Insight Series

The National Academy for Educational Leadership Insight series presents new perspectives on educational leadership that will be of interest to practitioners and policymakers in Wales and beyond. 

The Insight series introduces new, evidence-informed thinking on educational leadership – in the form of research commissions, reviews of international policy and academic literatures and opinion pieces – that will challenge and inform established approaches to policy and practice. 

System Leaders and System Leadership

Developing effective ‘system leaders’ and ‘system leadership’ is central to the education reform journey described in 2017’s Our National Mission, updated October 2020, and is at the heart of the work the National Academy for Educational Leadership is taking forward in Wales, including through our flagship Associate model.

System leaders / leadership remains a complex and sometimes confusing concept. Despite it being a focus for a number of education systems around the world in the last decade or so, there is no settled definition of system leaders / leadership. Consequently, there are many interpretations of what system leaders / leadership is, how it is cultivated and when we know it is working. This has so far prevented an informed and accessible debate about the nature – and the future – of system leaders / leadership in Wales from taking place.

System Leaders and System Leadership: Reviewing the Evidence

To create a suitable evidence base to inform the development of system leaders / leadership in Wales, the National Academy for Educational Leadership has commissioned Professor Alma Harris, a leading expert on educational leadership, to review the international academic and policy literatures and recommend ways that system leaders / leadership can be further developed in Wales.

The report outlines the findings from a contemporary review of the evidence base on system leader / leadership, providing analysis, commentary, insights (including the insights of country experts) and country specific examples. It is not a systematic review of the literature but rather it outlines the main findings from a contemporary exploration of the evidence base (2010-2020) encompassing peer reviewed articles, books, chapters, and the grey literature. In particular, it focuses upon the roles, responsibilities, actions, functions, and outcomes of system leaders / leadership and offers specific examples of system leaders / leadership from different counties. The report concludes with practical recommendations for developing system leaders / leadership in Wales.

System Leaders and System Leadership: Reviewing the Evidence

Professor Alma Harris
Swansea University School of Education
December 2020