School leadership is a top education policy priority around the world. Increased school autonomy and the greater focus on schooling and school results have made it essential to reconsider the role of school leaders. The OECD conducted a fundamental study on school leadership around the world Improving School Leadership – Policy & Practice in OECD Countries which provided evidence that nowadays most countries are reporting difficulties in finding suitable candidates for principalship.
Our research has also indicated that overburdened roles, as well as lack of preparation and training are among the top factors that discourage potential candidates from applying. Nowadays, there are two main challenges:
* Most school principals have been hired in times fundamentally different from today in terms of workload and challenges. Nevertheless, according to recent studies and reports, European school principals spend almost half of their time in crisis management and only 5% in strategic management;
* In many countries the current generation of principals is reaching retirement age. At the same time, young people do not consider development in the field of school management as an attractive career goal.
Both research and practice confirm that principals of 21st century need to learn how to apply new forms of distributed leadership, better suited to respond to the current and future educational environments. It is important to note that there is no single model of leadership that could be easily transferred across different school-level and system-level contexts. However, it is clear that the overall quality of school leadership needs to be enhanced and sustained.
As stated in the last Eurydice Report – Key Data on Teachers and School Leaders in Europe innovative approaches to school leadership in Europe are rare. The Council conclusions from 26 November 2012 stress on the need to make efforts, together with the relevant stakeholders, to improve the recruitment, professional development and overall status of school leaders in order to increase the quality of teaching and of the learning environment.