Chapter 4. School improvement: Teacher professionalism and evaluation and assessment frameworks

This chapter analyses current school, teacher and school leadership practices and provides recommendations focused on school improvement. With the proposal from the Ministry of Education, Research and Religious Affairs for schools to have more pedagogical autonomy, a strong policy focus on school improvement will be needed to ensure that schools are able to benefit from new opportunities. It will be important to rethink the professional competencies school principals and teachers will need and to invest in building their capacity as they take on new responsibilities and new ways of working. Effective school improvement will also require regular evaluation of school performance. The Ministry’s plans to require school self-evaluation and principal appraisal are a first step to effective monitoring of school performance. A long-term plan to create an overall evaluation and assessment framework will ensure that decision makers at policy level and in schools have the information they need to ensure high performance.


The statistical data for Israel are supplied by and under the responsibility of the relevant Israeli authorities. The use of such data by the OECD is without prejudice to the status of the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem and Israeli settlements in the West Bank under the terms of international law.

In the Greek education system, schools have traditionally had little autonomy. As described in 0, “school units” are at the bottom of the Greek administrative pyramid; their main role is to deliver education and implement national education policies. Research points to the benefits of school autonomy in selected areas, including improved student learning outcomes. Autonomy in and of itself, however, does not guarantee high outcomes, as it depends on the capacity of schools to deliver. A strong focus on school improvement is needed. It will be important to rethink the professional competencies of school principals and teachers will need and to invest in building capacity as they take on new responsibilities and new ways of working.

The Greek Ministry of Education, Research and Religious Affairs (MofERRA) has made a number of proposals which aim to increase schools’ pedagogical autonomy, including the introduction of school self-evaluation (SSE) and school principal appraisal. To ensure the long-term success of these proposals, a clear strategy will be needed. Within this context, this chapter addresses the following two broad areas:

  • Teacher professionalism:

    • teachers’ material working conditions

    • effective management of the teacher workforce

    • the definition of professional competencies for school principals and teachers

    • support for teacher collaboration: schools as learning organisations, teacher networks

    • opportunities for teacher career growth and leadership.

  • Evaluation and assessment frameworks to support improvement:

    • school principal appraisal

    • school self-evaluation

    • a long-term strategy to introduce an overall framework balancing internal and external evaluation and assessment.

This chapter first summarises recent international data on school autonomy, policies impacting teachers’ working conditions, and policies shaping the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the workforce. Teachers’ initial training and opportunities for ongoing professional development are also discussed. Current approaches to evaluation and assessment are then presented (Section 4.1). Section 4.2 of the chapter reports on policy issues related to school improvement, based on the OECD review team’s visits and interviews, and evidence from the research literature. This includes a focus on school principals’ roles as pedagogical leaders, and on teacher professional development and schools as learning organisations. The final section presents policy options to support long-term, sustainable reforms, drawn from the analysis of the challenges and from the practices of other OECD countries (Section 4.3).

4.1. Greek schools, teachers and principals

4.1.1. School autonomy is lower than in other OECD countries

International data show that Greek schools have limited autonomy in relation to other OECD countries and economies. Indeed, of countries participating in the 2015 OECD PISA survey, Greece was ranked 69th out of 69 countries in school level responsibility for the curriculum (based on school principal survey responses). Teachers also have limited responsibility for establishing student assessment policies as compared to other countries and economies, with Greece ranked as number 60 of 69 countries included in the analysis (see Figure 4.1). These aspects are crucial to teachers’ ability to identify individual student needs and to adapt teaching and learning strategies appropriately.

Figure 4.1. Responsibility for establishing student assessment policies, 2015
Assuming the responsibilities of the five actors combined amount to 100%.

Note: Countries and economies are ranked in descending order of the responsibility held by school principals and teachers.

Source: OECD (2016[1]), PISA 2015 Results (Volume II): Policies and Practices for Successful Schools,

The OECD PISA 2015 results demonstrate a significant relationship between different aspects of school level responsibilities and science performance (Figure 4.2), in terms of school principal and teachers' responsibilities in resources, curriculum, establishing disciplinary policies, or establishing student assessment policies.

Figure 4.2. School governance responsibilities and science performance, 2015
Correlations based on system-level analyses

Notes: The responsibilities for school governance are measured by the share of distribution of responsibilities for school governance. Results based on 70 education systems. Statistically significant correlation coefficients are shown in a darker tone.

