Supporting quality, inclusive and supportive school leadership should at the top of global and national development and education policy agendas. This was the call from education union officials, school leaders, educational leadership experts, policy makers and partners at the school leadership conference organized by Education International in Johannesburg, South Africa on 24 and 25 April.
The nearly 100 participants from around the world noted with concern that school leadership continued to be on the periphery of global and national education policy, and called on the United Nations and its specialized agencies, in particular, UNESCO and ILO, to prioritise school leadership in their policy and programmatic work.
The conference also urged governments and intergovernmental organisations at global, regional and sub-regional levels to pay particular attention to the training and professional development needs of school leaders, as well as those of teachers and education support personnel.
“Governments should ensure that all school leaders receive government-funded, contextually-relevant and tailor-made leadership training/professional development (management, pedagogical…) and support, including induction, mentoring, coaching and peer-to-peer collaboration and support”, was one of the key recommendations of the conference.
Additionally, participants urged governments and education authorities to improve the working conditions of school leaders and to create quality, inclusive and supportive environments for school leaders, educators and students. They insisted that school leadership policies and programmes should be developed with the full involvement of school leaders, teachers, education support personnel and their unions.
During the three-day gathering, participants addressed critical questions such as: what is inclusive quality leadership? What are the necessary preconditions for achieving inclusive quality leadership? How can equitable recruitment, promotion, retention, training and professional development of school leaders be ensured?
In his opening remarks, Dennis Sinyolo, EI Senior Coordinator for Education, Employment and Research, noted that school leaders continue to face a myriad of challenges, including shrinking school budgets, inadequate school infrastructure and resources, stringent accountability demands and heavy workloads.
“School leaders are often expected to “deliver results” without receiving specialised leadership training or adequate support from the government and education authorities”, he stated adding that school leaders are often forced to spend most of their time performing administrative tasks, leaving them with very little time to focus on pedagogical leadership.
Sinyolo encouraged the conference participants to come up with solutions to these and other challenges, noting that the 8th EI World Congress provided an opportunity for EI and member organisations to move the school and educational leadership agenda forward.
In his keynote presentation, David Frost, an educational leadership expert from Cambridge University, stressed the importance of empowering teachers to exercise leadership. “Teachers are change agents”, he asserted.
Former UNATU General Secretary and EI Board member, Teopista Birungi Mayanja, who is now coordinator of Africa Network Campaign on Education for All (ANCEFA), shared strategies on how women can be empowered and supported to assume leadership positions in both their unions and educational institutions.
Allister Witten, a professor and leadership expert from University of Cape Town, South Africa, shared ideas on how to improve school leadership policy and practice. Witten insisted that education and school systems should shift from policy to practice and from administrative leadership to instructional leadership.
The conference was officially opened by the South African Deputy Minister of Basic Education, Mohammed Enver Surty.
For more information about the conference click here