There are some schools which simply appear to buck the trends; schools where pupils’ academic attainment and other outcomes are so much better than national averages for similar pupils and similar neighbourhoods. High-leverage is the phrase we are using to describe leaders who work in those schools and contribute to an impressive effect on a range of outcomes for children and young people. From somewhere in the recesses of our school-level science we recall that a lever is a bar resting on a fulcrum which multiplies the effect of a force. We remember being told about Archimedes’ claim that, with a long enough lever and a place to stand, he could move the earth – apparently using the moon as a fulcrum. In a different context, organisational theory, Peter Senge (1990) used ‘leverage’ to describe small, well-focused actions that produce significant and enduring improvements. More recently, leverage became temporarily tainted by its association with the first great financial crisis of the 21st century and the misuse of financial leverage that appeared, misleadingly, to multiply financial gains. Our interest is in school leaders whose leverage, their application of effort to critical factors, has both substantial and sustainable consequences: high-leverage leaders. We use the concept of ‘leverage’ and its associated multiplier effect because the relationships we have observed between high-leverage leaders and the people with whom they are working have a strength which seem at times analogous to a physical force. Those relationships create a connection through which energy can be generated and transferred. It is a connection which distinguishes highleverage leaders from other, apparently effective leaders whose approach is aloof, characterised by short-term tactics and transitory. The high-leverage leaders we have worked with and write about do not, as Archimedes hypothetically might, stand at a distance and apply a massive effort against an inert weight – in their case, ‘the school’. They position themselves, as we shall show, alongside staff, students and communities so they can nudge and use the momentum of which they believe everyone is already capable. They do not, as some financiers might, use leverage to raise performance in the short term (for share values read exam passes) and so boost their esteem and pay at the expense of the organisation’s long-term stability and success. In contrast, they use leverage to secure the

short term and simultaneously to invest for the longer term. Hargreaves and Shirley recognise this important leadership approach in their evaluation of the Raising Achievement for Teaching and Learning (RATL) Programme in which leaders managed to balance the tension between achieving short-term gains in attainment with the demands of longer-term capacity building (Hargreaves and Shirley 2009). We use ‘high’ alongside ‘leverage’ simply because the leaders we are describing have a multiplier effect which is uncommonly powerful. In part, that reflects the places where we have usually met them; most often these are areas with a disproportionate number of socio-economically disadvantaged families. It is easier to track the multiplier effect in those areas or with pupils from those backgrounds. Schools with predominantly wealthier students will tend to have continuous and above-average outcomes that are driven by social – in effect, family – factors and are largely immune from school effects. It is where outcomes have historically been poor that the highest leverage is possible. That is a long way from saying that high-leverage leadership is easy. It is not. If it were, then public education systems and social mobility across the world would have been transformed already. Over the past decade or so our work in a variety of roles and contexts has drawn us into regular contact with leaders who fit our ‘high-leverage’ description. That work has always embraced a development and research perspective even when, on occasions, it also involved operational and managerial responsibilities. It has included:

●● supporting schools to establish new relationships with professional and neighbourhood communities;

●● facilitating schools which want to explore new, often combined leadership and governance arrangements;

●● working with local authorities, the equivalent in England of school districts, to sponsor new relationships between their schools and between the schools and local authority officers;

●● developing new organisational arrangements (called Children’s Trusts in England) so that all the services for children in a locality could work collaboratively and more effectively together;

It will become apparent that we have worked with leaders who share a common set of values and aptitudes while pursuing differing emphases in their immediate priorities and managerial tactics. Those values and aptitudes lead them to:

patterns of leadership’; ●● successfully ‘close gaps’ in attainment by raising the performance of the

lowest achievers;

●● contribute to community cohesion and create ‘public value’, a high degree of local commitment to the school.