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.

Questions for policy reflections on school autonomy

These questions illustrate diverse aspects of autonomy in education. The categories are necessary to reflect upon, when determining what kind of autonomy of leadership is present and what opportunities for equity and learning should be developed.

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.



Conception preferred
  • Decentralization of decisions within the educational system from state to school, preferably with bureaucratic and management arguments.
  • Self-governance/privatization, with public-private and market place arguments, establishing single school executive boards, accountable to state.
  • governance


    Logics preferred
  • Market mechanisms: choice, competition, top down leadership.
  • Bureaucratic need for control and transparency.
  • power


    Forms preferred
  • Structural power like budget and legislation.
  • Social technologies (e.g.: test, benchmarks, protocols).
  • Discursive power through recommendations, comparisons, soft governance.

  • Leif Moos (Aarhus University, Denmark): On the School Autonomy Toolkit. EPNOSL Nice PLA (25-26 Sept. 2014).


    To be decided upon
  • School frames: Budget, staff management, operations.
  • School content: Aims and curriculum are centralized, national.
  • manoeuvre

    Room for manoeuvre

    Forms preferred
  • Actors deliberating, negotiating and thus participating in construction of premises for decision making.
  • equity and learning

    Responsibility for equity and learning

    The level that should be placed
  • National level, responsible for societal frames and aims, like social justice in access and effects of education.
  • Local level, responsible for community frames and social justice.
  • School level, responsible for treating everybody fairly, equitable and for education and teaching.
  • There are many reasons for changes in patterns of decision making and responsibility, and they vary from country to country. The most common reasons to decentralise decision making are increased efficiency and improved financial control; reduced bureaucracy; increased responsiveness to local communities; more creative management of human resources; improved potential for innovation; and the creation of conditions that provide better incentives for improving the quality of schooling.
    OECD (2012), Education at a Glance 2012: OECD Indicators, p.500.

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