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What even is teacher leadership?

I’m so excited to be joining the SCEL team on secondment to work on developing approaches to supporting the development of teacher leadership. But, when you stop and think about it, that’s quite a colossal task! That’s why I was incredibly relieved when Gillian and Lesley made it clear to me that actually the main purpose of my role is to engage as widely as possibly on ‘teacher leadership’ and then use this engagement to inform the development of approaches to support.

So, I started with my own reflection…

“What is teacher leadership?”

That’s a harder question than you might at first think. Before I tried to answer it I was confident that I knew what teacher leadership was, but now I’m not so sure. Is it being a Principal Teacher? Is it mentoring an NQT? Is it leading a session on an in-service day? Is it leading the learning of your students? Is it being an expert in your subject specialism? Is it being an SQA appointee? Is it sharing your practice in your school, online or at TeachMeets? Is it all of these things? Is it something else entirely? Is it about agency? Is it about autonomy? And if it is all of these things and more, how on earth can we support teachers to develop as leaders? And, crucially, why is it worth supporting teachers to develop as leaders?

And so I’m currently at that stage when you’re starting a new post when your head is full of more questions than answers. As much as I now relish this stage in my learning, I will at some point soon need to move past this stage and take these questions, and more, out and engage as widely as possible.

So, what do you think? What is teacher leadership to you? And how can we go about supporting it? Ideas welcome in the comments below…

In the meantime, did you know SCEL have recently launched their impressive new framework for educational leadership? Check it out now: scelframework.com


  • Reply Mandy Davidson |

    I’ve given this a lot of thought over the last ten years whilst I’ve been in the wilderness that was lifetime conservation. Unlike many of my fellow travellers I was nowhere near retirement but I had already gained my masters ten years before in the days before Chartered teachers and when masters were mainly about learning and teaching issues rather than leadership. No longer a PT and not even a chartered teacher my role outside the classroom was not considered important to anyone but myself. So I created my own leadership opportunities, participating in any school committee that interested me (ie literacy, learning and teaching, I’d like and enterprise) and becoming my union rep in the Scottish joint committee of Religious &moral education. This approach gave me lots of networking opportunities, lots of chances to voice my opinions and change policy. However it was not encouraged or mentored as I didn’t fit the person spec.of leaders being developed in schools.
    Teacher agency seems to be a more diverse idea and fits I think with my personal need for autonomy in what I do. Recently I changed school to become an Acting PT again with all the attention, permissions and leadership requirements that requires. In some ways it is like starting again but in others it is just a continuation of what I have always done. We do not teach in a vacuum but in schools full of pupils and other teachers all with the same aim of education. Leadership should not be restricted to hierarchies as that is just management. Leadership is something that most of us are capable of participating in as long as we have the encouragement and the scope.

  • Reply fearghal |

    I thought I’d capture some of the responses I’ve had on twitter to this post here:

So, what do you think ?