Creating a future of wholesome school leaders


Tom Rees is the Executive Headteacher of Simon de Senlis Primary School and works across eleven primary schools as the Education Director of Northampton Primary Academy Trust.

He’s been a leader in schools for around 17 years across different contexts, counties and countries. Between Headships, he also spent time in the education technology sector working alongside schools, academies, local authorities, and multi-national companies.

His book, Wholesome Leadership looks at everything about leadership in schools, from people management, teaching and learning to personal development and growth.

“This job of leadership is primarily a moral activity,” says Rees. “It’s not just about league tables or balancing budgets, it’s about playing a part in a wider education system that enriches lives and creates opportunities.”

“A lot of primary school leaders are working incredibly hard to do a good job but might not necessarily have the right training, support or resources to help them. Running a school is complex but not impossible,” he continues. “I’ve learned so much from people over the last 10-20 years and I wanted to write something that was relevant and accessible for everyone, especially primary leaders.”

Which is why his book is based on what Rees calls a “H4 leadership model” and draws on the experience and thoughts of colleagues spanning the whole educational spectrum, including: Sir David Carter, Clare Sealy, Daisy Christodoulou, MAT CEOs, Julia Kedwards, Stephen Tierney, and Andrew Morrish.

“The H4 leadership model is about the heart, head, hands, and health of school leaders,” he explains. “Each of these dimensions of leadership are important and have to work together in balance. Ultimately, school leaders have to be a lot of things to a lot of people.”

“There’s a real concern about the need to recruit and retain good school leaders in the years ahead. By 2022, it is estimated that there will be a shortfall of 19,000 school leaders and we have to do more as system to support colleagues who come in to positions of responsibility. It’s important that we recognise there is no ‘secret sauce’ that creates transformational change. Schools get better one day at a time, one person at a time through hard work, good decision making and incremental improvement.”

Rees recognises the huge part that technology can play in supporting school improvement, and writes about this within the Hands section of the H4 leadership model.

“Technology helps you run a lean operation,” he explains. “It helps schools to work more efficiently and effectively and enables better communication, particularly across a complex organisation such as ours with 11 schools across 14 sites. It doesn’t matter how great your people are or how inspiring the vision is, unless schools are well-organised and a slick organisation, things becoming chaotic. Running Office 365 across all our schools, Governing Bodies and Trustees enables us to work much smarter together.”

“Technology also plays a big part in analytics and to help us understand how effective we’re being. In recent years, we’ve developed Power BI as an analytic tool to see assessment not just as a descriptive activity, but a predictive and ultimately prescriptive process. Recent trials of machine learning across the trust’s database with Coscole Ltd. have started to predict KS2 SATs result to degrees of accuracy that we are cautiously excited by.”

Rees has written before about how his trust have started to use powerful data to through PowerBI and other Microsoft technologies and we are excited at what might develop next out of this work which now includes Microsoft partner, Groupcall.

This is a summary dashboard showing Reading and Maths headline data across all schools (light blue is Reading and black is Maths) for Year 3 across Trust schools.

The current Year 6 reading data at December for a previous year’s SATs test across all trust schools. The data here indicates that 65% have achieved 100+ and 59% of FSM6 children have achieved 100+. We then use this data to predict our SAT results next year.

Please note, all data has been randomised and anonymised.

Because Rees works as a Headteacher and Education Director, his book offers real ideas and skills that are currently implemented in real schools, so you know they work.

“I hope the book offers readers a sense of honesty on what leading a school is about,” he says. “Leadership can sometimes be portrayed as heroic which can put people off. I hope that Wholesome Leadership offers practical ideas they can take away.”

As for the future of education, Rees says it’s a time to compete less and collaborate more.

“It’s a time for bold leaders within schools. We need smart, motivated people who are going to make things happen, regardless of the system and what goes on around it,” he says. “There’s an increasing need for us to remember that we all serve the same communities and systems and to open up our ideas and thinking to support others.”

He continues:

“If we can remember that we are all working on the same challenges rather than in competition, there’s a chance we can make the whole education system better.”


Find out more

Buy Wholesome Leadership today

Read Tom’s blog on leadership

Follow Tom on Twitter


Book giveaway

We have an exclusive giveaway for our MIE/MIEE community!  We’re really excited to be giving away 2 copies of #WholesomeLeadership and to be in with a chance of winning a copy. Simply Tweet out your best leadership tip using the hashtag #MicrosoftEDU and tag @Microsofteduk.

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