School improvement, developing inclusion: Demands on school leaders
Background and aims
School administrators and principals play an important role in the process of inclusive school development. Up to now, there have not been any studies available on this topic in Switzerland. This research project captures the tasks of school principals in inclusive schools.
Research question: In the development process culminating in an inclusive school, what demands are made on school administrators?
Here the research interest is in what tasks that the cantonal and local special education concepts define for school administrators, and what tasks regarding inclusion school administrators see for themselves in their daily work.
Based on a document analysis of local and cantonal special education concepts (N = 26), school administrators’ tasks are described at the concept level. In four group interviews (N = 14) with school administrators, information is gathered on what tasks school administrators see and handle in inclusive schools. In addition, a frequency analysis shows how often school administrators are at all mentioned in the concepts.
The analysis of the data collected showed that schools administrators’ tasks in inclusive schools are diverse and extensive. In the concepts and interviews, the most frequently mentioned tasks were tasks at the structural level. These include, for example, tasks such as budgetary planning and control, clarification of roles, quality assurance, and the implementation of new structures. However, it was found that the statements in the concepts do not indicate how school administrators can introduce, maintain, and further develop inclusive school structures in the sense of organizational development. Both in the concepts and the interviews, no explicit statements on the importance of or on knowledge management of special education expertise at the schools were found. In addition, the findings revealed a clear discrepancy between concepts that plan for including special education specialists and statements in the interviews that bring up the lack of trained specialists and the in part unattractive employment contracts.
Conclusions for practice
- There is a discrepancy between the demands in school practice, the school development process towards inclusion, and the supporting tasks in concepts and theory. Moreover, for the German-speaking countries, and specifically for Switzerland, there is largely a lack of process-related, empirically-based instruments that can support students in this process.
- The concepts analysed envisage the employment of special education professionals. Analysis of the interviews, however, reveals that trained professionals are lacking at the schools. Here, school administrators need clarification concerning how they can implement inclusion in the required quality despite this lack. Connected with this is the necessity to explicitly provide special education knowledge to the school and to make it accessible to the entire school. Recommendation: Targeted knowledge management for special education topics should be established at the schools together with persons and authorities involved.
- To date, school administrators are not being sufficiently prepared for their tasks in inclusive schools. Ways to prepare school administrators therefore need to be created.