1st Edition

Authentic School Improvement for Authentic Leaders

By Victoria Carr Copyright 2025
    224 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    224 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Authentic School Improvement for Authentic Leaders charts a full improvement journey of a school from a ‘Requires Improvement’ Ofsted rating, through a second, to a resounding ‘Good’. It reveals the impact that a school leader can have on the motivation and engagement of teachers, parents and pupils and how this translates not just to their overall happiness, but on academic standards and systemic, long-lasting school improvement whilst maintaining their own well-being.

    Bringing together a wide range of accessible and relatable school improvement practices, the chapters cover all aspects of school leadership from operational systems to academic standards and staff morale to pupil numbers. Full of strategies, takeaways, observations and anecdotes, the book illustrates that being authentic and leading with integrity is possible for all and provides tangible results that may support positive Ofsted outcomes but are not driven by them.

    Including a Foreword by Ross Morrison McGill, this is essential reading for all Head Teachers and Senior Leaders in primary and secondary, mainstream and specialist, maintained and academy schools.

    1. External Drivers: impact of Neoliberalism on schools over 40 years   2. Gaining Situational Awareness: the creation of the ‘to do list’   3. Barriers to Success: why do people become Headteachers?   4. Most Likely & Most Dangerous: expectation and worst-case scenario   5. From External Divers to Internal Drive: why we persist, and we must persist!   6. Constraints & Limitations: what hurdles must be overcome to ensure success?   7. Implied and Specified Tasks: who tells us what we need to do, and how?   8. Revising the Main Effort: taking stock and resetting the collective focus   9. Choosing the most effective strategy: right people, resources, outcome!   10. The messy business of Human Resources: managing staff, the basics   11. Co-ordinating the Moving Parts: project management for improvement  12. Building Culture: how, what and why  13. Financial Considerations: the full Monty  14. Academic Considerations: systematic, routine, research-based   15. Warts and all….: the messy business of complaints  16. All Good Now: the world of possibility! 


    Victoria Carr is Headteacher at Woodlands Primary School, UK. She has been a leader in several contexts, from education to the British Army, and held a range of roles from lecturing to headteacher, research fellow to coach. Dr Vic leads with love and this, her second book, exemplifies how and why!

    “An authentic human story of resilient, compassionate leadership. Highly recommended.”

    Dame Alison Peacock, CEO of the Chartered College of Teaching,

    “Wise, intelligent, humble, humorous, pithy, straight-talking, philosophical, pragmatic…Dr Vic Carr at her very best.  Vic balances the ‘what and how’ with the ‘why’ on almost every page of this great read.  School leaders will find this book engaging, helpful, supportive, comforting, and robustly challenging.  I certainly did.”

    Paul Cornish, Executive Director of Education in a cross-phase MAT.

    "A vivid and compelling account of school leadership: all the joys, the dilemmas, the laughs and the really tough decisions. Vic has written a book that will both move and inspire you."

    Mary Myatt, education writer, speaker and curator, Myatt & Co.

    “Following on from ‘Leading with love’, an equally honest reflection, ‘School Improvement – more than Ofsted!’ is a story of a school and it’s fight from crisis to the ‘Good’ life, ‘warts and all’, as Vic puts it. For any leader this book will give a host of tips and practical suggestions for leadership, but for someone new to leading a school out of an Ofsted RI, this book is gold dust. The comparisons to Vic’s other life as an officer in the Army reserves are plentiful and fascinating. Using these, Vic Carr provides a new perspective on school leadership – it’s the unknown unknowns that really get you and there were many at Woodlands when she took over.

    You’ll also explore the roots of our government’s educational philosophy and the piecemeal production of what passes for national educational vision. Along the way, Vic puts Ofsted firmly in its place. The detail of her journey is engrossing and you’ll learn so much from the educational sources she’s used. Quoting from her own staff’s parallel journeys is such an excellent device! A fine addition to our books on educational leadership. Woodlands is now in a fine place!”

    Paul Garvey, Education consultant and Ex-Ofsted lead inspector.

    “What fun and joy I had reading this tome of wisdom from Dr. Vic! She tells her story of taking over a failing school with passion and alacrity – we can feel the sway of her influence as she turns that super tanker round in far less than the five miles it allegedly takes. Vic is the epitome of the belief that if you have faith in your teachers, have faith in all staff, have faith in your community, have faith in your children and above all – have faith in yourself, you will succeed even in the face of great difficulties! Oh yes (sorry I forgot) and work your socks off!

    This book will inspire and motivate many to put cynicism and self-doubt aside and join Vic in proving that – yet again - commitment, faith and a willingness to ‘dive in at the deep end’ will not just ‘get the job done’ but will lead a now-great school out from the abyss.”

    Ros Wilson, Education consultant.

    “Capturing the landscape of education and leadership in its current state is no mean feat. What Vic has done here takes a lot of commitment and effort in order to produce such a fantastic resource for educators. If you are a classroom practitioner aspiring to lead, then take a look, as Vic offers a ‘warts and all’ account of what leadership entails. If you are an existing headteacher, Vic invites you to see education through her lens of experience, honesty and integrity. Nobody wants to make their school worse; Viv offers guidance that places school improvement in a realm of reality – from parental complaints to governance; from attendance to curriculum; and she does with typical wit and authority. One chapter alone offers a terrific history of the development of English educational policy over the last 50 years and I found it useful and compelling. We need to reflect on this stuff more so we can make the right decisions in the future. That’s Vic’s message, and one that you’ll agree with. I like the parallels Vic makes with her side career in the military. They are useful and help the reader see how wonderful (and occasionally fragile) leadership can be. This book is an illumination for those who are seeking a light in the dark, and it will sit comfortably on any serious educator’s bookshelf.”

    Hywel Roberts, Teacher – Writer – Speaker. Author of Botheredness: stories – stance – pedagogy

    “As the headteacher, and through the eyes of the Woodlands school staff, Vic provides a compelling blueprint for leading a school community from crisis to greatness! Navigating the physical and human terrain of the unknown knowns and unknown unknowns, she highlights the constraints, limitations and the decimation of systems, whilst encouraging, engaging and empowering the reader to seize the opportunity to lead with passion and make a difference.

    Through the narrative of the school’s journey, Vic showcases the removal of barriers and creation of opportunities through practical and impactful strategies that harness the talent of her team to make a positive impact. It provides an inspiring story of how Vic got the right people, in the right job, doing the right thing! Then, crucially, coordinating the moving parts through routines, systems and structures to secure successful school leadership, resulting in a positive impact for the whole school community.

    PS: it’s a great read! It gripped me!”

    Patrick Ottley-O’Connor, Collaborative Leadership Ltd. Coach

    “Loved the book. It's like a road map to success. Leadership at its best - built on relationships, vision, hard work and a genuine passion to make a difference for all involved, not just pupils. The way the book allows you to get to know Woodlands, warts and all and follow the journey with you is so enriching and leaves you feeling that anything is possible if people are at the heart of what you do.” 

    Nichola Hill, @Honest_Headteacher