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24-05-2021 - - 0 comments
The 10 must-read books for every school leader

Lots of school leaders often ask us what books we’d recommend and so we’ve put together this handy list of our 10 top must reads. Below you’ll find books on everything from wellbeing to practical tips and advice on becoming a leader. 

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Making the Leap: Moving from Deputy to Head - Jill Berry

Is currently number 1 on Amazon’s best sellers list for school governors. The book offers practical advice to anyone considering a headship. The book leans on Jill’s own experiences in the matter and answers questions such as how can I ensure the early months and years of headship are as successful as possible and how can I establish the most positive and productive relationship with the outgoing head?

It’s a definite must read for any teachers, middle leaders or senior leaders who are considering becoming a headteacher within a school setting. 


A Manifesto for Excellence in Schools - Rob Carpenter

Rob Carpenter is the CEO of the Inspire Partnership and author of the aforementioned book. He took  a school from Special Measures to Outstanding in less than two years and firmly believes that the quality of teaching and leadership holds the key to raising standards in our schools today.

The book contains a balance of practical advice, examples, resources and ideas to help teachers and school leaders alike plan and deliver high quality learning experiences. When asked why he wrote A Manifesto for Excellence Rob said:

“I want people to use A Manifesto for Excellence in Schools as a reference point for what schools can be when we place 'whys' before 'whats' and 'hows'. Above all else, I hope those who read this can feel inspired to stand up to the policy wonks, placing children at the centre of our beliefs and actions. There is a better way….”


Back on Track: Fewer Things, Greater Depth - Mary Myatt

Released just last year, Back on Track is already becoming a firm favourite for school leaders. The book calls upon leaders to reevaluate their focuses and look at whether some of the processes in our schools are really adding value to the core purposes of schools.

Chunked into short sections the book is easy to read and easily digestible. Despite only being released less than a year ago It’s racked up 165 reviews on Amazon with 93% of those being 5-4 star! 


Putting Staff First: A blueprint for revitalising our schools: A blueprint for a revitalised profession - John Tomsett and Jonny Uttley

Wellbeing is high on everyone’s agenda so it’s no surprise that this book made its way onto the list. Authors John Tomsett (headteacher at Huntington School, York) and Jonny Uttley (CEO of The Education Alliance Multi Academy Trust) believe that happy teachers provide the best educational experience for their students. In their book is a blueprint which unapologetically puts staff first.


The Wisdom of Heads: short advice for school leaders - Dr Denry Machin PhD

Combining wisdom and humour with knowledge and experience, you’ll certainly find it tough to put this book down. This book full of insightful anecdotes from a range of headteachers on a variety of topics. One reviewer actually described it as being similar to a “Zoom meeting between the world’s best heads”.

Reading this book will give you an insight into how leaders cope with change and how they survive the stresses of the job and what resources you should buy to make your life easier and those to avoid - all from headteachers who have been there and done it. 


The Headteacher's Handbook: The essential guide to leading a primary school - Rachel Snape

As the title suggests this book is aimed at primary headteachers - both aspiring and existing. Though, we have a slight confession to make - it’s not actually out yet - it gets released in August this year. Early reviews, however, have been positive and describe the book as: “comprehensive guide which covers every aspect of taking on the headteacher role. It is at once practical, honest, insightful and, probably most importantly, incredibly useful.”

If that doesn’t convince you, it may be worthwhile knowing a little more about Rachel who is an experienced headteacher in Cambridge and is a National Leader of Education.  She is also Vice Chair of the DfE's Primary Headteachers' Reference Group, Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, Founding Fellow of the Chartered College of Teaching, and Ambassador for HundrED.org. 


Riding the Waves: Finding joy and fulfilment in school leadership - James Hilton

Here, author James Hilton explores how primary and secondary school leaders can find fulfilment in their challenging roles in order to lead their schools successfully. Riding the Waves offers practical strategies, advice, reflective questions and activities for developing the fulfilling aspects of school leadership to carry school leaders through these challenging times.

This is the book for you if you are a school leader looking enhance your mental health, improve your work-life balance, you want to take control and take a break. 


Supporting the Emotional Work of School Leaders - Belinda Harris 

Another book which focuses on wellbeing. This practical book deals with the emotional and moral dimensions of school leadership. If you are seeking to develop your own emotional resilience this book will provide you with a few tools to help you bounce back that much higher when the inevitable challenges of school leadership come your way. Belinda provides a range of person-centred strategies for building communities of professionally committed, relationally competent, collaborative individuals.

It comes highly recommended by headteachers and deputy heads alike with one saying commenting that if schools leaders are to read any book it should be this one! 


Staying A Head: The Stress Management Secrets of Successful School Leaders - Viv Grant

Staying A Head is a book about overcoming the stresses of school leadership. The book is written by Executive Coach and Director of Integrity Coaching, Viv Grant, specialises in working with head teachers and school leaders in urban schools, where both the challenge to succeed and the stress levels are high.

You should read this book if you are a school leader who is looking to develop greater emotional resilience, stop stressing and achieve their vision without sacrificing their own health and personal wellbeing. 


Leaders With Substance: An Antidote to Leadership Genericism in Schools' - Matthew Evans

This book draws on research evidence to explore the specific things that expert leaders know and do, arguing for a notion of school leadership rooted in the realities of leaders' daily experiences. It presents a case for how school leaders can develop their expertise and, in doing so, places domain-specific knowledge at the heart of school improvement efforts.

But do not be fooled, Leaders With Substance is not a handbook. It sets out to change the way we think of leadership and school improvement. It is both a critique, a manifesto, and a call to arms.

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If you’d like more help or advice, Smile Leadership is on hand to help. We have over 10 years experience working in a range of educational settings and have supported school leaders all over the UK in finding their dream role.

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