A new major study, has concluded that a Headteacher who taught PE or RE before taking top jobs at failing academies, are more likely to be ‘short-termist’ in their approach to turning those schools around.

Researchers Ben Laker and Alex Hill, of the Centre for High Performance, have researched the effect of “different types” of headteacher, focusing on a link between leadership style and degree subject for the first time, SchoolsWeek exclusively reports.

In a study of 411 secondary heads of ‘failing schools’, Laker and Hill, using management system data from 2012-2017, interviews, grades and budget information, conclude that there are five types of headteacher: the philosopher, the surgeon, the architect, the solider and the accountant.

It is the ‘surgeon’ type, who taught PE or RE before leading struggling schools, who adopted a short term approach, which negatively affected the schools they led. Despite this, the research also showed that that same group were disproportionately awarded public honours, such as damehoods and knighthoods.

Discussing the findings Hill said:

[’Surgeon type’ Headteachers ] mostly grow results quickly by kicking out low-performing pupils.

They would lose as many as 25 per cent of [pupils in] the GCSE year, so the percentage taking A* to C rockets. These heads believe in good and bad students. But it’s not real improvement, and when they leave everything falls apart.

“At present they are being held up as examples of good practice. They have power within the system.”

Fixing problems that ineffective heads cause, was calculated at around £2 million, in consultancy fees and other costs linked to fixing such issues. Problematic‘surgeon types’ were paid around £150,000 on average, and were more likely to request a pay rise. 71 percent of this group were former PE teachers, and 14 percent had been RE teachers.

The most positively effective headteachers were “architects”, most often history, music and physics teachers. Having had experience outside of teaching was high within this group, at 86 percent. As leaders of schools needing a turnaroud, this group were more likely to create budget surpluses and improve grades, even after they were no longer headteacher.

Most headteachers surveyed, were philosophers, making up 51 percent of the study group. The study concluded that these types of Headteacher, who were mostly former English teachers, had negative effects on failing schools for different reasons, saying:

“Philosophers talk an amazing game, they believe teaching can solve the world, but they don’t do anything. Those schools coast or decline. If this is the majority of the people in the system, engaging with them about leadership won’t work, because they don’t talk about it.”

In comparison, ‘Architects’ were more likely to focus on long term results, working to improve school relationships with the local community and resources for under-performing pupils. Despite this, they were paid £86,000 on average, and held the fewest public honours of all the Headteachers surveyed.