Primary head teachers managing mediocre practitioners

By definition 50% of primary teachers are average or below average in terms of their effectiveness. However, we know very little about the professional practice of such teachers as researchers almost invariably work with volunteers and these individuals tend to be competent and confident.

Previous research has highlighted some of the tensions head teachers experience when working with ‘less than adequate’ teachers. Little, however, is known about how effective head teachers help such individuals enhance their professional competence so that they can perform to the best of their abilities. Such insights are particularly important in the earliest years of schooling where practitioners shape the foundations for future learning and play a major role in creating young children’s attitudes towards schools and schooling.

This study involved semi-structured interviews with 12 head teachers. It was designed as a first step to develop an understanding of less successful – or mediocre – teachers involved in the earliest years of a child’s schooling. The study aimed to establish how successful head teachers work with colleagues who are below average in professional competence.

Project details



Professor Anne Cockburn, University of East Anglia

Grant amount and duration:


1 March 2011 - 31 August 2011

Project outputs

Headteachers, Mediocre Colleagues and the Challenges of Educational Leadership
- Anne D. Cockburn

Headteachers, Mediocre Colleagues and the Challenges of Educational Leadership


ISBN: 9781137311887

Published August 2013 by Palgrave Macmillan