Dimension: building leadership teams

This dimension is part of the Professional Leadership priority and is identified as​ a high-impact  Improvement Initiative.


  • Effective schools build an improvement culture by developing the capabilities of their leadership team. Schools do this by using evidence-based data, implementing proven coaching and feedback techniques, and strengthening succession planning and induction of new teachers.
  • In turn, leadership teams are driven by the moral purpose of improving the educational outcomes of all students. They empower and develop their staff, collectively and individually at their point of need, expect consistency of practice and establish high levels of accountability. They create safe environments where teachers are able to develop their practice with others.
  • Effective leaders contribute to a school culture where learning can flourish through quality communication, high expectations, collaboration, challenge, trust building and support. They create the conditions where leadership thrives by building team capacity, collectively and individually, with a shared purpose based on the school's vision and values, context and data.

Essential Elements

A number of elements are essential to enable effective work within the Framework for Improving Student Outcomes. Eight Essential Elements form the foundation upon which improvement is built. The Essential Elements for Building leadership teams are:

Essential Element 2: School-based professional learning program developed and implemented that supports the school's identified improvement strategies.

Essential Element 3: School Improvement Team formed to develop, oversee and evaluate the effectiveness and impact of the Annual Implementation Plan (AIP).

The Essential Elements are evident at the Evolving stage of each Continuum (below) and are further articulated in the Embedding and Excelling stages in some dimensions.


The Continuum for Building leadership teams describes a range of proficiency levels (Emerging, Evolving, Embedding and Excelling) that assists principals and teachers to identify areas of practice that require attention in order to deliver improved student outcomes.

Component: The leadership team leads school improvement


Quality conversations are led by the principal class. The leadership team develops a basic understanding of current research and uses student data to influence the school’s choice of FISO priorities for school improvement. The leadership team supports the development and actions of a School Improvement Team. The leadership team engages and encourages staff to commit to evidence-based improvement, using FISO to underpin the school improvement journey. Professional learning to develop leadership capacity for school improvement is promoted.


The leadership team applies their understanding of current research and student data to plan and implement school improvement. The leadership team provides clear and explicit direction and support for the School Improvement Team’s activities, including raising awareness across the school community of its improvement goals and targets identified in the AIP. The school’s selected FISO initiatives are aligned with the SSP and AIP. Leadership roles are aligned with the SSP and AIP priorities. The school provides opportunities for aspirant leaders to build their capabilities in school improvement.


The leadership team has a shared understanding of why and how FISO initiatives for improvement will be implemented and how these will support the school’s vision, values and culture. The leadership team develops capability among teachers to implement and monitor the actions of the School Improvement Team, fostering a culture of improvement across the school. Whole-school curriculum planning and practice demonstrates the interconnectedness between the SSP, the AIP, FISO initiatives and school improvement. The principal implements succession planning and develops the capabilities of leadership teams to build a culture that is focused on improvement.


The school community has a clear understanding of the school’s vision, values and culture and the priorities driving the school improvement agenda. The leadership team, School Improvement Team, teachers and school council work in concert to drive a relentless focus on improvement across the school, linking the goals of the AIP to those of the SSP. There is a culture of review, responsibility and shared accountability for school improvement. Succession planning is in place to build staff capabilities and recruit staff with particular expertise to deliver school improvement targets.

Component: The leadership team leads professional learning


Leaders participate in professional and community networks and forums to broaden their knowledge and practice. A whole-school professional learning program is developed and documented. An induction program for new teachers introduces them to the professional learning culture of the school. The leadership team identifies and provides access to appropriate professional learning for teachers.


The leadership team is regularly involved in professional learning with their staff. They do so in formal, structured professional learning teams and also in informal discussions, coaching and mentoring. A whole-school professional learning strategy aligns individual learning plans with school goals and supports the school’s identified FISO improvement strategies. Leading teacher and experienced teachers’ roles and responsibilities include facilitating the school professional learning program.


