Rising stars and sitting tenants

by Tony Hayes


This summary contains the main findings of a National College for School Leadership (NCSL) research study into the reluctance of many senior managers to take up the role of principal.

The study, conducted in London, reveals that only 25 percent of deputy principals go on to apply for and get principals’ positions. Hayes gives a number of reasons for this low percentage. Some are personal reasons such as health or age. However other reasons are to do with the lack of positive mentoring supplied by school principals.

Hayes identifies some key factors that are most likely to contribute to deputies and other senior managers going on to successful principalships. They are:

  • The development of a close and productive relationship between the principal and other senior managers in the school where they are able to develop and share their strengths. In particular Hayes identifies their ability to discuss leadership issues as a team.
  • Opportunities for deputies to exercise leadership across the whole school, and not just do routine management tasks. In this way the deputies not only gain genuine leadership experience, but are also seen by other members of the school community as leaders.
  • The deputies or other senior managers actually have the ambition or desire to seek higher leadership.

In summary Hayes suggests that those in senior management need to see their deputy roles as short term (a maximum of five years). He also points out the value for a principal in being seen as a successful mentor for rising stars in the profession. Not only does it give principals stronger colleague-ship with the senior team members, it is also a way in which they can make a contribution to the profession.

Reflective questions

These reflective questions might guide you in your reading of this research summary:

  • How would you describe your relationships with members of your senior management team?
  • What opportunities do you as principal offer to the members of your senior management team to take full leadership of particular projects in your school? Is there something coming up in the next term that could be passed on to one or more of your team?
  • What implications does the research have for your future recruitment and induction of senior management team members?


Hayes, T. (2005). Rising stars and sitting tenants. Nottingham, UK: National College for School Leadership.

Tell a colleague | Back to top