In everyday language stakeholder is "... a person or company that is involved in a particular organization, project, system, etc. especially because they have invested money in it. Ex: the government said it wants to create a stakeholder economy in which all members of society feel that they have an interest in its success". (Oxford Advanced Learners' Dictionary. New 8th edition).
“Stakeholders” in education, as defined by the “Great School Partnership” in the Glossary of Education Reform, "is anyone who is involved in the welfare and success of a school and its students, including administrators, teachers, staff, students, parents, community members, school board members, city councillors and state representatives." It is a concept that considers as stakeholder everyone who has something 'at stake' in the education process. That definition stresses the word "involvement" which needs to be further specified. Two other two words "welfare” and "success", are quite problematic and would need too a definition, considering the welfare state failures and the controversial discourses about school success, particularly when these are exclusively reduced to student results in standardized tests.
In contemporary societies students have gained relevance as partners, from the moment they were given voice and empowered, and their participation increased and expanded to the most different areas. The role of media as opinion leaders as constructors of perceptions and public reputation is similar to stakeholders. However, the schools usually forget to use media for their own benefit to inform the wider public on their needs and achievements. Furthermore, the citizens as taxpayers, within their right to information, and interest in the outcomes of school education, should also be considered as stakeholders.
Nevertheless, in a school leadership context where school autonomy is an axiom, school leaders have to involve the above listed groups into leadership activities in different fields, depth and forms. These may require family/school cooperation (meaning students and parents, and sometimes even grandparents or other individuals undertaking guardian responsibilities), local community/school cooperation, teachers-staff-administration/school cooperation, city council and government/school cooperation and so on. Considering all these fields of cooperation, the school leaders are faced with different kinds of challenges. Some of them could be addressed by changing the school culture, some by training and some by making special arrangements.
Among all the above fields of potential cooperation, the cooperation between families, teaching staff and students is often the most critical. During the last decades changes in the families' structure and in social relationships, as well as the massive expansion of schooling in response to the demand for increased opportunities for individual fulfilment and quality of life, have increased the intervention capacity of citizens in the public arena of school education. More specifically, families have increased influence on the school life, in what concerns the school management and the services provided by schools. As a consequence, some tension was introduced either by schools questioning the families' capacity to intervene in the schooling processes, or by families questioning the quality of the education services. From this perspective, this field of cooperation can be proved problematic in certain school contexts, though as Camacho (2013) indicates, research contributions have highlighted the importance of a concerted school/ family interaction to improve the education services and to foster learning.