The importance of leadership in driving forward educational change in Wales has been highlighted in a new report by a guiding coalition of international experts.
The second meeting of the Wales Education Commission considered the major impact leadership has on school standards and reflected on what some of the world’s highest performing education systems have done to support school leaders.
It follows Education Secretary Kirsty Williams’ commitment to strengthening school leadership through a new National Academy that will ensure all leaders in Wales’ education system can benefit from high quality professional learning opportunities.
The Commission, which brings together educational thinkers from across the world, responded to the Welsh Government’s leadership agenda by presenting a number of thought-provoking observations on best practice across the globe.
It looked at successful leadership strategies in Canada, USA and Scotland and was given a unique insight into the mobilising of head teachers during the celebrated ‘London Challenge’ programme.
In its second report to the education community, the Commission considered the quest for effective system leadership at all levels within Wales’ education system to be “of paramount importance”.
It said: “Members stressed the need to create a culture for change, recognising that Wales has embarked on total system reform. This will require a shift of mindset and behaviour across the entire education profession.
“Therefore, the challenge for leaders at all levels is great and they will be crucial to the successful delivery of the Welsh Government’s vision for education in Wales. Distributed leadership is a key strategy for sharing this responsibility.
“The Commission noted there was an immediacy associated with improving performance in Wales – but that this could not come at the cost of wider workforce development and a strong political will would be required to ‘stay the course’ and allow new policy to bed in.
“It urged the Welsh Government to be clear about how the success of its priorities will be measured and seek to communicate that message to all stakeholders.”
The Commission, which meets three times a year and considers education at all stages, is a key strand of the University of Wales’ Trinity Saint David’s newly-developed Yr Athrofa – Institute of Education.
The group’s dual purpose is to help guide the work of Yr Athrofa and its Professional Learning Partnership of schools and university staff, while contributing actively to the wider education debate in Wales.
Professor Dylan Jones, Director of Yr Athrofa and Secretary to the Commission, said learning from partners across the globe would be of huge benefit to Wales.
He said: “The wealth of international expertise we have brought to Wales allows us to reflect critically, in an innovative manner, on what are the appropriate developments for our education system.
“I am delighted by the support provided by this distinguished group of individuals, each of whom has gained immense respect for the contribution that they have made to improving education through their own work.
“The Welsh Government has embarked on an ambitious reform agenda and we are hopeful that insight provided by the Wales Education Commission will help iron out potential bumps in the road.
“These are exciting times for Welsh education and the culture of collaboration engendered by the Cabinet Secretary is none more prevalent than in our guiding coalition of international experts.”
During its discussion, the Commission heard evidence from Gillian Hamilton, Chief Executive of the Scottish College for Educational Leadership, established in 2014 to support teachers’ professional learning in leadership at all levels across Scotland’s schools.
Commission members, each with their own record of outstanding success in their field, were then asked to comment on existing education policy and offer suggestions based on their international experience and expertise.
The Commission includes Dr Carol Campbell, Associate Professor of Leadership and Educational Change at the University of Toronto; Professor Trevor Gale, Head of the School of Education at the University of Glasgow; Laura Perille, Chief Executive of Boston-based EdVestors; Mick Waters, Professor of Education at Wolverhampton University; and David Woods, Professor of Education at Warwick and London universities.
The Commission’s second meeting took place at the Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea and its subsequent report, together with recommendations for Wales and the Welsh Government, can be viewed in full here.