Leaders engage in the Communities of Practice. The leadership team participates in and leads Professional Learning Teams. Informed by current research, they continually challenge each other to improve each other’s practice. Leaders provide time and resources for teachers to research and implement new approaches where impact is measured and findings are integrated into school improvement plans and processes. Leaders delegate authority to others to undertake specific activities. They design strategies and processes that support leadership development and recognise a variety of leadership roles within the school.


Leaders participate and actively lead Communities of Practice to share knowledge and maximise access for all staff to quality professional learning. Informed by current research, they provide effective feedback for system improvement. The leadership team leads teachers in a cycle of improvement to continuously monitor and evaluate the impact of teacher professional learning and improved practice on the school’s identified FISO improvement strategies. Career pathways clearly identify opportunities for staff to progress. Staff are provided with feedback to support on-going improvement and progression.

Component: The leadership team ensures a safe environment


The leadership team shares expectations for respectful behaviour and communication between all members of the school community. Leaders support the development of a common language around the school’s values and vision and encourage others to act in accordance with them.


The leadership team sets expectations and models respectful engagement throughout the school community. They promote the importance of making the school a safe and positive place to learn. Leaders and teachers purposefully engage in activities to build relationships and trust. Protocols for input and feedback are developed to reflect the school’s values and achievement of the vision.


The leadership team builds a safe, purposeful and inclusive learning environment by fostering constructive and respectful relationships among all members of the school community. Leaders encourage inquiry, creativity and innovation in a safe environment. Teachers collaborate, challenge, and support each other and are provided with appropriate and timely feedback.


The leadership team employs a range of strategies to develop and nurture mutually supportive relationships to build trust and cooperation within the school and wider community. Responsive communication and collaboration occurs across the whole school community. Considered risk taking occurs in a culture with documented and agreed protocols and behaviours, resulting in innovation and improvement.

Printable resource

Continuum as an A3 print out (pdf - 223.18kb)

Case studies

To see examples of how schools in Victoria are implementing the FISO dimension: Building leadership teams see: Building leadership teams case studies.

Evidence base

To view the Evidence Base for the FISO dimension: Building leadership teams see:  Evidence - Building leadership teams (docx - 647.33kb).


Why should my school focus this improvement initiative?

Elmore (2000) argues that leadership of schools is beyond the capacity of any one person and needs to be 'distributed' to incorporate the contours of expertise within a culture that provides coherence, guidance and direction for teaching, learning and instruction.

How will my school know if we should focus on this improvement initiative?

Consider the following:

  • To what extent does the school community have a clear understanding of the school vision, values and culture and the priorities for driving the school improvement agenda?
  • What level of buy-in do staff have, and are they unified and coherent in the pursuit of the school's agenda?
  • What level of satisfaction do staff report, including through the staff opinion survey, and do they feel they can contribute to goal setting and planning?
  • To what extent do staff work in professional learning teams to share professional learning and align efforts?
  • Does the school have a documented succession plan and focus on building its future leaders?
  • To what extent is the leadership in the school structured around experience and collective efficacy, or is it role-based?
  • Do the leadership roles match the identified priorities of the school?
  • How does the leadership team ensure that decision-making is based on the needs of the students?
What can my school focus on?
  • Reviewing organisational structures and roles to optimise resources for effective team leadership.
  • Developing distributed leadership capacity across the school.
  • Involving all staff in the establishment of the school vision, goals and accountability measures.
  • Establishing professional learning teams.
  • Relentlessly nurturing staff development and empowering emerging leaders to contribute their full potential to school improvement efforts.
Where to next?

If you choose to focus on this Improvement Initiative, the tasks below may assist you to develop actions that your school implements:

  • Build knowledge and capability, share lessons about evidence-based improvement strategies, and use school data to measure impact and forensically identify areas for improvement and monitoring performance.
  • Strengthen succession planning to guarantee a pipeline of next generation leaders.
  • Build knowledge and capability to lead change to enhance school climate and professional learning culture.
  • Develop the capabilities of leading teachers and instructional leaders to strengthen their expertise-proven coaching and feedback methods.
  • Ensure that student voice is given consideration in all aspects of the school
  • Ensure that there is a strong focus on developing and enhancing student leadership programs.

More information

For more information, see: Professional Leadership priority