Collaborative school leadership means democratic decision-making


The Education Leadership Network Europe (ELNE), with ETUCE as one of the key leaders alongside the European Federation of Education Employers (EFEE), the European School Heads Association (ESHA), the European Parents Association (EPA), and the Organising Bureau of European School Student Unions (OBESSU), is a four-year project consortium focused on collaborative school leadership. A conference marking the close of the first year of activities took place on April 23 in Brussels. It was attended by over 100 network members and interested stakeholders, focusing on 'Education Leadership in Practice.' Several trade union representatives played active roles in the event, namely from FNE (Portugal), TUI (Ireland), DLF (Denmark), FLCCGIL (Italy), TUS (Serbia), and ETUCE.

ETUCE emphasized that democratic decision-making in school management and education systems forms the basis for quality education, good learning outcomes, a welcoming learning environment for students, and a supportive work environment for staff and school leaders. The green and digital transition of schools, as targets in the European Education Area, will not be possible to achieve without building and enhancing a collaborative school leadership culture where social dialogue with education trade unions plays an active role. For students, parents, staff, and school management to collaborate effectively, trust and respect are essential. This helps achieve high-quality and inclusive education, reduce early school leaving, and combat violence and radicalism at the school level. Examples mentioned during the conference demonstrated that a collaborative culture established among students is already a solid foundation for developing democratic citizenship skills and for fostering collaboration among other school actors.

Practical examples cited by school leaders at the conference highlighted that collaborative school leadership is mostly initiated by school leaders themselves and is seldom or never taught in the initial education of school managers and teachers.

Regarding the connection between evidence-informed policy-making, practice, and research, education trade unions raised the issue of teacher shortages in almost all EU countries and high workloads as obstacles to ensuring adequate time for teachers to analyze and adapt new research into teaching practices. It was highlighted that research should not only use schools for gathering data and evidence but also support them with research outcomes and possible recommendations. The participants agreed that ideally, each school should have dedicated staff and an appropriate budget to maintain continuous dialogue with universities and to conduct their own research.