A school leadership programme to help you create an ‘outstanding’ school

Only 6% of schools gain or maintain the Ofsted ‘outstanding’ judgement

24% of schools Heads Up have supported have gained or maintained their outstanding judgement

Yes you read that correctly.

Why is this percentage so low and why do your chances of becoming ‘outstanding’ dramatically improve when Heads Up supports you? 

Since 2011 my team and I have spent hundreds of hours training headteachers and their leadership teams. 

Based on my experience and results, I can confidently say, what gets you to ‘good’ will not get you to ‘outstanding’. 

The journey to ‘good’ and the journey to ‘outstanding’ are qualitatively different.

Getting to good is about compliance, systems and making sure a demanding list of actions are done every day and it’s no small feat.

Getting to outstanding is about creating a high-performing culture, something most leaders are not adequately trained to do; it’s the reason most schools struggle to break the glass ceiling of good.

Every school can be outstanding. 

I know we can help you.

Our results speak for themselves.

Do you want to build a great school that’s driven by your own standards of excellence and not just what Ofsted expects of you?

If yes, then read on… 

Why is it so hard to be “outstanding”?

I’ve heard many reasons why schools are struggling to be outstanding and I’m sure you’ve heard all, if not most of them too. 

Things like:

  • We have high EAL, high SEN or high mobility children. 
  • Our parents don’t value education or have little aspiration. 
  • There’s a lack of consistency, the team aren’t following policies. 
  • Recruitment is an issue or staff just haven’t bought into what we want to do.
  • There’s not enough money or resources.
  • The ofsted criteria keeps changing. 
  • We will have to compromise on staff wellbeing. I’m not willing to put that extra stress on my staff. 

These are not the reasons your school isn’t or won’t be outstanding.

How do I know?

Because over the last eight years I’ve walked into a lot of schools and 

I know more ‘outstanding’ heads than anyone else. 

The patterns of how to become genuinely ‘outstanding’ have become very clear.

The outstanding headteachers I know have created happy environments where people make an incredible difference and they all grow and thrive as a result. 

What does every genuinely outstanding head do differently?

Genuinely outstanding headteachers will tell you how they got their culture right before they tell you about any initiative or idea they brought it. and how it’s been a fundamental driver on their journey to outstanding.

Culture is the qualitative shift that moves you from ’good’ to ‘outstanding’. 

So, how do you build a high performing, outstanding culture?

Creating culture takes time, and since 2011, we’ve been supporting schools do just that. 

Culture is behaviour over time. 

Which means your school already has a culture in place, because culture forms as soon as people come together regularly.

But your current culture is a culture created by accident.

If you want a high performing culture, you must proactively develop it. 

How do you create a high performing culture for excellence? 

There are 3 core strategies for developing a high performing culture: 


Who is responsible for building a high performing culture?

Headteachers create school cultures

Your primary task in becoming outstanding is to make learning exceptional because learning is the core purpose of schools and teaching is the main way we create learning. 

Simple enough right? So why is it so hard? Because:

If you want exceptional learning, you need to have exceptional teaching.

If you want exceptional teaching, you need to have exceptional culture.

If you want an exceptional culture, you need to have exceptional leadership.

Leaders create culture. It’s really hard to change culture from the bottom up. When that happens we call it a revolution!

If you don’t create a high-performing culture you will face the same issues day in day out: 

  • Policies not being followed.
  • Recruitment is hard.
  • People in your team can wear you down through their attitudes and behaviour (not everyone, but you know the few!).
  • Another Ofsted cycle goes by and another ‘good’ grade (hopefully).

Are you thinking… 

We have a vision. 

We know how to have difficult conversations. 

We develop and grow our team through training.

So why aren’t we ‘outstanding’? 

The fact is, most schools have these strategies in place. However it’s the quality of these elements that makes a difference.

Who has shown you the standard required for excellence, for a genuinely ‘outstanding’ school?

What the three core strategies look like in an RI, Good and Outstanding school

Core strategy What an RI school looks like What a good school looks like What an outstanding school looks like
Creating a compelling vision which inspires your team: where are we going and why should I come along? You’re focused on getting to ‘good’ not your vision. Your vision is listy, wordy and hard to remember. 

