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.

Examples of good practices on school autonomy for equity and learning

Policy making can be greatly enriched by sharing of good practices on school autonomy across Europe.

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.

Building collaborative partnerships between schools (Flemish community school system in Belgium)
Communities of schools are collaborative partnerships between schools from the same geographical area. The objective of the communities of schools is to make schools work in collaboration by sharing resources, to rationalize supply of courses and to promote cost savings across schools.

The Flemish authorities promoted the creation of communities of schools by allocating additional staff to them. The schools of a community must consult and decide collectively on the use of additional funding. They may equally distribute the resources among themselves, allocate more resources to disadvantaged schools, and/or use some of the resources to appoint a community-level co-ordinating director.

Some of these communities of schools have created a post for a full-time coordinating director of the community, they have agreed on a common process for selection of students, negotiated common working conditions for teachers and created curricula for students with special education. In some cases communities of schools also provided a structure and platform for knowledge sharing and collective action among school leaders and teachers.

  • Community schools in Flanders and Brussels. A framework for development (2006)
  • School leadership for systemic improvement: Communities of schools in Flanders, Belgium. A case study report for the OECD activity Improving school leadership (2007)
  • Community Schools and the role of local authorities in Flanders and Brussels (Belgium)(by Lia Blaton, 2012)
  • The Flemish communities of schools (by Leunis and Ballet, ch. 7.2.1 in EPNoSL Report 4.1, 2013)

  • Schools with "autonomy contracts" (Portugal)
    In countries such as Portugal where schools are traditionally used to be highly controlled by the central education authorities, the process of widening further the room for manoeuvre for schools can be built upon already established and successful school autonomy reforms.

    Evidence provided by the Inspectorate Report on the External Evaluation of Schools (2011-2012) shows that schools with "autonomy contracts" stand out by monitoring and analyzing systematically their results, and implementing improvement strategies. Leadership and management is the domain getting the best ratings. When comparing the ratings of schools under autonomy contracts with all the other schools evaluated in the same year, the percentage of very good ratings is systematically higher in schools under autonomy contracts.

  • School autonomy in Portugal: The case of the educational community in Algoz-Silves (2013) - in Spanish
  • The system of school autonomy in Portugal (2014) - in Portuguese
  • Deepening autonomy and decentralisation: the case of Portugal (by Silva & Climaco, ch. 3.6.1 in EPNoSL Report 4.1, 2013)

  • EPNoSL webinar 2015: School Autonomy and Stakeholders' Collaboration.
    With Leif Moos (Aarhus University, Denmark), Ana Paola Silva & Maria do Carmo Cl??maco Oliveira (Universidade Lus??fona de Humanidades e Tecnologias, Portugal), and Aija T??na (Education Development Center, Latvia).

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