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									                                        Initial Report

                  Cumbria LEA Study Visit to Quebec, Canada

                                        January 2004

                                   Distributed Leadership

Summary profile
Local Education Authority :                     Cumbria

Full Name of LEA visit leader:                  Dr Paul Simmons

E-mail address                        
Reference and Title of Visit :                  SV447: Distributed Leadership

Provider :                                      British Council
Country / Region visited :                      Canada - Quebec
Types of schools visited :                      Elementary and High Schools; Ministry and
                                                School Board departments
Age of students observed :                      Kindergarten age 6 to senior pupils aged 17
Language/s used:                                French and English
                                                To contribute to current learning on
Key Educational Purpose of the Visit:           leadership and management development, in
                                                particular how to foster a shared
                                                responsibility for learning and achievement
                                                between (i) teams of teachers and (ii)
                                                teachers, pupils and parents.
Cumbria LEA Study Visit to Quebec, Canada
Date:    January 2004
Theme:   Distributed Leadership

Intended aims of the visit:

   1. To investigate alternative management structures that demonstrate effective distributed
   2. To investigate how schools create a sense of ownership by pupils, parents and staff
      through distributed leadership
   3. To investigate how effective distributed leadership leads to improved standards.

Expected outcomes of the visit:

      Collaboration, discussion and sharing of learning between participating schools on
       leadership development
      Contribution to Cumbria EDP Priority 6 on School Leadership
      School-specific actions and continuing links

How were these to be identified and recorded:

      Group meetings and discussions
      Group visit report
      Individual school reports and presentations to leadership teams, staff and governors

Report of the experience

The visit was successful. It provided a range of opportunities to explore distributed leadership
with elementary and high schools, with the ministry and with one of the Montreal school boards.

We met with enthusiastic and empowered leaders who had a desire to lead and who took
leadership. For example, in the elementary schools we saw teachers taking leadership of a live
radio project; leading children in a robotic challenge as part of foreign language learning;
leading summer schools for the less advantaged and taking initiatives within the whole school

We saw parents being involved in shared pupil learning both in kindergarten and high schools
through the sharing of project work – for example, home-built castles in kindergarten and
science projects in the final year of high school.

At school board level, the knowledge and skills of leadership and management were seen as
generic and equally applicable across both elementary and high schools. Thus, an elementary
school principal had had experience as an assistant principal in a high school. A high school
principal had been appointed to the high school from a post as principal of an elementary

Teaching and management (‘administrators’) were clearly separated in terms of roles and
responsibilities. Within the teaching staff of the school there were no responsibility or
incremental reward structures. There was a minimal management structure. Team working
within and across key stages (‘cycles’) was strongly collaborative. Within this culture, teaching
staff took or accepted leadership roles through a range of motivations ranging from moral
purpose to pedagogic or professional interest.
Teachers were given leadership skills through workshops led by their school board consultants
and were actively encouraged by their principals to lead school initiatives. Teachers transferred
this model of empowerment to the classroom. Teaching was based on a learning to learn
culture. Teachers were seeking to raise standards through competencies with subject content to
some extent being irrelevant. The cross-curricular approach fostered both the development of
competencies and a team-building approach across the different disciplines. Pupils were
enabled to take responsibility for their own learning, where there was often real control and real

In different senses both teachers and students were given the opportunity to decide on
direction. This led to a strong team-building and community ethos. Important also was the sense
of a continuous learning community with its own particular legacy to pass on to the next
generation. We saw evidence of inner city schools creating a sense of ownership by pupils of
their learning by making them leaders in their own ‘law and order’.

Schools talked almost exclusively about their processes. No school attempted to demonstrate
raised standards through objective testing. This approach conveyed a powerful sense of trust in
the professional judgement of teachers.

‘Governing bodies’ had a distributed make-up, including representatives of all in the school:
teachers, assistant teachers, site staff, parents and pupils.