Most people don’t refer to it and you’re frustrated by people’s actions which are not in line with the vision. 

Between 50- 95% of your team remember your vision.

Everyone, staff, parents, governors, children, remembers your vision because they are inspired by it. 

It drives and improves the school’s decision making.

When you share your vision, it’s so powerful people are visibly moved by it.

Have successful difficult conversations: kindly and quickly improve adult behaviour and conduct issues. The must have conversations are had, for example severe under-performance or absence. There are few or no serious issues but there are lingering issues some of which have been accepted as the norm because ‘that’s just the way people are’. They don’t look like serious issues but they hinder the team who are compensating for these issues. Your leaders can talk to anyone in the team about their performance and conduct issues and they solve these issues quickly, kindly and are often thanked at the end of the conversation.

As a senior leadership team  you strategically prioritise these difficult conversations for greatest impact.

Leaders also receive good quality feedback from the team to help them improve.

Grow excellence in your team: develop everyone to be excellent in their roles.  Professional development is focused on training groups (e.g. teachers, teaching assistants), to get to a good standard and monitoring systems are put in place to make sure everyone is doing what needs to be done. Training is focused around whole training updates or new initiatives to tackle a specific areas, like reading or maths. Your senior leadership team has a strategic plan to create a critical mass of high performance in the school and they review this at least termly.

Our Journey to Outstanding Programme 

We know what we do works because schools are four times more likely to move to ‘outstanding’ when working with us

This is how we support you.

ADD MODEL HERE https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/14IQh-CAgsiQhGxEE2tBbRu9oFr9kDRF1WOPwlMIqBg4/edit#gid=802914584

Frequently Asked Questions 

What if we have more than six people in our leadership team? 

We can work with more in a leadership team, talk to us about this.

What if we have less than 6 people in our leadership team? That’s ok, but there might be some middle leaders you want to be part of this. We’ll talk about this with you.

Can I pick and choose parts of the programme I want to be trained on?  

No, the programme works and the results show that. We want you to get the most out of the programme and create a genuinely outstanding school. To do that we need to do the full programme according to where your school is when we start.

Can we split the payment?

Yes, over two terms.

According to our previous Ofsted judgement, we are a RI/Good school. However we think we are now a Good/RI school. What training programme should we do? 

We need to talk. We’re not fixated on the Ofsted judgement and a short conversation with you will let us both become clear about where your school currently is.

Can we squeeze the two year programme into one year?

No. Culture does take a little time and the course is set out so that the changes that need to happen within the team can. 

What if our SLT will be changing in the second year? 

That’s ok, they will be able to join in the training. Your SLT is going to keep changing, as is your team and the cultural foundations we’re building will make it easier for new people to join and become part of your high performing team.

Can new members of SLT join the programme part way through? 


Is there a certain time in the year you recommend starting the programme?


We are a small school. Can we join up with a neighbouring school? 


Can our school governors be part of the programme? 

Yes as long as they commit to being present at all of the training dates and for the full days.

Is it best to have Governors on the training?

We haven’t found any increase in the results you achieve if Governors are included and we recommend having more of your SLT involved is more important.

Can we do this training with the other schools in our trust or federation? 

Get in touch to talk about this with us.

Next steps 

How are you feeling right now? 

Are you super excited and want to know how we can help you on your journey to outstanding? 

  • We want you to create the very best school.
  • We can help you work how to do that.
  • So speak to us.

Let’s arrange a 30 minute call to get to each other further so we can both feel confident this is the best next step for you. 

On the call we can discuss: 

  • Assess where your school is currently on the journey to outstanding.Your priorities over the next 1-3 years. 
  • What type of school you want to build for your children and community. 
  • What is preventing you.
  • How the programme can help you 
  • The logistics and how the programme will work for you and your team 

email sonia@ukheadsup.com to book a call.

I’m going to be blunt: not everyone is up for excellence, and if you’re not then don’t book a time.

If you are then you will want to speak with us asap 🙂