School of Education

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Toby Greany

Chair in Education, Faculty of Social Sciences



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 has undertaken studies funded by a range of bodies, including the Nuffield Foundation, the Wellcome Trust, Research Councils UK and the UK Department for Education. 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), where he was also Director of the London Centre for Leadership in Learning and Vice-Dean-Enterprise. 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 book - School leadership and education system reform (2nd edition) - was co-edited with Peter Earley and was published by Bloomsbury in 2021. Leading Educational Networks: Theory, Policy and Practice - co-authored with Annelies Kamp and published by Bloomsbury - is due for publication in 2022.

Expertise Summary

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.

Teaching Summary

Toby teaches and supervises dissertations on the Masters in Educational Leadership, co-leading the module on Effective Leadership and Change.

Toby supervises PhD and EdD students with an interest in areas associated with his research and academic expertise, 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, local learning systems, networks and collaboration and the unintended consequences of reform.

He is currently supervising the following PhD/EdD students:

  • Ricky Campbell-Allen - Working through the middle tier: Australian Education Directors and increasingly autonomous schools
  • Carol Steed - Can understanding the dynamics of complexity provide new insights for senior leadership practice in one higher education institution in England?
  • Alistair Goodhead - How school leaders influence teachers to take an emotionally literate approach to managing pupil behaviour
  • Eleanor Bernardes - MAT leadership structures and the emerging role of the MAT CEO: motivations, levers for growth and self-conceptualisation of the role
  • Andy Wolfe - What factors affect the implementation of a school's stated vision and its enactment in the leadership behaviours of headteachers?
  • Phil Whitehead - Sri Lankan secondary school principals' self-perceptions of their purpose as faith leaders and how they enact their faith leadership role in their school and their local community.
  • Philip Rowe - 'Critical friends' but how critical and how friendly? An examination of issues affecting the relationship between headteachers and governors and how and why they can succeed and fail.

Toby was previously an external examiner at the University of Glasgow.

Research Summary

Toby's research is focussed on aspects of school leadership and school system governance and reform, in particular across local school systems. He is interested in the ways in which policy and… read more

Recent Publications

Current Research

Toby's research is focussed on aspects of school leadership and school system governance and reform, in particular across local school systems. 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 three research projects:

- School leaders work and well-being in the pandemic, in partnership with Pat Thomson (UoN) and Nick Martindale (Uni of Oxford). Funded by ESRC IAA. See here for details:

- EQuaLLS (Equity and Quality in Local Learning Systems), in partnership with Andy Noyes and Cath Gripton (UoN). Funded by Wellcome Trust.

- Evaluation of the WELL (Western Excellence in Learning and Leadership) programme, in partnership with Mike Adkins (UoN) and Phllippa Cordingley/Bart Crisp (CUREE). Funded by Cumbria County Council.

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).

Past Research

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:

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:

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

TIMSS 2015 report for England, for the Department for Education (see

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).

School of Education

University of Nottingham
Jubilee Campus
Wollaton Road
Nottingham, NG8 1BB

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