Centre for Research in Educational Leadership and Management (CRELM)

CRELM Projects

CRELM members have substantial experience in relation to a range of research approaches and methodologies including large mixed methods studies, longitudinal studies, multi-perspective case studies, action research, comparative studies, policy analysis and programme evaluations.

Current and recent projects

Sustainable School Leadership: Comparing Approaches to Training, Supply, Retention of Senior School Leaders Across the UK

Senior school leaders play an essential role in shaping educational experiences and outcomes for children, particularly in the most challenging communities. 

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, there were concerns that many existing leaders were leaving the profession early, while potential future leaders were often choosing not to apply for headship, due to the pressures and workloads involved. The pandemic has exacerbated these pressures, raising the risk of a headteacher succession crisis. Furthermore, there are challenges in terms of diversity, with certain groups of leaders facing additional barriers to promotion, while schools in the most challenging contexts often face increased recruitment challenges. 

Policy makers across the UK have prioritised actions to enhance the supply, quality and diversity of senior school leaders. These approaches reflect a wider global trend towards defining and promoting a singular interpretation of 'effective' leadership, for example through national headteacher standards and training programmes. But these national frameworks can be problematic, given that individual, school and local needs differ widely. 

This study will develop a deeper understanding of approaches to the training, supply and retention of senior school leaders - in particular headteachers - for primary and secondary schools and will offer a vision for where and how these approaches can be enhanced.

Project duration: December 2022 to November 2025
Principal Investigators: Profesor Toby Greany and Professor Pat Thomson, University of Nottingham
Co-investigator: Dr Tom Perry, University of Warwick
Funding body: ESRC
Further information: Project page


Gender Writes: Young People and Leadership

This poetry-writing project is designed to teach young people and enable the expression of ideas on the topic of gender and leadership.

It is a collaborative project with #WomenEd, representing almost 45K Twitter followers worldwide; and The Poetry Society, who are committed to supporting young poets through Poets in Schools. It focuses upon the creative expression of gender issues in leadership as young people see and experience them during a fourth wave of feminism. It will build a knowledge base about (1) young people’s attitudes towards gender justice and leadership, and (2) use creative writing as a research method to generate new knowledge. It will produce an anthology of young people’s writing.

Project duration: May 2022 to February 2023
Principal Investigator: Dr Kay Fuller 
Research Team: Research Assistants: Arjmand Kokab and Sophie Potter
Funding body: ESRC Impact Acceleration Award
Anthology: Gender Writes 


Doncaster Opportunity Area: Improving Opportunities Through Education

This project will provide a synthesis evaluation of the work carried out over a five-year period by Doncaster Opportunity Area (DOA). It is of particular interest in focusing on the government’s levelling up agenda.

Project duration: April 2022 to August 2022
Principal Investigator: Dr Kay Fuller and Dr Phil Taylor
Research Team: Research Assistants: Rachel Lehner-Mear, Kristina Pokasic and Michelle Mahoney
Funding body: Doncaster Opportunity Area


New Locality Partnership Models to Deliver High Quality Education for all: University of Nottingham Evaluation

The New Locality Partnerships is exploring how local areas can work together more effectively to improve outcomes for children and young people. Nine localities have volunteered to work on one of the following areas, supported by a team of experts:  

  1. Support for Vulnerable Young People
  2. Working across Combined or Sub-Regional Authorities to support all schools
  3. Towards a new model of professional accountability 

A team from the University of Nottingham has been commissioned by Association of Education Committees Trust to evaluate these pilots. The evaluation aims to draw out findings from across the nine participating localities that illuminate how locality working can improve ways of working and educational outcomes in the three areas, as well as the barriers and enablers of such outcomes.      

Project duration: April 2022 to July 2024
Principal Investigator: Professor Toby Greany 
Research Team: Research Associate: Dr Susan Cousin
Funding body: Association of Education Committees Trust
Further information: Project website


Secondary School Inclusion 

This project examines understandings, systems and practices of student inclusion in English secondary schools. Debates about inclusion have historically focused on children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), but there is widespread concern - heightened through the pandemic - about the educational experiences and outcomes of children who are disadvantaged and/or vulnerable, leading to calls for a broader focus on well-being and inclusion together. 

