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.

Derry Hannam, friend and campaigner for democratic education, has written a book about his experiences as a democratic teacher: Another Way is Possible: Becoming a Democratic Teacher in a State School. This is an inspiring and enjoyable book and is required reading for anyone interested in learning, pedagogy, school culture and social justice.

Connect is an Australian bi-monthly practice journal supporting active student participation. Edited by Roger Holdsworth, Connect has been published since 1979 and can be downloaded free of charge. Good student voice resources including some for School Councils.

Adam Fletcher is a consultant on Youth Engagement and Social Change. He generously shares research and resources and his website is full of goodies to help youth to change the world.

Student Voice Research and Practice is a Facebook group for anyone to share ongoing research, questions, thoughts, information about student voice and related activities such as pupil consultation, youth-adult partnerships, child participation and the like.

Collaborative Teaching is part of the website of the New Zealand Ministry of Education. Some of the videos I have embedded in Pupil Participation come from this website.

Chris Watkins was one of the reasons I chose to do my doctorate at the UCL Institute of Education, where he is Emeritus Reader in Education. I liked his ideas and thought that as Chris had chosen to work at the Institute, then I might feel at home there, and I did. Chris has generously made all his publications available on his website. Put by a couple of hours to browse through his work. It will be well worth the time.

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
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