Approaches to addressing the challenges that school leaders face in small school contexts: A systematic review

Funded by the York Policy Engine

Principal Investigator: Dr Lisa E. Kim (University of York)

Research Team: Dr Sarah Crellin (University of York), Hanna Glandorf (University of York) Co-Production Team: Julie Pattison (School Improvement Service, North Yorkshire Council); Mari Palmer (Director of North Yorkshire Coast Research School; Headteacher, Settrington All Saints' Church of England Primary School)


Challenges experienced by school leaders in primary and secondary schools have been well-noted in the past. However, the challenges experienced by those serving in small schools in the UK have not yet been thoroughly examined. This is despite evidence that the challenges experienced by school leaders can be associated with the school’s context.

Gathering evidence on the challenges experienced by small school leaders is fundamental to synthesising evidence around effective school leadership, particularly around identifying areas for structural changes, and resources and strategies that may help school leaders as they support and develop themselves as leaders, as well as the schools’ staff and pupils.

Therefore, the aim of the study is to: (a) examine the challenges experienced by school leaders serving in small schools in the UK, and (b) synthesise the evidence-based ways in which these challenges have been addressed. The study will be co-produced in partnership with the North Yorkshire Coast Research School and the North Yorkshire Council.

More information

For more information, please e-mail education-heart(at)