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School Leaders Survey 2016

9 December 2016

Download the report of our fourth annual School Leaders Survey

In March, the Government published its education sector White Paper entitled 'Educational Excellence Everywhere'which set out an ambitious five year plan to deliver academisation across all schools in England by 2022. The referendum on Brexit ultimately led to a change in Prime Minister and a new Education Secretary with a consequential shift in education policy. In early September Justine Greening, the new Education Secretary, published a consultation document called 'Schools that work for everyone'. Whilst much of the focus of the headlines has been on the proposals in the consultation document around grammar schools, there were a number of other controversial proposals included.

The consultation document left many guessing the fate of the White Paper from March but with a written statement to Parliament at the end of October, Lord Nash, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the School System, appears to have 'parked' any proposals in the white paper requiring legislation.

It is against this backdrop that it is perhaps unsurprising that our 'School Leaders Survey 2016' found higher levels of dissatisfaction with policy than in the previous year.

It is striking from the survey responses that, amid all the pressures leaders face, the financial pressures are clearly being acutely felt. The current one-year delay in introducing the new funding formula will certainly be keenly felt by many.

There are many examples of government policies and external pressures that are affecting our schools. These include an increasing demand for extra school places particularly at secondary level, a worrying problem with the supply of teachers and ever-changing, controversial curriculum mandates. These challenges are contextualised in a complex, two-tier education system with concern growing about a lack of appropriate accountability and regulation. Amidst these challenges, there is a significant opportunity for school leaders to step forward and lead the system. 

Download the full survey report

Key findings

Government policies

  • 94% of school leaders are dissatisfied with the government’s funding of schools of which 74% are very dissatisfied – a rise of 35% on last year’s survey.
  • Three quarters (75%) of leaders felt negative when asked about the impact the government’s education policy is having on their schools compared to 12 months ago. Only 9% of leaders were positive.
  • Around half of all school leaders (47%) felt negative when asked about the educational prospects of their pupils as a result of external factors compared to 12 months ago. 


  • More school leaders than ever before (95%) see managing a reduced or stagnant budget as a priority over the next 12 months.
  • 90% of school leaders say that implementing the curriculum changes coming on stream will be a priority over the coming year.

Foreign languages

  • Only one in five (20%) school leaders believe they will be able to deliver on the Government’s target of getting 90% of pupils to take a foreign language to GCSE level over a four-year period.
  • Low levels of pupil interest in languages after KS3 was identified as the biggest challenge in teaching foreign languages. 68% of those that had encountered difficulties identified this as a challenge. The perception language examinations were difficult (53%) and issues with teacher supply (52%) were also seen as major challenges.
  • 62% of leaders believe that introducing more foreign language teaching at primary school  level would improve take up after KS3 whilst around half (49%) believe improving teacher supply levels would also help.

Term-time absences

  • 31% of school leaders have reported an increase in the number of applications for term- time absences since the Platt v Isle of Wight case.
  • 83% of school leaders said the judgment had had no effect on the number of applications they had granted.
  • 67% stated the case had had no effect on the number of parental fines issued as a result of breaches.

Focus on...

Published articles

Key steps to avoid falling foul of disability discrimination laws

The law around disability discrimination against pupils is not straightforward – but the reputational risk, let alone costs, of falling foul of the law are huge, so it’s worth upskilling staff whenever possible, as these two lawyers outline.


Employment Law – Harpur Trust v Brazel – Implications for schools webinar

On 20 July 2022, the Supreme Court issued its long-awaited judgment in the case of Harpur Trust v Brazel, upholding the decision of the Court of Appeal. For those of you familiar with this case, you will know that it concerns the statutory leave requirements for part-time and part-year workers. For schools and academies whose workforce consists of a variety of types of part-time and part-year workers, this case is one that must be understood before any changes are applied. Come and join Emma Hughes, Head of HR Services as she puts questions to Ian Deakin, Employment Partner, and Sarah Linden, Senior Associate.


Press releases

Leading education lawyers play major role as DfE announces 10,000th academy conversion

The Department for Education (DfE) have announced that the conversion of Donisthorpe Primary School in Leicestershire on 1st September marked the 10,000th academy conversion.



How to carry out the KCSiE online checks FAQs

There is (understandably) some confusion about the steps schools and trusts need to take to discharge the new online check duty set out in paragraph 220 of KCSIE. I can’t completely clarify all of it for you, but I can help you find a sensible route through. These FAQs are a good place to start.


Download the full report

A full PDF copy of the report is available from the link below, if you would like a physical copy please contact us.


The referendum on Brexit ultimately led to a change in Prime Minister and a new Education Secretary with a consequential shift in education policy.