Source: OECD (2016[1]), PISA 2015 Results (Volume II): Policies and Practices for Successful Schools,

These data demonstrate that student performance is strongly correlated with school autonomy, including strong roles for school principals and teachers, and for school governing boards and local or regional authorities. At the same time while research evidence shows that autonomy can contribute to make a difference in student learning, it depends greatly on the capacity of the staff working in schools to be able to use such autonomy, on the responsibilities assigned and also on school accountability for students’ results (Hanushek and Woessmann, 2014[2]; Hanushek, Link and Woessmann, 2013[3]; OECD, 2016[1])

4.1.2. Teachers work in difficult conditions

As teachers are asked to take on responsibilities associated with greater pedagogical autonomy and for school self-evaluation, it is important to take into account the impact the economic crisis has had on their material working conditions, job stability and morale. Teacher salaries have been reduced since the crisis, and seasonal bonuses eliminated. In 2012, teacher salaries were approximately 70% of the 2009 salary levels, with a slight increase to 75% of the 2009 level by 2016 (European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2016[4]). The crisis has also led to a freeze in the hiring of teachers with civil servant status. As detailed in Chapter 2, all teachers hired since 2009 are working as “substitute” teachers, with annual contracts and frequent relocation to new schools. This lack of stability undermines opportunities for teachers to participate in school self-evaluation or school-level learning, to develop professional relationships (including relationships with mentors and peers) or strong teacher-student relationships. Figure 4.3 shows salary costs of teachers per student across a range of countries, estimated in relation to actual teachers’ salaries, instruction time of students, teaching time of teachers and estimated class size1. Greece’s salary costs of teacher per student in 2015 are slightly lower than the OECD average.

Figure 4.3. Annual salary cost of teachers per student in public institutions, 2015
In USD converted using PPPs for private consumption

Note: Countries and economies are ranked in descending order of the salary cost of teachers per student in lower secondary education.

Source: OECD (2017[5]), Education at a Glance 2017: OECD Indicators,

Although teacher morale is low, teachers remain motivated to support students

Challenging working conditions have an impact on teacher morale. A European study on the attractiveness of the teaching profession showed low teacher morale of the teacher workforce in Greece. The 2013 study, found that there had been a negative picture of teachers in the media, and that more than 60% of teachers who were asked if they might envisage looking for another job answered affirmatively (European Commission, 2013[6]). Officials from the Ministry who were interviewed by the OECD review team recognised the importance of teacher morale and the need to rebuild trust if they are to promote teacher professionalism and to build evaluation and assessment frameworks.

It is also important to note that during the OECD visits to Greece, the OECD review team met many committed and creative teachers in primary schools, lower and upper secondary schools. Teachers interviewed by the OECD review team were clearly dedicated to their students and enjoyed working with their peers. While several noted the stress of being asked to do more even though salaries had been cut, these teachers support students to the best of their ability. This dedication and willingness was also apparent in the OECD review team’s interviews with teachers working with refugee learners during the height of the refugee crisis. These teachers described how they had found ways to work with young learners who may have had limited or no schooling and with whom they did not share a common language. They brought games from home, found online language learning programmes, and other ways to overcome barriers. They thus accomplished their work within limited resources (see also Chapters 1 and 2).

Greek students give generally positive feedback on their teachers, which is another indicator of teacher motivation to help students learn. According to the 2015 PISA survey, students in Greece report at a higher than OECD average level that they feel teachers support their learning (see Figure 4.4).

Figure 4.4. Students’ views of teachers, 2015
Percentage of students reporting that the following things happen in every or most of their science lessons,

Source: Adapted from OECD (2016[1]), PISA 2015 Results (Volume II): Policies and Practices for Successful Schools,, Table II.3.22.

4.1.3. Challenges in the management of the teacher workforce

Decisions related to the teaching profession, in terms of the system of allocating teachers to schools (including teacher specialists), teachers’ working hours and the balance of teaching and administrative tasks, and teacher-student ratios appear to be less efficient than in other OECD countries. Inefficiencies in use of human and financial resources may also have a negative impact on teacher effectiveness.

However, it is important to note that school management decisions are not based on efficiency alone, as there are other contextual factors at play. For example, the decision to maintain small schools in remote areas reflects a desire to ensure that these communities will continue to thrive in spite of extra costs and staffing difficulties such a decision will bring. Nevertheless, the major educational and social advantages of maintaining small schools in isolated villages needs to be carefully weighed against the educational and economic advantages of concentrating schools in the towns and bigger villages.

Teacher allocation

The current system for allocating the teacher workforce presents challenges to both efficiency and effectiveness. As described in Chapter 2, recruitment, which is competitive, is centrally administered. This approach is considered as fair and objective: appointments are based on the number of points earned and therefore are not subject to favouritism. This approach is also considered necessary given the difficulty of attracting teachers to remote schools. Nevertheless, concerns regarding the impact of this system on teachers’ relationships with their students and with their peers, and on teachers’ personal lives need to be addressed. In addition, this centralised allocation system means that the teacher’s fit to the school approach and philosophy, and the ability of schools to build a team with the array of competencies needed to support schools as learning organisations are not part of the placement decision. These aspects are likely to become more important as pedagogical autonomy and teacher collaboration in schools develops.

