School Autonomy Toolset
for equity and learning

An enabling school leadership environment is reflected in the room for flexibility and autonomy granted to school leaders for making important decisions that aim to identify and respond to concrete school needs in relation equity and learning challenges.




Enhancing school autonomy for equity and learning

Critical political issues that need to be considered in order to develop and implement a school autonomy policy that actively promotes school leadership for equity and learning.

What we mean by School Autonomy?

School autonomy is a term used to indicate that schools and school-level actors have been given some room for manoeuvre to take their own decisions in managing schools and dealing with everyday equity, teaching and learning challenges, and that constrains from the outside - and inside - are reduced to the necessary and legitimate frames, values and norms.

What kind of school autonomy?

What kind of school autonomy?

School autonomy policies for equity and learning should specify:
  • what decision-making areas school autonomy should be widened (or even narrowed down),
  • for what purposes is autonomy granted, and
  • what should be the appropriate mechanisms (accountability systems, overarching frameworks, standards) through which school autonomy can be controlled or counterbalanced.
  • To work properly, school autonomy must have political support at the central and local levels, it should have a legal framework that allows autonomy to function unimpeded, and should have the assent of teachers.
    What kind of autonomy reforms?

    What kind of autonomy reforms?

    In school systems with relatively low school autonomy in decision making domains directly related to equity and learning such as pedagogy, learning content and assessment methods, there is more pressing need to consider reforms.
    Avoid over-regulation

    Avoid over-regulation

    Policies that grant more autonomy to schools and in parallel promote over-regulated and bureaucratic accountability systems can limit the room for manoeuvre school leaders need to promote equity and learning in schools.
    The pace of autonomy reforms

    The pace of autonomy reforms

    The pace with which reforms that grand more autonomy to schools are introduced, is a critical factor in their implementation. Particularly in school systems with a long tradition of centralization in decision making and relatively low school autonomy, changes in the governance of schools should be introduced in a gradual manner so that schools become more capable to cope with their new tasks and responsibilities.

    Increased school autonomy has an impact on the workload of school leaders

    Increased school autonomy has an impact on the workload of school leaders

    The widening of the distribution of school management tasks is a policy option that can help school leaders to deal more effectively with an increased workload. Routine administrative tasks can be transferred to non-teaching support staff in order to leave school leaders with more time to deal with issues that are closely related to learning and equity.
    More autonomy demands targeted professional development initiatives

    More autonomy demands targeted professional development initiatives

    Among the implications of policies that widen school autonomy is that the work of school leaders becomes more demanding and complex. Therefore, reforms that introduce more decision-making powers at school level should be accompanied by targeted professional development opportunities for school leaders and changes in the curricula of programmes that prepare future school leaders.