26 SES 03 A, Accountability and Government Reforms
School leadership across Europe is faced with strategic management tasks as school principals are not only charged with the everyday management in terms of administrative and pedagogical routine, but, moreover, they have to decide and lead the development process inside each school to assure implementation of externally determined standards and accountability demands. With regards to their work load some principals display critical assertiveness rather than compliancy in response to the externally imposed reformist cultures, for instance the mix of autonomy and accountability settings, in which they and their colleagues work (see Pont et al. 2008; van Amelsvoort & Scheerens, 1997). Although policy contexts change – from the need for more democratic participation to more efficient public management and, today, the concern to improve the quality of education (cf. Wößmann et al. 2007) – the overall results have been more responsibility and decision-making authority for schools. Reforms working in this direction have generally been imposed on schools in a top-down legislative process (see Eurydice European UNIT, 2007, p. 8). Whatever the chosen model, be it through general education legislation, specific legislation or more flexible regulations, it includes provisions for the transfer of new duties effecting teachers and principals professionalism. Based on the above, the main objective of this comparative approach is centered on the formulation of goals stemming from New Steering approaches in the education systems of Sweden and Germany.
School-based management and leadership are crucial aspects of any reform strategy in which change and responsibility are devolved (see De Grauve 2004) and therefore their relationship has to be studied further. To what extent the legal and organizational framework is affecting principals professionalism in terms of adherence, coherence and consistency between expectations and formal regulations has remained so far unanswered.
Few countries have explicit policies on the professional development of principals that are linked to a wider reform agenda, even where major programs of decentralization and delegation of authority are under way. Therefore, at a minimum, clarity on the following issues is needed:
- What is expected and required of school principals;
- What are their areas of autonomy and levels of accountability;
- What can school principals expect from local and national support structures;
Amelsvoort, H.W.C.H. van, & Scheerens, J. (1997). Policy issues surrounding processes of centralization and decentralization in European education systems. Educational Research and Evaluation, 3(4), 340-363. De Grauve, A. (2004): School-based management (SBM): does it improve quality? (Paper commissioned for the EFA Global Monitoring Report 2005, The Quality Imperative”. Eurydice European Unit (2007): School Autonomy in Europe. Policies and Measures. Brussels, Bel-gium. Pont, B., Nusche, D. & Hopkins, D. (Hrsg.). (2008). Improving School Leadership Policy and Practice. Paris: OECD. Wößmann, L., Lüdemann, E., Schütz, G., West, Martin R. (2007): School Accountability, Autonomy, Choice, and the Level of Student Achievement: International Evidence from PISA 2003. (Education Working Paper No. 13) EDU/WKP(2007)8
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