Teaching time

Working hours for teachers and principals are specified by law. Every primary and secondary teacher is obliged to stay in school for not more than six hours a day for a maximum of thirty hours a week. This is the case for teachers with administrative duties (e.g. heads and deputy heads, heads of sectors, etc.) and, until recently, for other teachers only if they have been requested to do so by a member of the administrative staff and if they have been given concrete tasks to do (according to Article 9 par. 3 of N. 2517/1997, and Article 13 par. 8 and Article 14 par. 20 of N. 1566/1985).

Table 4.1 shows the statutory teaching hours for Greek teachers in a comparative perspective. According to Ministry sources, the statutory teaching hours per week for primary school teachers decrease as the size of the school increases. Teachers with more years of service in larger schools teach fewer hours as their length of service increases. While this is intended to prevent teacher “burn-out” (Roussakis, 2017[7]), having less experienced teachers assume more of the teaching load also means that the value of more experienced teachers is lost.

Table 4.1. Organisation of teachers’ working time, 2015

Number of statutory teaching weeks, teaching days net teaching hours and teachers’ working time in public institutions

over the school year

Number of weeks of teaching

Number of days of teaching

Net teaching time, in hours

Working time required at school, in hours

Total statutory working time, in hours



Lower sec.

Upper sec.



Lower sec.

Upper sec.



Lower sec.

Upper sec.



Lower sec.

Upper sec.



Lower sec.

Upper sec.


































1 140

1 140

1 170

1 170





OECD average









1 001




1 230

1 156

1 135

1 095

1 608

1 611

1 634

1 620

EU-22 average









1 034




1 194

1 067

1 033

1 028

1 564

1 557

1 593

1 580

Source: OECD (2017[5]), Education at a Glance 2017: OECD Indicators,

Class size

Class size is also considered as having an important impact on working conditions. The maximum class size is defined by law to be 25 students per class in primary schools and 30 students per class in secondary schools. In practice, average student-teacher ratios and class sizes in Greece are significantly lower than in most European countries (Figure 4.5 and Figure 4.6). To some extent, however, this average ratio is skewed by the number of small schools in isolated mountain communities and on small islands. More than half (54%) of Greek primary school students are in two regions: 34% in Attica, concentrated in the city of Athens, and 20% in Central Macedonia, concentrated in the city of Thessaloniki. The remainder of the primary school population is dispersed across thousands of communities (now organised into 325 prefectures).

Figure 4.5. Average class size in educational institutions, 2015


1. Year of reference 2014.

2. Public institutions only.

Countries are ranked in descending order of the average class size in lower secondary education.

Source: OECD (2017[5]), Education at a Glance 2017: OECD Indicators,

Figure 4.6. Change in average class size, 2005, 2015


1. Public institutions only.

Countries are ranked in descending order of the index of change in average class size in lower secondary education between 2005 and 2015.

Source: OECD (2017[5]), Education at a Glance 2017: OECD Indicators,

Other reasons for the low student to teacher ratio in Greece, as reported by the Ministry, include:

  • the small size of some classrooms

  • the obligation to create an additional class if the number of students exceeds 30

  • a maximum class size of 22 (3 fewer than regular maximum class size) if the group includes students with significant special needs.

Data on class sizes in remote areas, by level are summarised in Box 4.1.

Box 4.1. Average class size in Greece, by level, in remote areas

In remote areas, secondary schools include both the lower and upper secondary levels (respectively, gymnasiums (gymnasio) and lyceums (lykeio)).

For lower secondary schools in remote areas, the data are as follows:

  • number of students enrolled in 2016/17: 6 308

  • number of schools: 119

  • number of classes: 481

  • average students per class: 13.1.

For upper secondary schools in remote areas, the data are as follows:

  • students enrolled in 2016/17: 3 935

  • number of schools: 119

  • number of classes: 344

  • average students per class: 11.4.

Schools combining upper and lower secondary levels have fewer teachers, and may be more flexible in finding ways to meet the needs of students in remote areas.

Professional schools (Vocial lykeio, - Epaggelmatiko Lykeiok or EPALs) are also found in isolated and underpopulated areas. For example, on the island of Symi, there is a professional school with 28 students, and another professional school on the island of Ios with 25 students. Students participating in general education may choose between two academic tracks, beginning in their second year. Students in their second year of professional education may choose one of 36 areas of specialisation in nine different sectors.

Source: MofERRA (2017[8]), Communication to the OECD review team (September 2017).

