Leading learning and teaching primary schools

by Geoff Southworth


In this article, Geoff Southworth draws on research findings, inspection evidence, and first-hand experience to describe four strands that, woven together, seem to form the thread of leadership and leading 'learning and teaching' schools.

Successful school leadership, Southworth outlines, is dependent on leaders from throughout the school consciously 'developing and connecting' these strands.

Context: “Context matters because leadership is contingent on where you are, who you are, and whom you are working with.”

Teacher culture: "One of the links between teacher professional development and a school’s capacity to grow and improve is “the existence of a culture that supports strong professional ties between teachers.”

Workplace learning: “The greatest opportunities for teachers improving their pedagogy comes by them learning from the colleagues with whom they work every day.”

Knowledge networks: “Schools must be adaptive places, learning from outside as well as from persons on the inside … networks extend professional frames of reference and challenge beliefs, customs, and cherished practices.”

Although primary schools provided the context for this report, the ideas are also of relevance to intermediate and secondary schools.

Reflective questions

These reflective questions might guide your reading of this article:

  • Take the four strands for leading learning and teaching schools that Southworth highlights. Think carefully about your own context, and then reflect on what the teacher culture is in your school, and the things that you do that are 'culture building' in terms of developing workplace learning and learning networks.
  •  What is the depth of focus on student achievement in your school?
  • At your school how much responsibility do individual teachers and the school community take for the goal that 'all children will learn'?


Southworth, G. (2001). Leading Learning and Teaching Primary Schools. National College of School Leadership. Nottingham, United Kingdom.

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