Middle leadership is changing. There has never been a better time to be a middle leader. Middle leaders can now clearly see how their leadership direct impacts on pupil progress and achievement as Heads devolve more autonomy and accountability to the middle.
But there has never been a more challenging time to be a middle leader. Many are young and transitioning from being peers to line managers, they have never had to plan a curriculum, and reforms such as performance-related pay and assessing without levels are demanding new skillsets.
This transition is critical though. We need great middle leadership to lead teaching and eradicate in-school variation and Ofsted
 have recently reflected this in their inspection guidance.
So what can schools do to grow their own and bring on the next generation of middle leaders? Teaching Leaders ran a series of events in the autumn term across the country speaking to 200 Heads about their middle leadership and below are some of the responses.
Middle leaders need to make the step-change from seeing themselves as administrators or peers, to managers and leaders. Heads and senior leaders can encourage the behaviours you want them to develop and get them to perceive themselves differently.
Language. How do you talk to your middle leadership team, both directly and in front of other staff? How do you communicate with them? Does the way you treat them and speak to them reflect how you want them to behave?
Delegation. What tasks do you delegate to them? How much autonomy do you give them? Do they get an opportunity to present their work to Governors and the Head? Are they leading whole-school on areas such as SEN, literacy, research ?
Structures. How is your line management structured? Is there clarity of accountability? How many layers are there between your middle leaders and the Head?
Support and develop.
Many schools have good CPD for their middle leaders but what are the key differentiators for best performance.
Induction. Research shows that 80% of effectiveness in role is down to the quality of induction. Middle leaders are often promoted because they are good teachers but get no support with transition. Do you have an induction programme? 
Resilience. With more ambiguous structures and rapid changing responsibilities and priorities, resilience and mental toughness is more important than ever before. It can be developed but how do you support your middle leaders to do this ?
Mentoring and coaching. Personalised conversations about individual challenges have a disproportionate impact on performance and well-being. What mentoring and coaching structures do you have in school? Are SLT trained and able to coach middle leaders?
Weak line management is often cited by middle leaders as one of the main reasons for lack of engagement or motivation. How can you optimise line management and diversify sources of challenge so they become distributed and embedded in your middle leadership team culture?
Clarity on performance goals. Do your middle leaders know what the most important performance goals are to you? Are they simple and regularly communicated? If teaching quality and pupil progress are your top priorities, are they explicit to your middle leaders?
Peer challenge. How do you shift from line management as the main source of accountability to a culture of peer challenge? The highest performing teams regularly challenge and support one another – could you Joint Practice Development, Lesson Study, peer observation and review as mechanisms to build this?
In-school to out-of-school. Do you encourage your middle leaders to see what ‘outstanding’ middle leaders are doing in other schools? Do they have networks to learn from and share?
Engage and motivate.
Motivation and engagement are key to allow your middle leaders to flourish. This increases short-term performance, and ensures they role-model it to other staff, benefiting long-term retention and progression.
Middle leadership identity. Do your middle leaders see themselves as a team? Do they have a team name and identity? Do they meet and how often do they do so? Building a team identity can mitigate gaps between subject and pastoral leaders which allows better cross-school sharing. It avoids focusing on Core subjects and makes all middle leaders feel valued. 
Access to SLT/whole-school strategy. Do you involve middle leaders in defining school strategy? How do you get them to buy in to your vision? And how often and in what ways do they engage with and get an insight into how senior leadership operates? 
Talent management. Having a common language, clear systems and progression routes for staff allows them to see a pathway within your school. Do you have a process in place? How clear is that to your middle leaders? How personalised is the process – does it involve regular 1:1s, career conversations, secondments, informal responsibilities? 
James Toop is Chief Executive of Teaching Leaders, an education charity whose mission is to grow a movement of outstanding middle leaders in schools in challenging contexts to address educational disadvantage.