Empowering School Leaders

Neelu Goswami

Principal, VSPK International School, Rohini

“Only when educators are empowered, can the nation have a young generation equipped with skills and aptitude to work towards building a strong, enlightened and empowered society.”

Empowerment, leadership, and collaboration are crucial for schools, headteachers, and local authorities to maximise their potential in the coming years. Educators are increasingly being pushed into new roles as their ability to connect online opens up new opportunities. They are finding avenues for their professional development, sharing lesson plans, and teaching tips with colleagues around the world, and have become ambassadors to the public on new approaches to teaching and learning.

Easy access to information has empowered many educators to think and teach differently, but often, those innovations remain isolated inside classrooms. Without a school leader who trusts his or her teachers, it is challenging to convert pockets of innovation into a school culture of empowered teachers. One way of building that kind of integrated school culture is through decentralisation of leadership. The head of the institution empowers teachers and staff to run crucial aspects of a school, such as admissions, professional development, and the mentoring of new teachers.

The leader’s job is to listen to and include different viewpoints in a school’s vision statement and supervise every decision. Through flexibility and distributed leadership, staff can work together to improve the teaching practices that help them reach those big goals.

Good leaders are out in the hallways and classrooms, staying connected to the real work in schools. Strong leaders try not to say “no” to ideas from teachers, but rather push them to refine their ideas until they are actionable.

Empowerment of leaders requires three key areas to be focused upon:

  • Taking the lead in learning and teaching.
  • Empowering the learning community.
  • Ensuring the best use of each of the school’s resources.

There is growing consensus among educationists regarding the idea of learning from one another and showing an inclination towards creating an environment to network, build skills, and develop teaching practices.

At the centre of this change is the development of teacher’s efficiency and professional voice; and ensuring that professional leadership and reflective practice are a key motivation for all education-related strategies and decisions.

An empowered system will grow stronger and more confident when we work in partnership to achieve it. Through collaboration, everyone should feel far more invested in the education system. To ensure all of our children and young people get the best from their education, effective partnership between local authorities, schools, parents, and children should be given priority.

Decentralised leadership creates a community of people with a shared vision and motivates them to work hard towards common goals. When teachers feel valued and trusted, they are more likely to trust and empower their students who will not only learn to trust their capabilities but also deliver optimum results.

Empowering leaders, through positive emotional support and encouragement, increases motivation and confidence among subordinates as they set out to accomplish their individual and organisational goals. It is essential for principals to understand leadership as a process and to develop human relation skills and promote joint action for bringing improvement and effectiveness. There is thus, a dire need for school leaders to be empowered and professionally prepared for their roles as heads of schools, and to continually enhance their skills, attributes, and competencies through structured continuing professional development (CPD) programmes.

Educational leadership and management should be seen as a process where the development of educational leaders and the achievement of organisational goals are synchronised. The process of development is mainly concerned with equipping principals to acquire and improve the necessary competencies to lead and manage their schools efficiently.

Heads of schools can make a significant contribution to schools' achieving the educational goals and improving learner performance if they are adequately prepared for their leadership role. This can be achieved by ensuring that aspiring and practising principals are exposed to structured CPD programmes, based on needs analysis.

For principals to cope with the demands of the 21st century, innovative leadership development programmes are essential to prepare school leaders to apply creative approaches that address the broader roles and responsibilities of leaders and to use core technologies to achieve intended outcomes.

Participating in structured CPD programmes will enable school heads to make autonomous decisions, adapt teaching programmes to local needs, promote teamwork among teachers, and engage in teacher monitoring, evaluation and professional development. Schools leaders should be encouraged to strengthen professional learning communities within schools and engage with those who need to change their practices.

Neelu Goswami

Principal, VSPK International School, Rohini