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How to lead a school to innovation? Example from Belgium schools

Who should take initiative in schools and show the way? Is it only the head teacher who can lead the innovation process from top-down? Or do teachers and students have opportunities to take forward their own initiatives? This new edition of ‘Spotlight on Practice’ focuses on leadership at school through the examples provided by two LSL Advanced Schools in Belgium: GO! Middenschool at Ieper and De Grasmus-De Klare Bron.

Embedding innovation in the school agenda

Middenschool Ieper is a secondary school with 200 students and 25 teachers located in Flanders, Belgium. This school has set up an ICT-team, consisting of three teachers and the head teacher, which takes care of the long-term planning on innovation, initiates changes and encourages other teachers to participate. The team is also in charge of organizing ICT training for the teaching staff. Time to time, the schools also organises meetings for the entire staff to inform them about new developments around ICT in school.

De Grasmus-De Klare Bron is a cluster of two Flemish primary schools located in Leuven, with as staff of 27 teachers and approximately 400 students. They organise regular meetings at school to discuss topics related to innovation and media technology in the classroom. The whole staff is present at these meetings and everyone can opine and contribute to the general approach of the implementation of ideas. In addition, the schools have established a team to focus on innovative work organisation and reorganising the school system. The team’s work is carried out in collaboration with Flanders Synergy, an expert organisation in efficient work organisation.

Top-down decision making or bottom-up initiatives?

In Middenschool Ieper, progress is conducted by the head teacher, but some major changes have resulted from the ICT-team’s joint initiative, for instance the creation of a new subject of Active Learning with ICT and the use of tablets. Regarding the other actors in the school community, Middenschool Ieper has created a School Council composed of three staff members, three parents and two external advisors, with the aim to give advice in the decision-making process. Furthermore, the school’s Parents’ Association participates in deciding how to use the incomes from fundraising activities. In fact, the parents and students have always shown their enthusiasm about ICT and supported the new teaching methods that have been implemented in the school.

At the same time elsewhere, the staff at De Grasmus-De Klare Bron is used to bottom-up decision-making. Anyone in the school can suggest new changes and the teachers themselves are used to take the leading role to discuss possible changes in the school policy. The head teacher gives all support to bottom-up and teacher-led innovation. Beyond this, the schools wants to involve also parents and other stakeholders in inventing the future of education in their school. For example, the school organised a brainstorming session for teachers and parents followed by a seminar on innovative work organisation involving students, teachers and school advisors.

Living Schools Lab: sharing and exchanging in the regional hub

Looking into the future, both schools are satisfied with their current decision-making processes and are not planning to change it substantially in the next years. However, after the positive exchanging experience obtained within Living Schools Lab regional hub, Middenschool Ieper is planning to improve its communication with other schools in the country, and to encourage the exchange of materials and good practises related to innovation.

Pictures (C) by Middenschool Ieper and De Grasmus-De Klare Bron