First of all, it is worth noting that every keynote speaker, and many of the breakout workshop sessions, included messages about leadership and its importance to school improvement.
Andreas Schleicher had some important messages for school leaders in his keynote presentation. He identified a number of challenges faced by such leaders trying to deliver an education suitable for twenty first century learners. One was the need to develop a multi-dimensional framework for quality assurance and school improvement. Leadership needed to promote high expectations for all students and to develop connections across schools and beyond schools. He accepted that there were no easy answers to the challenges faced by school leaders. However, he saw them as key to providing the necessary professional challenge within their schools. It was also important that school leaders create 'the space teachers need to design the learning experiences.' They also needed to see their role as greater than just working within their own schools. They need to work collaboratively with other schools and leaders, and at a system level. A lot of this echoes much of what Donaldson included in his report for the Scottish Government.
Dennis Shirley in his response to Schleicher, commented that systems, which of course include leaders, can help and support teacher development, or they can inhibit or stop it. We need to get this right.
After this I attended a breakout session that was looking at leadership characteristics across a number of different countries, including Russia, USA and Latin America. The first presentation concerned Professional Learning Communities, both as a model for leadership development, and at how leaders impact on these positively and negatively. It was found that leadership was the constant that was driving the culture of PLCs, and that this was significant and meaningful. Whilst it was recognised that leadership was important, context was also very important and there was a wide divergence in effectiveness across countries.