While the average class size is small in comparison with international standards, some teachers interviewed by the OECD review team noted that in each class a few students require additional attention. Rather than signalling a need to further decrease class size as a general policy, however, this may indicate a need to improve teacher training and professional development to support diverse student needs. In addition, collaboration with a range of professional service providers within the community may also support teachers’ work with diverse students.

Salary costs per student are also relevant to decisions on class size. In 2011, these costs were above the OECD average, but in 2015 they were below the average (USD 2 671 per student in Greece versus the OECD average of USD 2 848 per student) (Figure 4.3). The level of teachers’ salary costs per student depends on a country’s relative wealth; in Greece, due to budget cutbacks, salary costs per student in Greece are a higher percentage of country GDP than the OECD average (10.2% in primary and 12.1% in Greece in lower secondary versus an OECD average of 7% in primary and 8.6% in lower secondary education) (OECD, 2017[5]).

Optimisation of teaching time

Teachers in Greece spend less time teaching than the OECD and EU-22 averages in general lower secondary education, but their overall working time at school (including for administrative work for some teachers), is near or above the OECD and EU-22 averages. This means that teachers spend less time with students as well as in collaborative work with peers than do teachers in other OECD and EU countries. The OECD review team was told that teachers in small remote schools take on a higher share of the administrative burden for their schools, including routine tasks. The introduction of school self-evaluation may increase some administrative tasks, but this in the interest of gathering data on school performance. Figure 4.7 shows how much time teachers spend teaching across a range of OECD countries.

Figure 4.7. Number of teaching hours per year in general lower secondary education, 2015
Net statutory contact time in public institutions

1. Actual teaching time.

2. Year of reference 2013 instead of 2015.

Notes: Countries and economies are ranked in descending order of the number of teaching hours per year in general lower secondary.

Source: OECD (2017[5]), Education at a Glance 2017: OECD Indicators,

In Greece, more experienced teachers are rewarded with fewer teaching hours, representing a significant underuse of human resources.

4.1.4. Limited opportunities for teacher professional development and career growth

Teachers develop their professionalism throughout their careers. Beginning with initial teacher education and induction (pedagogical training and/or subject matter expertise), and continuing with participation in ongoing professional development, and collaboration with peers within schools and in teacher networks. Teacher professionalism also includes opportunities for career growth, including roles for more experienced teachers as mentors or researchers.

Initial teacher education and induction

In Greece, the teaching profession is a career-based public service with competitive entry and lifetime employment. The quality of the teaching profession is thus highly dependent on the quality of initial teacher education, induction and recruitment. Indeed, initial teacher education is the foundation for teachers’ lifelong learning – that is, their professional growth over the course of their careers.

Teacher education follows a sequential learning model in Greece, with teaching practice following tertiary study (studies in pedagogy for primary school teachers, and studies in different disciplines for secondary school teachers). New teachers must participate in an induction programme, which lasts less than a year. All prospective teachers in primary education and secondary education must complete a first cycle degree (UNESCO, 2015[9]). School teachers who study in teacher faculties are expected to follow a pre-service teacher training programme of four years, being trained and qualified in the undergraduate programmes of study offered by the relevant university departments and have a mandatory teaching practicum (OECD, 2016[10]). Prospective teachers can also follow more general tertiary courses and add a Certificate of Educational Attainment in order to qualify as a teacher. (The OECD review team was told that many teachers have higher than the required levels of education – master and doctoral level – although there are no available data on this).

Teacher certification

As noted above, all teacher candidates for permanent or substitute positions must have taken the Supreme Council for Civil Personnel Selection (ASEP) examination. It has been observed that this examination this state-administered examination assesses the acquisition of subject content and prospective teacher performance (as measured, for example, through preparation of a lesson plan). This includes general knowledge of pedagogy, psychology and sociology of education (Liakopoulou, 2011[11]). However, these examinations do not measure teachers’ pedagogical competencies – that is, their ability to use that knowledge in practice. Nor do the examinations include questions on contemporary concerns, such as intercultural or special needs education, or how they might adapt curriculum or textbooks to respond to students’ learning needs (Liakopoulou, 2011[11]). A lack of alignment between the ASEP examination and classroom practice represents a missed opportunity to identify candidates who are unable to translate theory into their classroom practices.