This project aims to examine: 

  • how inclusion is understood, experienced and enacted in secondary schools
  • how inclusion is affected by wider policies, systems and events, including Covid-19
  • what relatively more inclusive schools do and how 

The research is structured in three stages:

  • Stage 1: online focus groups with head teachers, senior leaders from multi-academy Trusts, and senior leaders with responsibility for inclusion
  • Stage 2: online survey of head teachers and senior leaders
  • Stage 3: Case studies of schools sampled as achieving inclusive outcomes, compared to national benchmarks

Project duration: January 2022 to June 2023
Principal Investigators: Professor Toby Greany and Professor Pat Thomson
Research Team: Co-investigator: Dr Jodie Pennacchia
Partnership educational charity: The Difference
Funding body: Teach First 


Re-imagining Feminist Leadership Praxis in Education

This innovative project seeks to understand how feminist politics and theories inform leadership in higher education. To date, emphasis has been on getting women to lead without focusing on how they do feminist leadership and the implications for staff and students.

This feminist narrative research will analyse stories told by:

  1. feminist leaders
  2. academic/administrative staff
  3. students working with feminist leaders

I adopt an inclusionary, intersectional approach, valuing stories from all working or learning in universities. The project aims to reveal links between feminist politics, theories and leadership practice to co-construct and re-imagine, with participants, feminist leadership praxis.

Project duration: September 2022 to May 2023
Fellowship Lead: Dr Kay Fuller
Funding body: The Leverhulme Trust


Equity And Quality In Local Learning Systems (EQuaLLS): The Case Of Primary Maths CPD

Schooling in England is complex and evolving. There are multiple models for knowledge exchange, and multiple ways in which teacher professional learning is cultivated, including through curriculum hubs, multi-academy trusts and a variety of networks. 

Using primary mathematics as a case study lens, this research explores how primary schools and teachers engage in professional learning across three localities – a city, a town and a rural shire area. 

Project duration: September 2021 to March 2023
Principal Investigators: Professors Toby Greany and Andy Noyes
Research Team: Co-investigator: Dr Cath Gripton, Research Fellows: Dr Tom Cowhitt and Dr Georgina Hudson
Funding body: Wellcome Trust
Further information: Project website


Evaluation of Education Development Trust's School Partnerships Programme

The Education Development Trust (EDT)’s School Partnership Programme (SPP) is a structured approach to cluster-based school collaboration and improvement. The programme aims to develop a culture of partnership working through school self-evaluation, peer review and school-to-school support. The independent evaluation aims to estimate the effect of participating in the School Partnerships Programme for two years on pupils’ attainment. The evaluation has been designed with an embedded mixed methods approach, incorporating a school-level matched comparison difference in differences impact evaluation and an Implementation and Process Evaluation (IPE). 437 English state-funded primary schools are involved in the intervention, working in 85 clusters.

Project duration: October 2019 to April 2022
Co-Investigator:  Professor Toby Greany, with a team at UCL Institute of Education
Funding body: Education Endowment Foundation
Further information: Project website


Evaluation of the WELL (Western Excellence in Learning and Leadership) Project

 Update January 2024: Year two evaluation report published

The WELL (Western Excellence in Learning and Leadership) project is run by Cumbria County Council, in partnership with the Education Endowment Foundation. The three-year £5.6m project aims to achieve sustainable excellence in Allerdale and Copeland schools by introducing evidence informed practices and proven interventions through teacher and support staff development as well as wider local capacity building. 

The evaluation is adopting an ‘improvement science’ approach and operates in two strands: 

  • Implementation and Process Evaluation (IPE): assessing the various programme strands. Data collection methods include: interviews, surveys, longitudinal case studies of participating schools, observational research, action research, workshops.
  • Impact Evaluation: drawing on pupil assessment and demographic data to assess impact, including on disadvantaged students, using a regression discontinuity design.      

Evaluation reports and findings will be published annually and in a final report. The research team will draw on the data to inform wider outputs which focus on questions relating to the implementation of evidence-informed practices at scale and specifically in remote, rural communities and schools as well as methodological aspects of an ‘improvement science’ evaluation.    

Project duration: July 2021 to November 2024
Principal Investigator: Professor Toby Greany
University of Nottingham: Co-investigator: Dr Mike Adkins and Dr Natallia Yakavets
Centre for the Use of Research and Evidence in Education (CUREE): Professor Philippa Cordingley and Bart Crisp
Funding body: Cumbria County Council
Further information: Project website and annual evaluation reports


Leading in Lockdown: School Leaders' Work, Well-being and Career Intentions

This research project is exploring school leaders’ experiences of the Covid-19 pandemic in England, in particular how this has affected their work, well-being and career plans. 

In the first stage, an online survey was distributed to members of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) and the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) between 12 April and 10 May 2021, with around 1,500 responses. 

In the second stage, 58 headteachers were interviewed online in July 2021. A key finding from the survey was that two in five school leaders said they plan to leave the profession in the next five years. The interviewees included an even mix of ‘leavers’ and ‘stayers’ from primary and secondary schools. 

