Almost one in five post-primary school principals inspected in Northern Ireland failed to provide satisfactory leadership, it has been revealed.
The quality of education in seven sample schools was inadequate or unsatisfactory, with low examination attainment a key feature, chief inspector Noelle Buick's report said. Those in areas with high levels of deprivation fared worst.
However, achievements and standards were good or better in 68% of post-primaries inspected and less than satisfactory in a 10th.
The 2010-2012 report said: "A fragmented approach to leadership development, which is not responding quickly or effectively enough to the changing needs of our education system, is evident."
The report highlighted significant challenges facing school leaders like falling enrolments, budget deficits, curriculum change and the need for effective collaboration.
In almost one in five post-primary schools inspected the leadership of the principal was less than satisfactory, representing no significant change from the previous two reporting periods. The overall quality of middle management was good or better in 66% of schools inspected.
The report added: "There is a clear need to improve the effectiveness of school leaders at all levels in the well-targeted deployment of resources to provide high-quality education and to raise expectations, aspirations and, as a consequence, standards for all pupils.
"Leadership, in the context of reform, requires of school principals a much broader base of multi-disciplinary skills and professional knowledge than before and consequently there is a need for appropriately designed leadership development programmes which are capable of supporting leaders for 21st-century schools."
Leadership and management at all levels are good or better in 61% of post-primary schools inspected.
Action to promote improvement was good or better in half of schools.