In 2018, the European Foundation Society and Education (EFSE) in Spain and the Centre for Studies on Portuguese-Speaking Peoples and Cultures under the Catholic University of Portugal (CEPCEP), took on the design, development and supervision of an experimental programme in whole child development leadership, in a set of 15 Spanish and Portuguese public schools that attend to children in situations of special adversity. 

«Many people from different sectors have drawn attention to the quality of schools’ teaching staff and directors as the most decisive factor in improving education»

Miguel Ángel Sancho. Presidente de la Fundación Europea Sociedad y Educación

The aim with this type of leadership is to contribute to setting up education for children and young people’s integral development (Whole Child Development, WCD) which, through the role of directors, aims, on one hand, to create a culture of change, driven by directors and motivated management teams and, on the other, to involve the whole school community.

Whole Child Development Leadership (WCDL) in disadvantaged contexts.

After nine months of reflection and study, the Spanish and Portuguese research team agreed to summarise the WCDL program in a Basic Document, in whose Executive Summary a synthesis of its conceptual framework and fields of action can be consulted.

Download the Position Paper

Download the Executive Summary

Basically, the WCDL decalogue is structured in 10 basic aspe:

1 It highlights students’ integral education
Aspiring to integral education does not only mean putting chaos in order or feeling satisfied with the acquisition of certain competences, mastering routines, handling tools, internalising skills or developing them in the service of profession or life. It means stimulating habits, generating and communicating values, especially intellectual and moral values, because these are what make us grow and distinguish us as human beings, train us for reflection and action, shape our conscience and train our freedom, that is, people whose sense of reason orders and ethical-moral orientation assigns a purpose and meaning to everything they do.
2 It pays attention to the different dimensions that make up every individual, considered as an inseparable whole
Every student’s education, throughout their time in school, should be based on the aspiration that all dimensions of their persona are related with the teaching-learning process; and by giving them high expectations, whichever the conditions or difficulties that may be attributed to their social or cultural origin, their race, sex or religion.The education of each student, considered from his or her radical dignity and subject of a whole development, should aspire to embrace all the dimensions that we consider to be constitutive of the person: the biological dimension, from which the awareness of care, commitment and environmental preservation start; the cognitive dimension; the affective-emotional dimension; the aesthetic-artistic dimension; the social and civic dimension; and the ethical-moral and spiritual dimension.
3 In the legend of Achilles, it finds inspiration for educational reflection on the work of management teams in disadvantaged conexts
Achilles was taken by his mother Thetis to the Island of Skyros to hide him from Ulysses. In the gynoeceum, among women and disguised as a woman, he was unaware of the Trojan war, which was his destiny. Troy exemplifies the great Greek epic poem and a paradigm of duty to the community. The legend can be read as a of model of human development that moves from aesthetic aspects, typical of childhood and adolescence, centered on a a self without obligations, with all possibilities open, but without being specific, to the ethical status that characterizes adult life. It is of certain value for educational reflection as it requires thought on the end of life -and also of education -, along with the necessary pathway to its execution, a road that cannot be travelled without the necessary leadership of Ulysses, the educator.
4 It does not aim to revolutionise anything: it is based on what has already been demonstrated by scientific literature, after the review of a variety of documental sources
In preparing the theoretical framework of the WCDL programme, a broad review was carried out of varied documentary sources. Among them, the most relevant theoretical and empirical scientific literature regarding school leadership was taken into account in disadvantaged contexts, together with orientations derived from different International Bodies in this respect. A full review was also carried out regarding the competence frameworks and training programmes of school management bodies used in different countries and different projects aimed at promoting the effective leadership of schools in disadvantaged areas, which could be considered reference models for the case presented here. These include:
  • Leadership for social justice.
  • School leadership in the framework of inclusive, equal education.
  • School leadership in disadvantaged contexts, according to international bodies.
  • The professional standards of school management.
  • Distributed leadership for equity and learning (DLE).
  • UNESCO: leading inclusive school development.