In November 2021 we launched the findings from these first two stages in a report. We also held two seminars involving policy makers, practitioners and other researchers and launched two background reports.  

The third stage of the project begins in early 2022. This stage involves analysis of national datasets as well as further interviews with serving and aspiring leaders, aiming to further understand the impact of the pandemic on leaders’ work and career plans as well as how this might impact on the leadership pipeline for schools.    

Project duration: July 2021 to March 2023
Principal Investigators: Professors Toby Greany and Pat Thompson - University of Nottingham
Co-investigator: Dr Nick Martin - University of Oxford
Funding body: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and University of Nottingham Policy Support Fund 
Further information: Project blogThe Guardian (see blog for further media coverage/links)


Leading Learning for Girl's Education (LL4GE)

This project is an evaluation of a new British Council programme, being piloted in Zimbabwe.   The programme combines insights from two current BC programmes, one on instructional leadership, and one on girls’ education, and involves workshops for 300 leaders in disadvantaged contexts. The evaluation comprises two surveys of participants (baseline and impact), observations of workshops, interviews with programme providers, and focus groups with participants.

Project duration: November 2021 to March 2022
Principal Investigator: Professor Tony Bush
Research Associate: Derek Glover
Funding body: British Council


Middle Leadership in Further Education: Developing an Economic Investment Case for the Sector

This Association of College (AoC) funded research focuses upon researching the leadership experience and professional development needs of middle leaders in English Further Education colleges. The research focuses upon three categories of learner facing middle leaders; curriculum team leaders, learner services/learner support team leaders and MIS team leaders. Data will be sought via a survey of middle leaders in 220 FE colleges followed by semi structured interviews with eight middle leaders from the AoC Regions. The research will scope the range of the existing leadership development provision (both accredited and non-accredited) and the data will be used to assess how the leadership development needs of this key strata of leaders are being served with a view to influencing the future shape, volume and quality of the provision in the future.

Project duration: November 2021 to February 2022
Principal Investigator: Dr Kevin Richardson
Funding body: Association of Colleges


Beyond Global Discourses Of Data: Storying Learning In Southern Schools

This project aims to understand how teachers and other educators in schools and school systems engage with a broader conception of data for enhanced learning, on a truly global scale, in schools serving diverse communities. The project will highlight the myriad of ways students, teachers, school leaders, system personnel and other educators in different national settings - England, Australia, Singapore and Bangladesh – work with data. The project will re-conceptualise how data are understood globally, through sharing detailed stories about school-based and system uses of data. Co-created stories involving students, teachers, school leaders and system personnel will illustrate diverse, ethical and innovative ways to foster student learning. These stories will show how students and educators engage with data to inform student learning, teachers’ work in classrooms, administrators’ work in schools and policy-makers’ work in systems. 

Project duration: January 2021 to December 2024
Co-Investigator: Dr Vicente Reyes
Funding body: Australian Research Council
Further information: Project website


Educational Leaders For The 21st Century: Collaborative Partnership

In 2021, the Centre for Research in Educational Leadership and Management, School of Education, University of Nottingham and The HEAD Foundation Singapore continue their collaborative partnership designed to engage more deeply with issues and challenges of educational leadership. “Transformational Educational Leadership in 21st Century Contexts” or TransformLead@21 represents the ongoing collaboration between these two key premiere partners. Together, they have entered into a strategic collaborative research initiative with the Ateneo Center for Educational Development (Ateneo de Manila University) represented by TransformLead@21. Similar to its 2018, pilot project, and the follow-up in 2019, the updated Certificate in Education Studies in Leadership (CESL 3.0) is the centrepiece of this collaborative endeavour.

Project duration: October 2021 to September 2024
Principal Investigator: Dr Vicente Reyes
Funding body: HEAD Foundation (Singapore)
Further information: Project website


Policymaking in Disruptive Times: The Development and Impact of School Trust-Designed Policies on Teacher and Student Outcomes

This research is funded by the ESRC IAA and was conducted by the University of Nottingham in collaboration with the Confederation of School Trusts. The project tracks the leadership of 14 School Trusts from some of the most deprived areas in the Northern region of England (Lancashire and West Yorkshire, East Midlands & Humber, and Northeast), with a particular focus on how they managed the transitions to the ‘new normal’ over the period from April to September 2021. 

Project duration: April 2021 to September 2021
Principal Investigator: Professor Christopher Day
Co-investigator: Dr Stanimira Taneva
Funding body: ESRC IAA
Further information: Project report


Teacher Professionalism in Changing Contexts: Challenges to Teachers' Thinking and Practices as Covid-19 Subsides

This research investigates teacher professionalism as the Covid-19 pandemic subsides. It tracks how teachers manage their exposure to physical risk, and the mental health of students and colleagues, whilst delivering remote and face-to-face quality teaching and learning to all, especially the more vulnerable.

