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Inclusive school leaders – their role in raising the achievement of all learners

Edda Óskarsdóttir (European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education, Odense, Denmark)
Verity Donnelly (European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education, Odense, Denmark)
Marcella Turner-Cmuchal (European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education, Odense, Denmark)
Lani Florian (The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK)

Journal of Educational Administration

ISSN: 0957-8234

Article publication date: 29 April 2020

Issue publication date: 24 August 2020



This article presents a model based on a review of international and European policy and current European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education work on school leadership for inclusive education. The model aims to support analysis of the policy context and interactions between the structures and processes at different levels to ensure effective support for inclusive school leadership and development of appropriate competences. Key issues addressing competences for inclusive school leadership, support and professional development opportunities for inclusive school leaders and policy frameworks that support inclusive leadership across the whole education system are explored.


This paper reports on a current Agency project, Supporting Inclusive School Leadership (SISL), a cross-national project that considers how best to ensure that school leaders meet the needs of all learners in their school communities. The SISL project examines current theories of school leadership together with the core functions of school leaders in participating countries in order to develop a model specifically focused on inclusive school leadership.


Agency projects such as SISL focus on research findings and policy developments that support countries to chart their own course toward a common goal. This process of cross-national working permits member countries with their distinctive national, ethnic, cultural and linguistic diversities to work together on common goals. In this project an ecosystem model of inclusive education was adapted to reflect on the policy context needed to enable school leaders to fulfill the complex responsibilities associated with inclusive school development.


Although the Agency is strongly associated with the education of children with special educational needs and disabilities, all member countries have the shared vision to support inclusive education systems so that all learners of any age are provided with meaningful, high-quality educational opportunities in their local community. While its projects are firmly rooted in the 2006 UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, its work is also influenced by the concept of inclusion as promoted in the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4) “to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”



Óskarsdóttir, E., Donnelly, V., Turner-Cmuchal, M. and Florian, L. (2020), "Inclusive school leaders – their role in raising the achievement of all learners", Journal of Educational Administration, Vol. 58 No. 5, pp. 521-537.



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