Since June last year a pilot group of 30 school leaders, from around the country and across all types of school, have been working with international education experts to develop their skills in instructional leadership. The objective is that from September 2021, this group will support up to 300 other school leaders to assist them pilot the new curriculum reforms in their schools.
At the request of the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport, the European Commission, through the Structural Reform Support Programme, funds a project to provide technical support to enable school principals across Lithuania to implement the new curriculum reforms. The British Council have experience of undertaking similar work in other EU countries and were asked to develop such a project meeting the specific Lithuanian requirements.
The 30 participants of the pilot group were selected from about 80 applicants for their commitment to the project, their experience, and their willingness to use their learning to support other school leaders in the second year of the project. They were all supported to undertake the training programme by their Municipalities.
The time commitment has been considerable, but all the participants have attended virtually every one of the training events, which have obviously taken place “on-line” given the impossibility of face-to-face workshops in this extraordinary year. There have been 20 training events for each of the participants since September to the end of January.
Educational research has shown that “School leadership is second only to classroom teaching as an influence on pupil outcomes”. The international experts have been supporting the pilot group on the principles of instructional leadership in which school leaders take a leading role in planning, monitoring and evaluating the curriculum and they become personally involved in evaluating the quality of teaching and learning in their schools.
Our British Council international colleagues have wide experience of educational system leadership in countries across the world. Part of the project is targeted at using this experience to work with the European Commission, Ministry and National Education Agency to undertake strategic discussions on a wide range of school policy developments including recruitment and retention of teachers and leaders. The objective of this work is to support the Ministry in its preparations and the phased introduction of the new curriculum reforms. The education experts will be making recommendations on these and other aspects of the school system.
The pilot group have learnt how to find different ways to engage pupils in their learning; coach teachers to improve their practice and provide opportunities for their teachers to develop their professional skills. They have also been introduced to new ways in which they can manage the curriculum in their schools and make better use of all the resources available to them.
Divided into two groups of about 15, the school leaders have participated in four two hour on-line sessions each month. Beforehand, the international experts provide reading materials and PowerPoint slides that introduce each of the different topics and then in each session there is a combination of presentation and then group discussion. The participants offer their views on each of the topics in the Lithuanian context. Each person is also undertaking a practical project relating to the introduction of the new curriculum in their own schools and will be then writing a report on this and sharing experiences with the wider group.
They will continue to meet regularly and learn during the rest of the school year. One of the tasks they will be undertaking before September is putting together a toolkit of training materials on each of the different aspects of instructional leadership in the context of the introduction of the new curriculum.
From September they will use this toolkit and work with other volunteer school leaders to pass on what they have learnt to other school leaders across the country so that they can assist in piloting the new curriculum reforms in the 2021/2022 school year. Together this larger group of principals will be able to feedback what is working well and what needs to be worked up further to implement the new curriculum reforms from September 2022.