By constructing change narratives of teachers in primary and secondary schools serving socio-economically disadvantaged and advantaged communities, the research will provide new knowledge about the extent to which teachers in different career phases and in schools serving different socio-economic communities, manage challenges to core aspects of their values, knowledge and skills, levels of commitment, self-efficacy, resilience and professional identities.

The new knowledge gained will contribute to more nuanced, fine-grained individual and organizational context-sensitive understandings of professionalism - teachers’ knowledge base, their decision-making over aspects related to their work, and peer networks as opportunities for information exchange and support necessary to maintain high standards of teaching. The findings will not only fill a gap in the academic literature on professionalism, but will be highly relevant in relation to the kinds of support measures for teachers likely to be the most effective. 

Project duration: October 2020 to September 2022
Principal Investigator: Professor Christopher Day
Research Assistant: Despoina Athanasiadou
Funding body: British Academy (BA)


Evidence of Resilience, Courage and Care Among Teachers During the Pandemic

This project builds on a two year ‘small grants’ project funded by Leverhulme/British Academy (September 2020 to September 2021). It is tracking how early, mid and later career teachers manage their exposure to physical risk whilst teaching and their own mental health and the learning and welfare of students, especially the more vulnerable. The project will result in the construction of change narratives of teachers in primary and secondary schools serving socio-economically disadvantaged and advantaged communities. This short-term ‘engagement and impact’ project arises out of the above research. It will ensure that the findings will:

  1. influence future staff wellbeing and morale, and retention policies of the participating schools
  2. produce an evidence-based, user-friendly, and widely available ‘non-academic’ publication designed to appeal to policy makers and schools nationally

Project duration: January to March 2022
Principal Investigator: Professor Christopher Day
Co-Investigators: Despoina Athanasiadou, Ruth Graham, Dr Helen Smith
Funding body: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)


European Sectoral Social Partners In Education Promoting Quality Of Academic Teaching And Management

This project is a collaborative endeavour between European level social partners, European Federation of Education Employers (EFEE) and European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE), that seeks to understand how more effective social dialogue can contribute to enhanced teaching and management in the higher education sector.

The project is based on a survey of all EFEE and ETUCE members and the outcomes of two Peer Learning Workshops held in Portugal and the Netherlands.

The final project will inform the action plan for the European Sectoral Social Dialogue in Education action plan for future work.

Project duration: May 2021 to May 2022
Principal Investigator: Professor Howard Stevenson
Research team: Dr Sharon Clancy and Maria Antonieta Vega Castillo
Funding body: The European Federation of Education Employers
Further information: Project kick-off conference. Further details will be available on the EFEE and ETUCE websites.


Strengthening the Capacity of Education Employers within the European Semester process

The European Semester has become an increasingly significant element in the European Union’s governance arrangements, extending far beyond its role in monitoring economic performance, but also playing a key role in social policy co-ordination. Within this social policy co-ordination function education policy is particularly prominent.

As Europe emerges from the Covid 19 pandemic the role of the European Semester in plans for recovery and resilience will be central.

This projects identifies opportunities to enhance social dialogue in the European Semester with a specific focus on supporting education employers’ organisations to make effective interventions into the process.

Project duration: April 2021 to March 2022
Principal Investigator: Professor Howard Stevenson
Research Assistant: Ms Vasiliki Selechopoulou 
Funding body: The European Federation of Education Employers (EFEE)
Further information: The final report will be on the EFEE website.


Towards a Framework of Action on the Attractiveness of the Teaching Profession through Effective Social Dialogue in Education

This project arises from a joint declaration by European education employers and education trade unions that committed to enhancing the attractiveness of the teaching profession in 2018.

The project works with the European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE) and the European Federation of Education Employers (EFEE) to identify how effective social dialogue can contribute to creating the conditions in which recruitment and retention issues that are common across many European countries can more effectively be addressed.

The work forms part of the European Sectoral Social Dialogue in Education work plan and will inform social dialogue between trade unions and employers at both the European and national level.

Project duration: May 2021 to April 2023
Principal Investigator: Professor Howard Stevenson
Co-Investigator: Dr Alison Milner, previously University of Nottingham, now Aalborg University, Denmark
Funding body: European Trade union Committee for Education (ETUCE)
Further information: Project kick-off conference. Further details will be available on the EFEE and ETUCE websites.



Centre for Research in Educational Leadership and Management

School of Education
University of Nottingham
Jubilee Campus
Nottingham, NG8 1BB

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