional middle leader who can drive improvements and raise standards.

We want to encourage the movement of high-quality middle leaders to the areas which need it most, to help close the attainment gap and build a fairer society in which every child is able to reach their full potential.

The initiative forms part of the government’s wider ambition for a school-led system in which strong schools and leaders work with other schools to share best practice, knowledge and experience and raise standards in all schools. Many top academy chains already share their best staff between schools to improve performance.

The first cohort of middle leaders will spend a year on secondment in underperforming schools to share excellent teaching, diagnose issues and put in place an improvement plan to ensure long-term sustained progress.

Today David Laws announces an ambitious national programme to support 100 middle leaders from ‘outstanding’ schools to work in schools across the country. This will include the secondment of 30 excellent middle leaders to work in challenging schools in the East of England, as announced by the Prime Minister last week.

The new scheme follows the launch of the Talented Leaders programme in September last year to recruit top-performing heads and aspiring heads to turn around some of England’s most challenging schools.

David Laws will host a reception this evening, at which Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg will deliver the opening speech, to celebrate the first cohort of outstanding school leaders on the Talented Leaders programme who will start in their new schools later this year.

Heath Monk, CEO of The Future Leaders Trust, which is running the Talented Leaders initiative, said:

The Talented Leaders programme is about giving more children a great education. We needed to find exceptional school leaders who will commit to relocating to a new school for 3 years and I’m happy to say that we have done that. They are skilled and passionate about seeing their students succeed.

It has also meant finding the schools that need more support and we’ve been working alongside local authorities and academy trusts to identify them. We are now matching our Talented Leaders participants with these schools, and it’s great to see that our first Talented Leaders programme head has already been appointed. The work of school improvement is challenging but by sharing practice and supporting each other we intend to transform every school that is part of Talented Leaders.

As a further step towards tackling underperformance, the government will also today announce that £10 million will be available for the school-to-school support fund in 2015, taking the total investment to more than £20 million over 2 years.

This funding will enable an existing pool of exceptional leaders - through national leaders of education (NLEs) and teaching schools - to support underperforming schools across the country in addition to leading their own ‘outstanding’ schools.

Notes to editors

  1. We will appoint an independent delivery partner to manage the middle leaders secondment programme.

  2. Participation in the middle leaders secondment scheme will be voluntary for both schools and participants. The secondments will focus on the schools that will benefit most from support from an excellent middle leader. These are likely to include schools with a high proportion of disadvantaged pupils as well as schools in which the performance is below floor standards.

  3. The Talented Leaders programme will be made up of exceptional headteachers and outstanding deputy heads who have a proven leadership track record. The initiative will deliver 100 school leaders over 2 cohorts. They will be deployed in a school for a minimum of 3 years. Area and school participation in the programme is voluntary, but they will need to meet eligibility criteria which identify those who will benefit most. For more details about the programme, eligibility criteria, and how to apply visit the Future Leaders website.

  4. The Future Leaders Trust runs the Talented Leaders programme on behalf of the National College for Teaching and Leadership.

  5. The school-to-school support fund is providing more than £20 million over 2 years to help exceptional leaders support schools in challenging circumstances. This represents an increase of £7 million from that originally announced and follows a successful first application round which awarded £10 million of funding in 2014 to 2015. A further £10 million funding will be available for the school-to-school support fund in 2015 to 2016.

  6. The school-to-school support fund will enable an existing pool of exceptional leaders - through NLEs and teaching schools - to support underperforming schools across the country in addition to leading their own ‘outstanding’ schools. NLEs and teaching schools will be able to apply for the next round of funding from today, with a further application round to open in autumn 2015. Information and the online application for the school-to-school support fund spring application round is available online.

DfE enquiries

Published 25 February 2015