Applying to be Head of School

The number of international schools is growing exponentially.  The 2016 International Schools Consultancy (ISC) Research Global Report[1] states that the number of English-medium K-12 schools has increased by 41.5% in the past five years to a current total of 8,257. The number of students attending international schools is now over 4.3 million; a 45.9% growth in just five years. Asia (including Western Asia; the Middle East) has seen the greatest increase in students during this time with a 55.7% growth. Asia now has 54% of all international schools (4,448) and 60% of all students (2.55 million). The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and China lead the world in terms of number of schools: UAE has 548 schools and China has 547. Furthermore, the number of students studying at international schools in their home countries continues to increase. ISC Research forecasts that by 2026 the K-12 international schools market will reach 16,000 schools teaching 8.75 million students.

This growth in the number of international schools requires a supply of well qualified Heads of School to lead them. However, the Journal of Research in International Education estimates that the average tenure for Heads in international schools is just 3.7 years. [2]It is clear that the context in which the Head of an international school works is often very challenging.

Before focusing on the challenges and opportunities of leading an international school it is important to note that leadership succession is not just a problem in international schools it has also been identified as a real concern in a number of national school systems. Professor Andy Hargreaves notes that "Leadership succession is not just a temporary episodic problem in individual schools, but a pervasive crisis in the system."[3] A 2008 OECD report points to the alarming age profile of school leaders in secondary schools in the majority of countries surveyed.[4]

Our professional inquiry will explore the challenges and opportunities of Headship in an international school, and consider the key skills that are required to succeed in this role.

What are the challenges?

What are the particular challenges of leading an IB World School?

Carrying out due diligence

Ensure there is a good 'fit' between you and the school you are applying to.

Leading a new school

What skills and aptitudes are required for leading a new school and getting it right from the start?

Being a successful head

The key skills Heads require, the main tasks they perform and how successful heads use their time.


  1. ^
  2. ^ Benson, J, An investigation of chief administrator turnover in international schools in Journal of Research in International Education 10(1): 87-103, April 2011
  3. ^ Hargreaves, A., Leadership Succession, The Educational Forum Volume 69, 2005 Issue 2
  4. ^ pont,B., Nusche, D & Moorman,H., Improving School Leadership, Volume 1  Policy and Practice, 2008, OECD p29
All materials on this website are for the exclusive use of teachers and students at subscribing schools for the period of their subscription. Any unauthorised copying or posting of materials on other websites is an infringement of our copyright and could result in your account being blocked and legal action being taken against you.