‘Schools take the lead’ was the theme of the first German school leaders’ Congress attended by over 1,200 school leaders from all over Germany, as well as Austria, Switzerland, Finland and Italy.
The Congress was organised by EI national affiliate Verband Bildung und Erziehung (VBE) in collaboration with Carl Link, a public organisation providing information services. Held in Düsseldorf on 16-17 March, the congress was an ideal opportunity for school leaders to exchange national and European experiences.
It aimed to close the gap in school leaders’ initial and in-service training and contribute to a better quality in education in Germany. The Congress also heard how work conditions for school leaders have become increasingly harder over recent years: laws and regulations demand continuous adaptation, new work tasks put pressure on resources and leave almost no time to accomplish the daily work. This explains the importance for school leaders to receive information and practical instructions, enabling them to accomplish their tasks efficiently.
Team building, curriculum development, modern school leadership and quality assurance were also particularly highlighted at this congress. School leadership nowadays implies various tasks: ensuring the smooth running of the school, working with the children, but also planning teachers’ in-service training, checking which new media could be efficiently used, as well as budgeting for sundry material such as toilet paper and chalk.
One of this Congress’s main goals was to create networks, with mutual support and sharing of experiences. The event represented a meeting point for school leaders to see themselves as pedagogues, as well as managers of different interests, who want guidance on new ways of learning and teaching.
Building a school leaders’ support network
In the run-up to the event, VBE federal President Udo Beckmann said: “The school leaders’ Congress will uncover existing possibilities allowing the introduction of positive changes under the given conditions.
“Exchanging experiences is urgently needed,” he emphasised, “as this is the only this way school leaders can truly support each other independently of any school and regional boundaries, as well as develop and implement ideas… An added value for everyone!”
He went on to explain that young people studying to become teachers do so with the passion and conviction that they can change things. ”When they come to school to teach for the first time, they witness some kind of mills coming into action, grinding slowly and not always with much sense even to the strongest wills,” Beckmann added. “So, when a position as school leader opens, many are so disillusioned by then already, that they have no wish to apply for it and its associated tasks… We already have had, for a long time, considerable difficulties in filling vacant positions. These must be advertised many times and, nevertheless, we can not find anyone willing to take on the job.”
Organising school leaders
The European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE) Vice-President, Jörgen Lindholm, in his contribution to the Congress, stated: “Most principals remain members of the teachers’ organisation they belonged to as teachers, while others choose to join an organisation exclusively representing school leaders. In many countries, both types of organisation exist side by side, and it is not uncommon that there is tension or conflict between them.”
The reasons why school leaders are organised the way they are, he underlined, varies depending on national legislation, tradition and culture. “Quite often, however, it is because school leaders have been recruited among teachers and they wish to stay in contact with the profession and colleagues in their teachers’ organisation,” he said. “These organisations are often large and strong, and are able to influence decisions affecting teachers, students and school leaders. Many existing teachers’ organisations were once initiated and developed mainly by school leaders.”
Supporting EI Congress Resolution
The Resolution on the School Principals and School Leadership adopted at the 5th EI World Congress, in Berlin, Germany, in 2007, supports the outcomes of the German school leaders’ Congress.
The document also declares that the recruitment of school principals and school leadership must be made “on the basis of the abilities required … establishing transparent systems and objective criteria that enable staff to be selected and recruited according to a profile of relevant capabilities”.
The resolution goes on to call for “the promotion of local, national and international peer exchanges of skills and experiences, especially through the use of new educational technologies; recognition and enhancement of the status of the management function; material conditions that recognise their responsibilities and support changes in them” and the establishment of “a dialogue between school principals and school leadership's trade unions and the State to set the framework of their employment”.
Meanwhile, a European-Global conference on school leadership, jointly organised by EI and ETUCE-EI European Region, will be held in Dublin, Ireland, from 23-25 May 2012. The conference is open to representatives of EI member organisations representing school leaders.
For more information about the German school leaders’ Congress (in German), please click here
The EI Resolution on the School Principals and School Leadership is available here