Teachers have few opportunities for long-term career growth

Currently, teachers’ career trajectories in Greece are relatively flat (European Commission/EACEA/EurydiceEurydice, 2018[12]). As noted above, more experienced teachers are rewarded with fewer teaching hours, rather than opportunities for career growth. In the context of content-intensive central curriculum and textbooks, and at the upper secondary level, a strong focus on helping learners to pass the Panhellenic university admissions examinations, teachers in Greek schools also have limited autonomy as compared to other OECD countries. The OECD review team was told that parents of upper secondary school students also exert pressure on teachers to adhere strictly to the curriculum and official textbooks, which are seen as being aligned with the Panhellenic. However, teachers interviewed by the OECD review team noted that more experienced and confident teachers do find ways to adapt lessons to meet individual student needs. In schools with strong principals, support from the regional school advisor, and stable staff, these opportunities are more likely to occur.

During the OECD review team visits, teachers interviewed expressed their desire for more professional development opportunities, which they see as an important incentive (particularly as monetary incentives are currently restricted). Professional development was also seen as necessary to support the implementation of special initiatives at the school level. For example, some teachers interviewed commented that they would have liked to have more training and support to implement the thematic week piloted in early 2017 (an initiative to allow teachers to depart from the curriculum to teach life skills, such as health). Teachers also stated that any curricular reforms would require greater investments in teacher professional development.

4.1.5. School principals are administrative managers rather than pedagogical leaders

School principals have an important role to play in guiding school improvement and supporting teacher professionalism. Yet, as described in Chapter 2, school principals in Greece are primarily administrative managers. Greek legislation prevents school principals from entering teacher classrooms, so there are few if any opportunities for professional interaction centred on teaching quality. As schools are granted greater pedagogical autonomy, school principals will need to take on more responsibility for leading their schools as learning organisations.

Recent legislation has aimed to address this concern, in part, by inviting each school’s board of teachers to provide input on potential candidates for the position of school principal. The intention is to ensure a good fit between the school staff and its principal. As required in previous legislation, candidates must also fulfil basic criteria: a minimum of eight years teaching experience; an advanced degree (doctoral or master level) or additional studies at the bachelor level; and administrative experience.

In addition, in 2012, the Ministry introduced a number of new training opportunities and seminars for school principals. In 2016, the National Centre for Public Administration and Local Government (EKDDA)/ Institute of Training (INEP)-Greece introduced additional training to support school principals’ organisational skills, crisis management, working in a multicultural environment, and other areas.

4.1.6. Weak evaluation and assessment

Greece’s approach to education accountability has been designed to prevent abuses of the system. There is a deep-rooted suspicion that evaluation (of schools and of individual school principals and teachers) may be used as a political tool, as was the case during the 1967–74 military dictatorship (see also Chapter 1). The OECD review team was repeatedly informed of the lingering impact of this period on the profession and society throughout the fact-finding mission – even from those too young to have experienced it directly (Kribas, 1999[13]) There are also concerns that evaluation and assessment may be vulnerable to “rent-seeking behaviour” (i.e. the exchange of goods or services for favourable evaluations). More recently, teachers have expressed concerns that in conditions of austerity, school and teacher evaluations may be used to justify workforce reductions.

Teacher and school principal appraisal

Teacher mistrust of evaluation was highly apparent with the introduction of a teacher appraisal system in 2013 which stipulated that school advisors should find at least 15% of the teacher workforce inadequate – which created risks for their employment prospects. The majority of schools refused to take part in the appraisal system, so it was quickly abandoned (OECD, 2017a[14]). Teachers and their representatives have subsequently refused to accept any kind of performance appraisal. They also argue that they are in any case held accountable for covering curricular content, and they are monitored through daily logs they must complete. However, it is also the case that they have few opportunities for feedback on their teaching practice. As described in Chapter 2, school principals do not have the right to enter teachers’ classrooms to observe lessons, and regional school advisors, who provide pedagogical support to teachers, can only enter classrooms if invited, which makes it challenging to provide feedback based on observation.

Figure 4.8 shows that in most European countries, school principals have a role in teacher appraisal, which is an essential aspect in providing feedback on teaching practice (European Commission/EACEA/EurydiceEurydice, 2018[12]).

Figure 4.8. Responsibilities for teacher appraisal, 2016/2017
Teacher appraisal in primary and general secondary education (ISCED 1-3) according to top-level authority regulations

Source: European Commission/EACEA/EurydiceEurydice (2018[12]), Teaching Careers in Europe: Access, Progression and Support. Eurydice Report, Publications Office of the European Union.

While the Ministry has made the choice not to introduce teacher appraisal, it has recently introduced a new system for appraisal of school principals (described further in this Chapter). Greece reports that from 2018, there will be yearly appraisal for 20 000 education executives in primary and secondary schools (MofERRA, 2018[15]). However, so long as school principals have limited roles in pedagogical leadership, the focus of the appraisals will be more on school management (see Chapter 2). The Ministry has also informed the OECD review team that under the new reform to introduce school self-evaluation, every school’s teacher board will be required to evaluate its planning, scheduling, and implementation of education programmes. These school self-evaluations are both formative (focused on improvement) and summative (focused on school performance).