The school board system enabled consultants – in our experience, dynamic, enthusiastic and
knowledgeable - to support schools in all aspects of their development. The curriculum model
underpinning school development in Quebec schools was impressive. It carried a professional
consensus and had the political weight of having been through extensive consultation in its
formation. For example, forty per cent of industries and businesses consulted in the 1996
survey wanted a skills and competencies based education, not just knowledge. Here was
evidence of a distributed leadership approach to education at the community level of the

There was a consistent and impressive use of key professional vocabulary in discussions with
schools, school board and the ministry. This consistency came clearly from the common
curriculum model. The cognitive base of reforms was strong, with a clear socio-constructive
theory of learning as the foundation.

Change management at all levels was based on a ‘theory of small steps’. Pilots were termed
‘experiments’. Evaluations, consultations and feedback from teachers were part of a culture of
seeking continuous improvements.

Summary of the key educational outcomes (3-4 outcomes)

The processes of distribution were evident at many levels:

   1. Leadership appointments were distributed across primary and secondary schools. The
      knowledge and skills of school leaders were seen as equal and applicable across
      primary and secondary phases.

   2. Learning was distributed to learners. School improvement was based on a very explicit
      shift from developing the skills of teaching to developing the skills of learning.

   3. Teacher teams took responsibilities for key stages and for whole-school projects and
      initiatives. The impact in the classroom was a shift away from a content-based
      curriculum to a competence-based curriculum.
   4. Distributed leadership resulted in a greater sense of empowerment and ownership
      amongst teaching staff. Trust and empowerment gave teachers ownership of their
      development and that of their students. Time was set aside to give space for

How can the findings be applied to the UK context?

Findings will be applied through a range of activities and strategies:

      Extend consultation processes.
      Recognise the value of a small steps approach to change management
      Recognise moves across OECD countries towards a competencies-based curriculum
       and debate the shifts in pedagogical thinking implied by such development.
      Remodel subject specific departments towards a culture of distributed leadership and
       cooperative working.
      Implement opportunities for distributed leadership through the school development
       planning process.
      Empower pupils within their learning to enable them to shape the curriculum.
      Involve parents through topics done at home and special presentations in school.
      Continue to develop the creative curriculum focus, already highlighted in local and
       national initiatives.

How will you apply them to your work?

      Re-examine how we teach.
      Re-visit our school aims.
      Place the student at the centre. Give pupils more choice.
      Empower more people.
      Re-structure staff responsibilities within the school development plan to allow staff to link
       themselves in a supporting role with colleagues leading an activity.
      Develop the school council to consider key areas of the school beyond fund-raising and
       social events.
      Give pupils more responsibility for leadership of activities – for example, the school or
       year group newsletter
      Review subject teaching within the foundation subjects to consider skills development
       through topic-based activities.
      Use the Quebec learning model for an evaluation of the breadth and enrichment in the
      Make more extensive use of consultation processes.

How do you now intend to disseminate the findings of your visit?

      Parents and children assemblies
      Presentations to staff meetings, senior leadership teams, governing bodies, local head
       teachers’ consortium
      Reports to LEA coordinator
      Study Group meetings and evaluations
      Staff in-service training
      Report on the school website

Proposals for future developments and continuing links?

      Engage more teachers in a similar experience.
      Invite return visits from Montreal teachers
      Arrange return visits to Montreal to extend experience and contacts
      Extend contacts and discussions with Montreal schools to follow up and compare policy
       and practice.
      Give a renewed focus to primary-secondary cross-phase development
      Maintain websites and email contacts for communication with Canadian schools
      Pursue staff and pupil exchanges with a focus on comparison of rural and inner city

General advice for other visitors to the country/region:

      Quebec is clearly French speaking although English can be used by most.
      The Montreal city metro is safe clean and fast. Buy a weekly pass (starts on Mondays);
       can also be used on buses.
      Good city guides available from the Montreal visitors centre. Also a ‘rough guide’ is very
      Remember additional taxes and service charges on bills. Also museum charges
      Go on a diet before departure.
      A warm reception but January is freezing - don’t go without thermal layers!

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