Senior Leadership

Collaborative leadership

An important feature of the collaborative school is that head teachers and senior leaders will encourage decisions to be made, wherever possible, by those most affected by them. In this 3 minute video, school principal Roger Page Principal describes what happened when he invited students to be on a panel to select new teachers and half the school volunteered.


‘No-one understands better what a student needs than the students themselves.’

In a local primary school, teachers feel free to get together to solve problems and to develop and design new practices. For example, teachers in one year group recently agreed a flexible break time between their three classes, to give them more control and flexibility over their own timetables and use of shared space. The teachers felt able to make this decision between them, since they felt trusted, and their decision did not impact on other staff. The teacher who described this to me said that it was a really satisfying experience to work with her peers in this way: ‘It was a huge relief to be able to take a small stress out of our school day.’

In It’s Our School, It’s Our Time, (available to pre-order from Routledge) 4 steps are identified for head teachers and senior leadership to develop whole-school collaborative decision-making: gathering support from within school and from colleagues in other schools; engaging with the school culture to align it with the principles of collaboration; planning professional development for collaboration; and identifying starting points for action.

The initial focus for school leaders is on staff involvement in decision-making. If school staff do not themselves have a voice, this can be a major barrier to their collaboration with parents and pupils.

Whilst there are times when school leaders just have to make a decision on their own, if they are making organisational changes or trying to solve really complex problems they are much more likely to get a better outcome with a collaborative approach.

This 5 minute video explains why leaders need to excel at collaborative decision-making.

Further Reading

In her book Data-based Decision-Making Edie L. Holcombe, head teacher, advisor and university professor, outlines the need for a collective responsibility for data. Holcombe describes how she had a sign over her door simply asking ‘Who else?’ to remind her that she needed to bring others into the decision-making process, especially if the decision affected them.

If you have already been using collaborative decision-making with your staff or pupils, or have been involved by policy-makers in area or national decision-making, why not share it on this site. Just complete the form on the Story Submission page.

Support is available

If you would like to arrange a discussion session with groups of staff and/or pupils or have assistance with school development plans, contact Pupil Participation. Our preference is to work collaboratively with groups of school leaders so that we can learn from each other and support the development of new initiatives in each others’ schools.

As well as providing input based on research and professional experience, Pupil Participation can be contacted to assist with research projects around collaborative decision-making in schools and other settings.

Enquiries by phone +44 (0)7831 770 346
or email geraldine@pupilparticipation.co.uk