What headteachers need to know about teaching and learning

by Peter Hill


In this paper from the National College for School Leadership (NCSL), Peter Hill considers what head teachers and principals need to know about teaching and learning in order to be effective educational leaders. The discussion examines three key leadership roles:

  • leading and managing change
  • motivating and managing people
  • designing and aligning systems, processes, and resources.

There are competing tensions in the principal’s role these days, Hill says. On one hand, school effectiveness research stresses the importance of the principal as the school’s educational leader, but on the other hand the sheer complexity of the job diverts principals’ attention into roles associated with the running of the school.

Schools are coming under constant pressure to find ways of improving learning outcomes for all students, and principals are expected to provide the learning leadership required to bring about the needed transformation.

Those principals who have confidence and familiarity with managing and implementing structural change often have less experience in managing processes that lead to an improvement in student learning.

He discusses how these competing imperatives might be addressed by principals.

Reflective question

This reflective question might guide you in your reading of this article:

  • Using Hill and Crevola’s general design for improving learning outcomes (Figure 1 in the article), reflect on your own skills and experience. What are your strengths and areas that need development?


Hill, P. W. (2002). What Headteachers Need to Know About Teaching and Learning. UK: National College for School Leadership (NCSL). PDF added with permission.

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