To adequately address complex issues such as early school leaving, schools need to move beyond temporary and isolated measures to a strategic 'whole school approach'. In a 'whole school approach', schools are seen as collaborative learning environments. The entire school community (school leaders, teaching and non-teaching staff, parents and families), together with external stakeholders, take responsibility to help all learners develop to the best of their abilities.
With a 'whole school approach', all stakeholders aim to raise quality and standards of teaching and learning, The objective of helping learners to fulfil their unique potential is promoted consistently and systematically across all dimensions of school life, i.e.: ethos and the environment; curriculum; teaching, learning and assessment; connections with the community and other external actors, etc. All members of the school community share the vision to create inclusive, learner-centred education and to engage in school improvement. Good planning, monitoring and evaluation of school processes and practices and effective assessment of learning are essential.
Effective leadership and governance are necessary to promote a more cohesive and collaborative culture and ethos in schools and to establish good cooperation with the wider community. School leaders have a key role to play. Strategies for their recruitment, professional development and support are vital. Professional development for aspiring and established school heads should, in particular, stress the importance of collaborative approaches and the importance of families and communities as a resource for the school.
Even in more centralised school systems, it is important that schools have sufficient flexibility and autonomy. School staff are in the best position to identify and respond to the concrete and sometimes complex needs of their learners, to identify appropriate teaching practices and approaches to curriculum implementation.
An example of the Whole School Approach: Ireland
The Department of Education and Skills in Ireland has been promoting the whole school approach through a range of initiatives. These include developing a corporate culture based on shared values and vision, creating a multi-disciplinary approach to support learner needs, and improving engagement of school stakeholders in collective and individual reflection. The initiatives are developed and implemented primarily in partnership with other government sectors and in collaboration with key stakeholders.
Literacy and Numeracy: National Strategy for Literacy and Numeracy
Bullying: Anti-Bullying Procedures in School
Behaviour: Guidelines on Codes of Behaviour
Well-Being of children 0-24 years old: 'Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures' national policy framework
Social Inclusion: Delivering Equality of Opportunity initiative (DEIS)
Find out more:
European Commission, A Whole-School Approach to Tackling Early School Leaving: Policy Messages, European Commission, Brussels, 2015.
Public Health England and Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition, Promoting children and young people’s emotional health and wellbeing: A whole school and college approach, PHE Publications, United Kingdom, 2015.
OECD, Improving School Leadership, Volume I: Policy and Practice, OECD, Paris 2008.
OECD, Improving School Leadership: The Toolkit, OECD, Paris, 2008.
SYNEVA – Quality Assurance through Synergy of Internal and External Evaluation of Schools