High Performers: the secrets of successful schools, by Alistair Smith, 2011

The Gist

I also wrote this book! I visited 20 state schools which were ‘high performing’ and interviewed the leadership teams and a group of staff. I then distilled what made the schools ‘high performing’ in terms of leadership, middle management and classroom teaching.  Throughout the book and at the end there are lots of practical tips.

What’s Good

The schools visited were very different. The practical advice based on the interviewee experience of worked well for them.


There’s lots but here’s a sample of three. Classroom teachers could ‘use an agreed checklist of what constitutes great learning to help plan your lessons. Make sure all the elements are incorporated.’ Middle leaders should ‘go beyond performance management to create shared opportunities to plan, teach, obseve each and other and review for improvement.’ Leaders may choose to ‘generate whole school discussion about teaching and learning. Start by making it a standard agenda item on all school leadership and department meetings.’

Something to Try

There are 93 well-researched recommendations endorsed by the schools  in the final section of the book. Try any of them!