School Leadership Toolkit
for equity and learning


The School Leadership Toolkit for equity and learning is designed to facilitate policy reflections and planning on a set of policy goals and policy action lines that have been identified as more critical in the promotion of school leadership policies across the European Union (EU).

Central School Leadership policy goals
Based on in-depth reviews of the literature on school leadership and its relationship to equity and learning, papers and other contributions from internal and external experts and policy makers, research conducted by the EPNoSL partners (e.g. surveys, case studies, etc), the discourse that took place in webinars, forums, workshops, conferences, networking and other peer learning activities, three policy goals were identified as most central to promote school leadership for equity and learning in all school systems across EU.

The three most central school leadership policy goals for all education systems in EU to achieve are:

The promotion of an enabling school leadership environment for equity and learning.
The promotion of school leadership capacity building for equity and learning.
The promotion of research on school leadership for equity and learning.
A major criterion for selecting the specific policy goals and the action lines is that all of them can to a great extent be directly shaped by national governments and competent educational authorities through their decisions. The three highly interrelated policy goals and action lines proposed constitute a coherent system that addresses constraints and challenges to achieve effective school leadership policies that are faced to a greater or lesser degree by all school education systems across the EU.


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.
Policy goal #1: The promotion of an enabling school leadership environment for equity and learning
The promotion and establishment of an enabling school leadership environment is the foundation for school leadership policies that address effectively challenges of equity and learning performance. The policy goal of the promotion and establishment of an enabling school leadership environment can be achieved through policy action on the following, highly interrelated policy action lines:
School autonomy for equity and learning

School autonomy for equity and learning

An enabling school leadership environment is reflected in the room for flexibility and autonomy granted to schools and school leaders for making important decisions that aim to identify and respond to concrete school needs in relation equity and learning challenges.
School Autonomy Toolset for Equity & Learning
Distributed leadership for equity and learning. Photo by  Bogdan Suditu (https://www.flickr.com/photos/bogdansuditu/2377844553/)

Distributed leadership for equity and learning

The distribution of leadership roles and responsibilities in the context of autonomy empowers all school stakeholders to engage in collaborative initiatives that aim to combat inequalities and to improve learning performance for all students.
Distributed Leadership for Equity & Learning Toolset
School accountability for equity and learning

School accountability for equity and learning

Accountability mechanisms need to be enhanced to promote trust between school stakeholders, and more broadly to promote the transparency and legitimacy of school-based decisions, particularly those affecting equity and learning issues.
School Accountability Toolset for Equity & Learning
The quality of school leadership is key for dealing with equity and learning challenges in the school environment. Ensuring the quality of school leaders is critical since it can directly impact on improving the quality of learning and on enhancing equity for the benefit of all school children.

Policy goal #2: The promotion of school leadership capacity building for equity and learning
School leadership is not confined to the formal boundaries of the school head’s (or board's) responsibilities, roles and actual practices. Leadership is often exercised by a wide range of school actors such as influential teachers, parents or students with a strong interest on school matters, school staff with connections to the local community, etc.

The above stress the need for a conceptual shift in understanding school leadership, from the position, roles, responsibilities, traits and capacities of individuals holding formally assigned leading roles in a school to leadership as a function inside schools. Such a conceptual shift consequently calls for a policy shift which goes beyond the training of school heads (or principals) to emphasise whole school capacity building.

Devising a school leadership capacity framework may be based on a range of pathways which can scaffold school leadership capacity building for equity and learning, focusing particularly on policies related to:
Establishment and/or upgrading of the school leaders’ system of initial education and training

The establishment and/or upgrading of the school leaders’ system of initial education and training

Policy making should ensure that prospective school teaching and management staff participates in pre-service training programmes that emphasise on everyday challenges related to equity, and, even more importantly, on planning and implementation of strategies targeting inequalities in access, opportunities, and learning outcomes among school children.

The relatively neglected dimension of equity in school leadership training programmes, makes it important to (re)design curricula and activities that integrate methods and techniques for promoting fairness and inclusion in school practice.

Educating School Leaders Toolset for Equity & Learning
To use it as a resource about:

The promotion of continuing professional development on school leadership for equity and learning

As a set of general principles, policy makers are advised to consider encouraging the delivery of school leadership programs and activities that:

  • Aim to develop school leaders' capacity for critical reflection, substantiated by evidence, on the conditions and factors influencing teaching, learning, and equity in their local, school context.
  • Promote a holistic approach of school leadership, incorporating the attainment of both equity and learning achievement goals in a balanced way.
  • Acknowledge the variety of perspectives, experiences, knowledge, values, ways of learning; in short, stimulate the recognition of difference (El Haj, 2007).
  • Target whole school leadership capacity building, focusing on democratic, collaborative and innovative school leadership methods.
  • Teacher Leadership Toolset for Equity & Learning
    Policy goal #3: The promotion of policy evaluation research on school leadership for equity and learning
    Policies and initiatives are often shaped and crafted not on the basis of research evidence but simply on the beliefs and commitments of policy-makers and their advisers. However, sound research evidence can offer invaluable support to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of school leadership policies and identify emergent needs for policy planning.

    Research for policy planning
    At the level of policy planning, sound empirical evidence can be proved of great help to top and middle-level policy makers as well as to school leaders, to, for example,
  • identify areas where targeted policy initiatives are mostly needed and orient policy priorities to address challenges of equity and learning in schools, and
  • identify existing good leadership practices that effectively tackle school-level inequalities in access, opportunities, treatment, and outcomes among children and improve learning performance for all.

  • Research for policy implementation
    The complexities involved between policy planning and implementation need to be better understood in order to ensure that the intended outcomes are indeed realised. Therefore, research evidence that would inform formative and summative evaluation of specific policy initiatives is of great importance.

    Policy Assessment Toolset for equity & learning