Student assessment

The reliance on the Panhellenic university entrance examination as the “gold standard” for student assessment is another example of how the system has been designed to prevent corruption. As discussed in Chapters 2 and 3, the Panhellenic, which is centrally developed and administered, is currently the only measure used for university admissions decisions. A consequence of this is that the stakes of the Panhellenic for students’ chances to enter a good university are extremely high. Moreover, this focus on a single examination has meant that university admissions are based on a very narrow view of what students know and are able to do. Teaching is significantly narrowed and teachers’ limited role in assessing the students they teach and can undermine their sense of professionalism. (See Chapters 2 and 3 for additional discussion on the student assessment approaches.)

School evaluation

Until very recently, Greece was the only EU country that did not require either external or internal school evaluation (the new system of school self-evaluation is discussed further), although there are reports that from 2018, there will be yearly evaluation for 20 000 education executives in primary and secondary (MofERRA, 2018[15]). The absence of external and internal school evaluation has meant that schools do not have the data they need to identify strengths and opportunities for improvement. This lack of transparency of school and student performance has also likely contributed to low levels of public satisfaction with and trust in the system (see Chapter 2). Figure 4.9 shows countries that currently have external school evaluation systems in place.

Figure 4.9. External evaluation of schools, 2013/14
Procedures in full-time compulsory general education, 2013/14

Source: Commission/EACEA/Eurydice (2015[16]), Assuring Quality in Education: Policies and Approaches to School Evaluation in Europe.

European Commission sources report that most EU countries have external school evaluation. Schools in the majority of EU countries conduct internal evaluation (SSE) based on different measures that support school self-evaluation. Figure 4.10 highlights a number of supports that are made available for school’s internal evaluation. In Greece in 2016-17, a new system of SSE was successfully piloted. Based on this pilot, compulsory SSE is being introduced across the school system.

Figure 4.10. Supporting measures available to internal evaluators of schools
Full-time compulsory general education, 2013/14

Source: Commission/EACEA/Eurydice (2015[16]), Assuring Quality in Education: Policies and Approaches to School Evaluation in Europe.

4.2. Policy issues

As has been noted in the previous sections, the Ministry has developed a range of proposals and strategies to address some of the challenges outlined above. In this section, evidence underpinning the importance of teacher professionalism, school leadership and autonomy for school improvement is presented, and challenges in long-term policy development are identified.

4.2.1. A need to extend and support school and teacher autonomy

The Ministry and its advisory agencies have proposed to extend greater pedagogical autonomy for schools. These plans include:

  • continuing with thematic weeks in schools

  • more options for students to study a range of subjects

  • strengthening of classroom-based formative assessment

  • a stronger role for teachers in summative assessment, as part of the university admissions score

  • school principal appraisal

  • school self-evaluation (which is also intended to improve opportunities for teacher collaboration).

These actions and proposals represent important steps toward greater school and teacher autonomy. Teachers will potentially have more control over content and teaching methods during the newly introduced thematic weeks, and there are to be new subject offerings in upper secondary schools in areas that are not featured in the Panhellenic. A greater focus on classroom-based formative assessment of student learning highlights the importance of timely, targeted assessment to identify and respond to diverse student needs. The inclusion of teachers’ summative assessments in university admissions, decisions would recognise the value of teacher professional judgement, and relieve, to some degree, the stakes of the Panhellenic (current plans are that university admissions decisions be based on the student’s results on the Panhellenic examination, as well as assessments of their teachers, respectively counting for 80% and 20% of the student’s overall score).

Further steps to strengthen teacher professionalism need also to be considered. The OECD conceptualises teacher professionalism as a composite of teachers’ knowledge (pedagogical and content knowledge); the degree of autonomy they have to make decisions over aspects related to their work; and, their participation in peer networks, which provide opportunities for knowledge sharing and support needed to maintain high standards of learning (OECD, 2016c[17]). These aspects also support “solidary incentives” – that is, teachers’ status as part of a professional community (Finnigan and Gross, 2007[18]).

Newly introduced requirements for school principal appraisals and school self-evaluation are important first steps in developing an overall evaluation and assessment framework. These evaluations need to be tied to the overall aims for education and student learning. It will also be important over the long term to extend evaluation and assessment to ensure that data reflect a well-rounded picture of school performance. Directions for further development are explored in more detail below.

