A head teacher who, because of their proven outstanding ability as leader and manager of their own school, is given responsibility for raising standards of achievement in other schools besides their own, or in a group or cluster of schools. The introduction of the ‘super‐head’ (1997) or ‘superhead’ (2005) has been twice presented as an innovative measure by secretaries of state responsible for education. In December 1997, during David Blunkett's term as Secretary of State for Education and Employment, it was announced that ‘super‐heads’ would be introduced as part of the Education Action Zone (EAZ) initiative, their role being to raise school standards at the group of schools within an EAZ area. These super‐heads are chosen from among those head teachers who have a proven ability to raise standards in schools which were failing or which were previously showing poor results, and they receive enhanced salaries, funded from the capital sums invested by the government in the EAZ.
The term ‘super‐head’ was presented again as a policy initiative in 2002 under the Secretary of State, Estelle Morris, in the context of school partnerships and clusters. Heads with ‘strategic vision’, it was announced, would take control of a group of schools in an initiative to spread their expertise. Clusters of schools would operate under one governing body and one super‐head, who would take responsibility for strategic planning, while each school would retain a head teacher with primary responsibility for teaching and learning.
The response from head teachers in general to the concept and creation of super‐heads has been cautious, some welcoming the creation of an enhanced leadership role, equivalent to that of chief executive, while others have argued that effective leadership requires the head teacher to be a constant presence in their own school, and that in practical terms turning around the performance of a failing school or group of low‐achieving schools is not a task which can readily be accomplished on a part‐time basis.