School Leadership Toolkit
for equity and learning


School leadership from the perspective of equity & learning
Equity and learning achievement are the most critical challenges leaders in European schools are faced with in everyday school life. Despite differences in the ways school systems are structured and in the legislative frameworks under which schools operate in Europe, the common ground upon which the education of our children is rooted is composed by:

the ideals of fairness and inclusion for all, irrespective of their race, nationality and gender, their economic, social or cultural background, their sexual orientation or health condition, and
a strong commitment in supporting children learn and develop to the best of their abilities.

The perspective of equity
Typically, in educational leadership and management discourse it is policy makers or family/society factors that are cited as maintaining inequality, and staff in schools depicted as constrained by the context within which they work. However, this is a misleading assumption.

Schools and school staff also play a part in creating, maintaining or increasing inequality. How?

School leaders who attempt to shift school priorities and practices in fundamental ways usually encounter a good deal of resistance from teachers and from parents. Teachers may argue, for example, that dismantling tracking jeopardises teaching their subject, or any other subject.
School leaders who enrol students who are seen by others as “problematic” risk parents' reactions to avoid their school. Flight from schools with a high percentage of immigrant students has been noted in different countries.
School leaders sometimes face a belief that some children are not educable or only educable with great difficulty. The children of immigrant families or of minority ethnic groups are more likely to be seen as having special needs than are other groups, reflecting deeply embedded prejudices that link being perceived as different with being less able.
Leaders themselves are not immune from such beliefs. Those who, for example, give entry preference to learners with higher attainment, or who allocate the most inexperienced teachers to classes of those perceived as lower ability, are enacting inequality (Lumby, 2013).
The perspective of learning
According to Leithwood, Harris & Hopkins (2008), although we lack evidence in sufficient amounts and of sufficient quality to serve as powerful guides to policy and practice on school leadership, there are some quite important things that we do know from previous school leadership research, which can provide the ground for a number of strong claims on school leadership:

School leadership is second only to classroom teaching as an influence on pupil learning (leadership serves as a catalyst for unleashing the potential capacities that already exist in the organization).
Almost all successful leaders draw on the same repertoire of basic leadership practices: a) Building vision and setting directions, b) understanding and developing people, c) redesigning the organization, and d) managing the teaching and learning programme.
The ways in which leaders apply these leadership practices -not the practices themselves- demonstrate responsiveness to the contexts in which they work (apply contextually sensitive combinations of the basic leadership practices described above).
School leaders improve teaching and learning indirectly and most powerfully through their influence on staff motivation, commitment and working conditions. School leadership has a greater influence on schools and pupils when it is widely distributed.
Some patterns of distributed leadership are more effective than others (high levels of influence from all sources of leadership).
A small handful of personal traits explains a high proportion of the variation in leadership effectiveness (such as open-mindedness, readiness to learn from others, flexibility, optimism, persistence).
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.






...mostly leaders contribute to student learning indirectly, through their influence on other people or features of their organizations.