Toby's research is focused on how policy and practice interact to shape educational opportunities and outcomes, in particular across local systems and through networks, and the nature and role of leadership in these processes.
He is currently leading a three-year ESRC-funded study that is exploring the training, supply and retention of senior school leaders across the UK (Sustainable School Leadership - 2022-2025). Several of his projects focus on place, asking how local schooling systems are developing in the context of wider societal and policy changes, including a Wellcome Trust-funded study of 'local learning systems' (see www.equalls.uk) and an evaluation of nine locality pilots funded by the Association of Education Committees (see https://localed2025.org.uk/). His research into England's 'self-improving school-led system' reforms (Greany and Higham, 2018) was described by the Observer newspaper as "a seminal analysis" and by The Independent as "a state-of-the-nation study".
Toby was previously Professor of Leadership and Innovation at UCL's Institute of Education (UCL IOE). In the past he has worked for the National College for School Leadership, Design Council, Campaign for Learning and the Cabinet Office. He is a trustee of the Transform Multi-Academy Trust, a Fellow of the Chartered College of Teaching and sits on a number of research and evaluation advisory groups. In 2005-06 he was Special Adviser to the House of Commons Education and Skills Select Committee.
Toby has extensive international experience and has advised the OECD, EU and ministries in several countries, including Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Spain, on issues relating to school leadership and educational system reform. He has lived and worked in Brazil and China as well as the UK.
Toby has written over 50 journal articles, book chapters and reports on issues relating to school and educational leadership. His most recent books include: School leadership and education system reform (2nd edition, Bloomsbury, 2021, co-edited with Peter Earley) and Leading Educational Networks: Theory, Policy and Practice (Bloomsbury, 2022, co-authored with Annelies Kamp).
Toby's expertise is in the areas of:
- school and educational leadership
- leadership development
- education policy, governance and reform
- local school systems and role of the 'middle tier'
- evidence-informed practice and teaching
- networks, partnerships and systems leadership.
Toby teaches and supervises dissertations on the Masters in Educational Leadership.
He supervises PhD and EdD students with an interest in areas associated with his research and academic expertise (see here for list: https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/research/groups/crelm/postgraduate-research/researchers.aspx), including:
- educational leadership and leadership development, including approaches to improvement, change, effectiveness and innovation
- school system governance, policy development and reform, including accountability models, 'middle tier' arrangements, place-based and local learning systems, networks and collaboration and the unintended consequences of reform.
He was previously an external examiner at the University of Glasgow.
Toby's research is focussed on aspects of school leadership and school system governance and reform, in particular across local school systems and through networks. He is interested in the ways in… read more
Toby's research is focussed on aspects of school leadership and school system governance and reform, in particular across local school systems and through networks. He is interested in the ways in which policy and practice interact to effect change, improvement and innovation, but also the unintended consequences of change, in particular in terms of equity and social justice. He is also interested in leadership development and the ways in which leaders make decisions.
His work is informed by pragmatism and draws on a range of theoretical perspectives and methodological approaches, including governance, complexity, and neo-institutionalism as well as school improvement, effectiveness and leadership.
Toby is currently leading six research projects:
- Sustainable school leadership: comparing approaches to the training, supply and retention of senior school leaders across the UK, with Prof Pat Thomson (UoN) and Dr Tom Perry (Uni of Warwick). Funder: ESRC. 2022-2025.
- Leading in Lockdown - school leaders work and well-being in the pandemic, with Pat Thomson (UoN) and Nick Martindale (Uni of Oxford). 2021-2023. Funded by ESRC IAA and CAPE. See https://schoolleadersworkandwellbeing.com/
- EQuaLLS (Equity and Quality in Local Learning Systems), with Prof Andy Noyes, Dr Cath Gripton and Dr Georgina Hudson (UoN) and Dr Tom Cowhitt (Uni of Glasgow). 2021-2023. Funded by Wellcome Trust. See www.equalls.uk
- New Locality Working Pilots Evaluation, with Dr Susan Cousin (UoN). 2022-2024. Funder: Association of Education Committees. See https://localed2025.org.uk/
- Evaluation of the WELL (Western Excellence in Learning and Leadership) programme, with Dr Mike Adkins and Dr Georgina Hudson (UoN) and Phllippa Cordingley/Bart Crisp (CUREE). 2021-2024. Funder Cumbria County Council.
- Inclusion in English Secondary Schools, with Dr Jodie Pennacchia and Eleanor Bernardes (UoN) and The Difference. 2022-2023. Funder: Teach First.
Toby is also part of a team (led by Jake Anders and David Godfrey, UCL IOE) that is evaluating a model for school to school peer review (Schools Partnership Programme) for the Education Endowment Foundation (concludes in 2022).
Hierarchy, Markets and Networks - analysing England's 'self-improving school-led system' agenda (Greany and Higham, 2018), funded by the Nuffield Foundation. This four-year mixed methods study highlighted the ways in which the accountability system and parental choice mechanisms influence both the behaviour of school leaders and the nature of school to school networks and local school systems. See here for the Open Access report, executive summary, a supplementary report analysing the impact of Multi-Academy Trusts and for related media coverage: https://bit.ly/2H8pCGv
Leadership and sustainable improvement in multi-school groups in England (Multi-Academy Trusts/MATs, federations, Teaching School Alliances and Local Authorities). The mixed methods research was funded by the Department for Education and highlighted important differences in how leaders work to secure alignment and share expertise between schools. See here for the report: https://bit.ly/2Qsckfv
An evaluation of rural school networks for the Church of England Foundation for Educational Leadership (2019-20).
'Educational Disadvantage: how does England compare?' (with John Jerrim and Natialie Pereira) for the Education Policy Institute - see https://epi.org.uk/publications-and-research/educational-disadvantage-england-compare/
TIMSS 2015 report for England, for the Department for Education (see https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/timss-2015-national-report-for-england).
In the past Toby has led and contributed to a range of studies exploring school leadership and governance issues (see publications for details). Examples include:
- an evaluation of the extent to which schools and teachers utilise research and evidence to inform teaching and school improvement (Coldwell et al, 2017)
- an umbrella review of evidence on effective approaches to professional development and learning for teachers (Cordingley et al, 2015) and subject-specific CPDL (Cordingley et al, 2018)
- research into the nature and impact of school-led Research and Development approaches across networks (Greany and Maxwell, 2017)
- a review of school-university partnerships in the UK (Greany et al, 2014).