IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


Collaborating to bring leadership development to schools in Spain

The UCL Centre for Educational Leadership works closely with "la Caixa" Foundation to develop school leaders in Spain. The programme is delivering impressive results.

A professional development workshop in Spain led by the UCL Centre for Educational Leadership and EduCaixa

Research shows that school leadership is second only to classroom teaching in influencing student learning. But, until recently, a headteacher's role in the Spanish education system has been mainly administrative. Historically in Spain, staff elect a headteacher. This is a short-term placement, after which the head returns to being a teacher in the school. Most do not receive any leadership training. This is beginning to change, with headteachers in some regions now serving longer terms with greater autonomy to exercise leadership.

The UCL Centre for Educational Leadership is part of the IOE. It is the largest educational leadership hub in the UK, delivering world-class research, teaching and innovation. Academics from Spanish universities and EduCaixa, the arm of " la Caixa" Foundation that promotes education, appointed the UCL Centre for Educational Leadership. Together, the three parties established 'Liderazgo para el Aprendizaje' (Leadership for Learning), a transformative programme providing professional learning for heads. 

It was a natural partnership as both UCL and EduCaixa are committed to education as a driver for social progress. It was also genuinely collaborative from the outset. The initial stages involved visiting senior leadership teams in Spanish schools and speaking to experts within Spain's education system. UCL Consultants, part of UCL Innovation & Enterprise, also played a part, assisting with programme management, contract and finance advice. The activities resulted in an advisory board comprising Spanish academics, policymakers and practitioners. Together, the partners co-designed a national programme across Spain's 12 devolved regions, which launched in July 2019.

The project is designed to be self-maintaining. Those already trained, in turn, now facilitate the programme and the advisory board guides future iterations. School leaders were grouped into local support networks. These networks continue to thrive after participants have completed the training.

'Leadership for Learning' has been championed by the Spanish education press and presented at ICSEI 2020. But the largest impact has been on the school leaders themselves. EduCaixa saw a change in mindset among the participants. Núria Vives Font, Leadership for Learning Programme Leader, "la Caixa” Foundation said: “ They have adopted a more reflective and evidenced-informed practice within their schools and are working to foster this among their school staff.”

Núria went on to say: “Thanks to a rigorous co-design and co-implementation process, our Leadership for Learning programme stands as our most significant teachers’ professional development action. [It] is starting to resonate as a key element to promote educational improvement in Spain.”

Image: EduCaixa / UCL Centre for Educational Leadership