School Leadership Toolkit
for equity and learning


Critical factors in policy implementation aimed to empower school leadership for equity and learning can be considered as those necessary building blocks of a specific strategy or policy initiative upon which the achievement of the intended policy goals is highly dependent.

Critical factors in policy implementation
The following factors are likely to affect the realization of the three critical school leadership policy development goals of creating an enabling school leadership environment, enhancing capacity building and promoting research on school leadership:


Political commitment and priorities
Financial resources
Policy coherence
Policy ownership
Empowerment of stakeholders and trust in their professionalism
Supportive shared dispositions to inclusive, non socio-economically segregated schools


Policy implementation is a complex and dynamic process in nature and therefore at different phases it is likely that some factors may be proved more critical than others for its success.
Given the high diversity in the political, social, cultural and economic realities and traditions between and even within EU countries, some factors may be less important than others in different countries or school systems. It is also to be expected that the relative importance of different factors even in the context of a single country or school system may change with time or circumstances..

The European Policy Network on School Leadership (EPNoSL)
The development of the School Leadership Toolkit for equity and learning is based on the results of the activities undertaken by the European Policy Network on School Leadership (EPNoSL).

Since 2011 EPNoSL has grown into a wide network of stakeholders from more 42 European institutions. It has been joined by several Ministries of Education across Europe, research and academic institutions, agencies responsible for the preparation and professional development of school leaders, and national and Europe-wide associations of school leaders, teachers and parents.
Political commitment and priorities. Photo by  Bogdan Suditu (https://www.flickr.com/photos/bogdansuditu/2377844553/)

Political commitment & priorities

Within the wider context of political debates over how to distribute limited public resources, it is important that governments clearly recognise the critical need to combat inequalities in access, opportunities, treatment and outcomes of schooling and prioritise measures, among them on school leadership development, that are aimed to address these challenges.

School leaders have their own share in minimising or exacerbating the effects of socio-economic inequality and exclusion in their schools. It is their determination to minimise these effects that is the foundation of action for equity and improved performance in schools.
Financial resources

Financial resources

The level of spending, the sources of funding, the processes through which funding is becoming available to schools and the flexibility with which school leaders can use school funds to promote equity and learning are particularly important parameters to policy implementation.

The challenge for policy-makers is to ensure that persisting economic problems do not become an overwhelming obstacle for the establishment of an enabling school leadership environment.
Policy coherence

Policy coherence

In order to promote equity and learning in schools there should be a deepening of sectoral coordination between education policies and other government policies that target to improve the quality of life in the most socio-economically disadvantaged regions and communities through, for example, welfare policies, employment policies, LLL policies etc.

At school level, policy coherence needs to be established through coordinated leadership action which aligns the school’s mission, its plans, priorities and spending, the curricula, professional development and other school activities to the needs for the promotion of equity and improved learning performance for all.




It is important that sufficient public funds are made available to schools in disadvantaged neighbourhoods for interventions, such as extra classes for weaker pupils, greater variety of learning opportunities, better qualified staff, meals to poorer pupils etc, that would scaffold school leaders' efforts to promote equity and learning.

Policy ownership

Policy ownership

Policy ownership can be conceptualised as a (perceived) state of belonging to, and responsibility for, the implementation of a strategy or initiative. A dispersed, rather than a top-down, model of implementation is more likely to ensure that various stakeholders (e.g. school leaders, parents, pupils and local authorities) view policy as benign, rather than an alien interloper (Bagley and Ward, 2013).

Policy ownership at school level can be greatly enhanced through distributed leadership and the widening of participation of school level stakeholders in decision making and in implementation of policies and projects aimed to promote equity and learning.

Policy Response Toolset
Empowerment and trust. Photo by  Bogdan Suditu (https://www.flickr.com/photos/bogdansuditu/2377844553/)

Empowerment and trust

Policy ownership is supported and enhanced by the sharing of power between different stakeholders. Policy empowerment and trust in different “key actors” shapes the degree and the nature of their involvement in the implementation of a policy or initiative.

In school systems where power is more widely shared and devolved it is likely that the implementation of policies targeting to promote school leadership for equity and learning will be handled more smoothly and successfully than in highly hierarchical systems.

Promoting Collaboration Toolset
Policy coherence

Believing in inclusive schools

School leadership policies aiming to promote equity and learning for all in schools may be sidetracked on the ground by individuals or groups with racist, sexist, xenophobic, or other beliefs and practices that in effect promote the marginalisation and exclusion of vulnerable groups of pupils and their families from quality schooling.

Public policies on school leadership that are aimed to promote fairness and inclusion should be supported by coordinated policy actions that strengthen wider societal beliefs about the values of tolerance, acceptance of difference and respect of others etc.




Unpacking one's own culture and its assumptions about people and about learning may move school leaders out of their habitual thinking and behaviours, raising awareness of how they are shaped by gender, ethnicity, class and societal culture. If the leader is more aware of how his or her thoughts and actions reflect a specific location in a particular society, a deeper understanding of learners and particularly of those deemed 'other' in the school, may be possible.