4.2.2. Reviewing the efficiency of teacher workforce management

A need to improve teachers’ material working conditions

Discussions of teacher professionalism touch on issues related to teachers’ working conditions (teaching time, deployment, stability of employment, opportunities for career growth). These incentives may have an important impact on teachers’ decisions to stay in the profession (Münich and Rivkin, 2015[19]). In the context of austerity, however, there has been little attention to salary-related issues. Indeed, the introduction of substitute teachers to the workforce, discussed in Chapter 2, has created new challenges. Recent graduates of initial teacher education interviewed by the OECD review team recognised that they may need to wait years before they are able to obtain a permanent placement.

Researchers note the importance of finding an appropriate balance between monetary and non-monetary incentives for teachers. Some researchers argue that salary levels need to be competitive with those offered in other professions that require tertiary education. But they also recognise that other non-monetary incentives are important – including teachers’ intrinsic incentives related to the satisfaction of helping students to learn, working conditions within schools, including the school ethos and management, or opportunities to be part of a professional community (Münich and Rivkin, 2015[19]). As discussed in Chapter 2, in other countries where austerity measures have had an important impact on public sector employees’ working conditions, opportunities to participate in social dialogue or surveys inviting input in making difficult decisions have been important for supporting morale (see Chapter 2).

Teachers interviewed by the OECD review team suggested other measures that would go some way to improving their working conditions. These include greater stability in job placements. Teachers noted that, particularly for those just beginning their careers, annual relocation is particularly challenging. It is difficult to develop relationships with their colleagues and students. In some areas, the cost of living is higher, so appropriate salary adjustments are needed (see also Chapter 2).

These teachers also recognised the challenge of staffing remote schools. Some suggested that placement criteria might also take into account proximity to the teachers’ home town, avoiding a situation where teachers who are already from a remote area (and therefore more familiar with the living and working conditions) are placed in a remote location that is far from their family.

Hanushek, Kain and Rivkin propose that improvements in working conditions for teachers in remote schools are important to ensuring stability, including the quality of school leadership, as well as support teachers receive to address challenges (Hanushek, Kain and Rivkin, 2002[20]). Broader reforms to improve these aspects may thus contribute to improving the challenge of staffing remote schools.

The OECD review team also asked teachers for their views on the introduction of opportunities for career growth, with options for more experienced teachers to deepen and fully utilise their professional skills (e.g. options in Estonia and Singapore). For example, teachers who opt to become mentors may support new teachers in developing their skills. Teachers who opt to develop skills as research-practitioners may take a leading role in collaborative action research. The teachers interviewed by the OECD review team had positive reactions to the idea of new opportunities for long-term career growth.

Some teachers interviewed during the OECD review team visits noted that sabbaticals to enable them to further their professional education would not only enhance their competencies, but would also contribute to job satisfaction (an important intrinsic incentive). Interestingly, teachers had different reactions to the introduction of the thematic week, which allows teachers some autonomy in deciding how they will use this time. In one school, teachers were quite enthusiastic about the thematic week. They enjoyed the opportunity to work collaboratively; they also highlighted that their school principal was particularly effective at identifying additional resources and working with community members to ensure the success of special initiatives, in general. In another school, teachers expressed some concern about finding ways to best use the time, and indicated that they felt the need for much more support and guidance.

A need to make better use of teacher time

A number of inefficiencies in the use of teacher time were noted above, including the number of hours dedicated to administrative duties versus teaching. The OECD review team was informed that schools often do not have administrative staff, and that many of these tasks have to be undertaken by teachers or principals. A thorough examination of administrative processes throughout the school system can help to identify how teachers are now spending their time, whether administrative tasks might be streamlined, whether better use might be made of ICT, and if non-teaching staff in schools or in authorities can take on some administrative tasks. In some schools or networks of schools, alternative models for staffing structures may be considered (Accounts Commission for Scotland, 1999[21]).

Perhaps the greatest inefficiency is that more experienced teachers are rewarded with fewer teaching hours, in lieu of other types of recognition. As suggested above, a better way to reward more experienced teachers would be to offer opportunities for career growth. While, for example, experienced teachers who work as mentors may have less direct teaching time, they may spend more time supporting new teachers.

A need to address inefficiencies in teacher allocation

Greece maintains a number of small schools in remote areas. This is a political choice to ensure that these small communities continue to thrive (see also Chapter 3). Greece’s geographical diversity and its small communities are important part of the country’s character. Data on Greece’s relatively low teacher-student ratio nevertheless indicate that there are still some opportunities to identify efficiencies in the system. These decisions need to also be balanced with appropriate support for teachers, including training for teachers to work with larger classes and diverse student needs, and availability of up-to-date ICT facilities to support teachers in tracking student learning or for independent student work. Opportunities for team teaching with combined classes may also be explored.

