Leadership (2)

Building Agency Through School Leadership

Dr Phil Cummins explores how schools can build agency through leadership that navigates complexity and validation.


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All school leaders (in fact, all members of a school community) need to understand the importance of good communication in developing agency in their schools.

In a world where we are too often swamped by the volume, pace, and intensity of communication facilitated by digital connectivity and the many, many platforms we use, both personally and professionally, leaders understand how to achieve cut-through. They recognise the way in which ongoing reportage about the progress of individual learners, cohorts of learners, and the story of the school as a whole help stakeholders to validate the work of the school, support families, and advance the school’s strategic intent. Much of this is about the capacity to organise information, tell a story, and convince these stakeholders of the need for necessary change.

This requires real clarity to enhance leadership agency; the things that matter the most must be at the forefront of thinking in the daily work of a school for tomorrow:

So all the decisions that we make need to come back to our vision and our mission, and we need that direct line of sight in everything that we do.

Scott Donohoe | Game Changers insight*

Locating Agency in School Leadership


Agency is developed within a school community whose leadership is informed by a desire to educate students to demonstrate the ability to manage complexity with authenticity as future builders – this focuses significantly on the employability skill of communication​, which is about building influence, understanding of others, relationships, connection with audiences, numeracy, and the capacity to listen, speak and write well. How does leadership for agency operate within a school’s community of inquiry and practice that aspires towards the graduate outcome of future builders?

Agency & Culture  copy

Creating Excellence In Agency Through School Leadership

If this is how a good school builds agency through leadership, then how might such a school use leadership of the educational program** to stretch towards excellence in the four major sources of agency in its community (students, systems, culture and adults)?

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Adriano and I describe the challenge of the leadership that informs the imperative for agency in today’s learning for tomorrow’s world as follows in our recent book***:

We need to work with the community to develop and share a compelling narrative of future builders through creating and communicating a vision of a preferred future.

Ref: Game Changers: Leading Today's Learning for Tomorrow's World (Hawker Brownlow Education 2022) p.65

A checklist for this work might look like the following:

  • How successful are we in designing a vision for the planning, organization and consistent delivery of an education for future-fit character, competency and wellness within all of the learning contexts of our school? 
  • How effective are we at identifying and articulating in a more explicit fashion our goals, especially the identification and implementation of programs aimed at supporting our students to achieve desired graduate outcomes?
  • How well are we influencing members of the school community at all levels and particularly leaders at consistently demonstrating behaviours of transparency, honesty, and care in reporting progress and success in supporting the learning of each and every student, and achieving our school’s vision?
  • How are we engaging with its community as to the intentions, nature and implementation of our desired approach to an education for future-fit character, competency and wellness?
  • How convincing are we in describing to our community the external and internal factors that drive the need for innovation and change within our school?

Let’s go!


* You can listen to Scott Donohoe’s Game Changers Episode here: https://podcasts.apple.com/au/podcast/series-7-episode-6-unlock-your-true-north-scott-donohoe/id1503430745?i=100053292052

** You can learn more about leading an education to learn here: https://www.aschoolfortomorrow.com/game-changers/learn

*** You can purchase your copy of Game Changers: Leading Today’s Learning For Tomorrow’s World  here: https://www.hbe.com.au/hb1338.html

Dr Phil Cummins FRSA FACEL FIML is the Managing Partner of a School for tomorrow, Managing Director at CIRCLE – The Centre for Innovation, Research, Creativity & Leadership in Education, Associate Professor of Education & Enterprise at Alphacrucis University College, and co-host of the Game Changers podcast series.

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