5 The WCDL programme is intended for schools who work in especially difficult environments.
We address the most disadvantaged contexts where educational action should have greater force to change fairness and improve the conditions of students’ personal environments (family, emotional, security, intellectual and well-being). The WCDL has an optimistic vision of students’ present and future. Teachers have trust in students’ talents and possibilities of development. Additionally, and specifically in the context of special difficulty, this kind of leadership is characterized by its intention to open up and relate with the environment and, finally, be a point of reference through its transformation and improvement.
6 It proposes a wholly distributed leadership by which the people who stand alongside the leader improve, change from inside, and make the most of themselves
In schools that attend people at risk, the ethical commitment of the director of himself or herself is a necessary condition and is in line with the search for equity, inclusion and expectations to improve people and the environment. The director, from his or her acknowledged educational authority, is mainly responsible for hiring a team leader with this common objective, involved to spread and influence the whole organization of the school’s commitment to the vision. The concept of a broadly distributed leadership involves incorporating the people identified with the project, in addition to a team of intermediate leaders within a systemic perspective: tutors and department leaders (language, mathematics, physics…) in secondary education; persons responsible for primary school courses… who must play a greater role in the LIE programme. Only distributed leadership that is able to reach out to the teaching staff can generate visible transformations in the educational community as a whole and in its environment.
7 It is also, an adaptive, flexible and orientative leadership that pays preferential attention to accompanying teachers, students and families
The development of everyone who makes up the school community and the creation of relationships among them are basic factors of the WCDL. The WCDL seeks to develop schools as areas of freedom and respect, strengthening the work among students, teachers, families and community. It therefore addresses the needs of schools’ teaching staff and non-educational personnel and establishes mechanisms to achieve the involvement of families and the collaboration of the surrounding area. Furthermore, the WCDL gives special importance to accompanying people in achieving the programme’s goals and gathering evidence as it progresses and assessing achievements, so that constant feedback can be provided on what works, problems and pathways to solutions.
8 It establishes a system characterised by relationships with each of the community members
This leadership lays down a series of specific relationships with families (respecting environments and justifying who does what, while crossing through boundaries); with teachers (whose learning objectives are set, re-evaluating their professional competence and role as transferors of cultureand knowledge, as a tool for promoting integral education); and with students (whose educational development is considered as a multi-dimensional whole). As a consequence, such leadership considers the school as a community, as an area for civic learning.
9 It is intended to improve the school and the autonomy in determining their vision, mission and educational project
Our program seeks to provide tools for leaders to improve their own school and help them detect their own needs. The common goal of the programme is defined, but the means and some of the specific goals must be specific to each school and established by themselves. From a shared vision, every school should establish its own mission and vision.
10 It is based on a systemic concept that embraces four areas of action: (a) transmitting the school’s vision, (b) re-thinking the organisation, (c) adapting the curriculum and (d) building relationships and developing the potential of each member of the educational community
The WCD systematically approaches the educational project, the curriculum, methodologies and the achievements gained, as the result of collective action that involves, although in a particular way, the whole educational community, the students, the teachers and families.

Researchers Team

A team of researchers, supported and advised by experts, specialists and professionals of school management, accepted the challenge to select and structure the basis of this leadership programme. 

SPAIN (coordinators)

Arturo Galán – IP (UNED)

Inmaculada Egido (UCM)

David Reyero (UCM)

Mireia Tintoré (UIC)

PORTUGAL (collaborators)

Rodrigo Queiroz e Melo (Universidade Católica Portuguesa)

José Maria de Almeida (Universidade Católica Portuguesa)

José Reis Lagarto (Universidade Católica Portuguesa)

© El programa Liderazgo para una Educación Integral (LEI) en contextos vulnerables es un proyecto diseñado e implementado por un equipo de la Fundación Europea Sociedad y Educación, formado por Miguel Ángel Sancho (Presidente), Lola Velarde (Directora de Desarrollo), Mercedes de Esteban (Directora del departamento de investigación), Livia de Cendra (Área de proyectos) y Rosario Semper (Secretaria Técnica).