School leadership BES - background

In this interview Dr Adrienne Alton Lee discusses the development of the school leadership BES, how and why it is important for New Zealand education, and in particular for the achievement and other outcomes of the diverse learners in our schools.

Dr Adrienne Alton Lee, Chief Education Adviser, has overseen the development of the Ministry of Education's Best Evidence Syntheses (BES) programme.

The research from these syntheses has shown her how important leadership is for making changes to the education system and in particular for improving academic and other outcomes for diverse students.

What is the BES programme and where does the leadership BES sit within it?

The BES work as a whole has been planned to direct the attention of the education system towards how you make a much bigger difference in terms of lifting achievement, reducing disparity and advancing valued outcomes. So I see the BES programme as a key tool for policy development throughout the sector. That is its potential.

The school leadership BES is placed in a system that advocates self-managing schools, and recognises the importance of the context of schools and the diversity of learners. It has involved sector leaders in the scoping and in the development of the evidence base. This means that we have ownership of it from those who will use it, not just principals but senior and middle leaders as well as teacher leaders. This is more likely to lead to its use.

The school leadership BES has resulted in Kiwi Leadership for Principals (2008) and Leading from the Middle (2012) which supports middle and senior leaders in their work. There is also Tū Rangatira (2010) which sets out the kaupapa so that we are not talking about leadership out of the context of its links to improving outcomes for diverse learners. I think it is really important that we have a document on leadership which is responsive to the Māori medium sector.

Who are the users of the school leadership BES?

Of course leaders in schools are the first users. But it has been important to build the respect of the academic community so that they use the BES as a text in their leadership courses. One of our change strategies has been to make it free and available for use as a text in courses. In fact one of the editions of the Journal of Educational Leadership Policy and Practice was devoted entirely to it.

The debate about the work in the public arena is really important. This means that people on leadership courses are exposed to the school leadership BES and are influenced in how they think and act about educational leadership. It has also informed part of the development of leadership standards.

The writers of the BES have published work from their research and have communicated evidence and thinking from it to the wider national and international community. As a result they are having an influence, and repositioning the knowledge about leadership of schools.

What impact do you think the leadership BES will have?

I see the professional take-up of the BES by principals and other school leaders as being the way forward. There are the implications in the BES about the importance and need for relational trust in schools, and for the constructive problem talk which people are using, as well as the professional learning of teachers. These things are happening in many schools now.

The whole BES programme is about teachers and leaders having access to improved professional information. The Ministry is focused on having a system so that everyone can succeed in school. That is a huge shift and I see that the knowledge we gain through the BES programme giving us access to research and development. I think it can lead to the sort of transformation that we desire.


Robinson, V., Hohepa, M., & Lloyd, C. (2009). School Leadership and Student Outcomes: Identifying What Works and Why: Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration [BES]. Wellington: Ministry of Education.

Ministry of Education. (2012). Leading from the Middle: Educational Leadership for Middle and Senior Leaders. Wellington: Ministry of Education.

Ministry of Education. (2010). Tū Rangatira: Māori Medium Educational Leadership. Wellington: Ministry of Education.

Ministry of Education. (2008). Kiwi Leadership for Principals: Principals as Educational Leaders. Wellington: Ministry of Education.

Journal of Educational Leadership, Policy and Practice. New Zealand Educational Administration & Leadership Society. Hamilton: New Zealand. (vol 25:1. 2010).

Tags: Professional Learning and Development

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