4.2.3. Supporting teacher effectiveness

A need to define professional competencies

Increasingly, OECD countries define teacher effectiveness through professional competency frameworks and/or standards that set out the knowledge, skills and attitudes teachers need to support student learning. Darling-Hammond and colleagues (2017[22]) observe that competency standards serve as the linchpin for teacher policy in high-performing education systems, supporting a shared understanding of teacher professionalism and providing a coherent approach to recruitment, training, and professional growth. Competency frameworks may also be useful for developing a more strategic approach to human resource management at the school level, allowing school principals to ensure they have a full complement of high-quality staff to meet needs. Hondeghem, Horton and Scheepers (2005[23]) emphasise that competency approaches may be used as a vehicle to bring about more change and flexibility within an organisation.

This development of professional competency frameworks is also in line with development of National Qualifications Frameworks (NQFs), which define competencies across sectors, including for education, and are typically based on analysis of specific job requirements and developed in consultation with stakeholders. The NQFs may set levels to reflect career progression (CEDEFOP, 2016[24]).

There are growing expectations that teachers can operate in new organisational structures, in collaboration with colleagues and through networks, and be able to support individual student learning and well-being. These call for demanding concepts of professionalism: the teacher as facilitator and knowledgeable expert, individual and networked team participant, oriented to individual needs and to the broader environment (OECD, 2001[25]). These concepts of professionalism imply that teachers not only transmit knowledge to students, but also support students’ ability to access and structure that knowledge as they develop their skills for critical thinking, creativity and problem solving (Collard and Looney, 2014[26]).

Teacher professional competency frameworks are aligned with broader aims of education, but also recognise that there is no “one best way” to teach. Rather, teaching is adapted according to the context of teaching and diverse student needs, and support equity of student outcomes. Professional competency frameworks are broad enough to accommodate these differences. Competency frameworks may also be adapted for teachers working in different schools, contexts and for different subject areas. For example, teachers working in remote regions with learners of different ages may need specific competencies that are not required in urban settings. Subject-specific competency frameworks may also be developed (e.g. related to digital competencies, arts education, mathematics education, and so on).

Teacher professional competency frameworks set out the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that are important for teachers to develop. Competency frameworks thus inform the design of teacher learning in universities, ongoing professional development seminars and courses, and in schools themselves. A few countries have introduced competencies to be developed at different stages in teachers’ careers – e.g. Estonia, Latvia or Scotland (United Kingdom) and Singapore (Darling-Hammond et al., 2017[27]) – beginning for example, with initial teacher education and induction and continuing with professional development as teachers deepen their experience. At advanced career stages, teachers may seek opportunities to take on roles as mentors or practitioner researchers (European Commission/EACEA/EurydiceEurydice, 2018[12]).

Initial teacher education

Initial teacher education is a key element of the continuum of teachers’ professional growth and development. It sets the conditions for high-quality teaching and learning. In Greece, with current plans for curricular reform, and the need to update teacher competencies, it is important to review the current provision of initial teacher education to understand whether it is effectively delivering for this new reality.

An ongoing OECD study on initial teacher preparation (ITP) analyses common challenges, strengths and innovations in initial teacher preparation systems in a range of education systems. It defines ITP as a composite of two components:

  • pre-service education: education and training provided to prospective teachers before they are qualified to teach

  • induction: activities designed to support new teachers.

A conceptual framework – known as the OECD Teacher Education Pathway Model (adapted from Roberts-Hull, Jensen and Cooper (2015[28])) – defines the scope of four consecutive pathways for teachers, including “alternative” routes into the profession – from the point at which candidates are selected into ITE programmes, complete the ITE programme, enter teaching and spend their first years in the profession – with six themes and contextual issues:

  • attracting candidates into ITE programmes

  • selecting the most suitable candidates into ITE programmes

  • equipping prospective teachers with the necessary knowledge, skills and practices

  • delivering ITE programmes effectively

  • certifying and selecting new teachers

  • supporting new teachers.

Figure 4.11. OECD Teacher Education Pathway model

Source: Adapted from Roberts-Hull, Jensen and Cooper (2015[28]), A New Approach: Reforming Teacher Education.

Schools’ and teachers’ ongoing development: A need to support schools as learning organisations and teacher networks

The large of majority teachers responding to the OECD’s Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) indicate that they want more opportunities for professional development. Many teachers have difficulty in finding the time to participate (47%), or are unable to find suitable courses or seminars (42%) (OECD, 2013[29]). In Greece, professional development opportunities have diminished as budget cutbacks have been made. The current supply of professional development appears to be limited and dispersed and the OECD review team was not made aware of the range of professional development opportunities available for teachers. It appears that many teachers attend public universities and take up master or doctoral level studies. Professional development options could be made clearer and more directly related to identified school needs.

The OECD review team was told that regional directorates and school advisors continue to work with schools to provide opportunities that support teacher development needs within their budgetary means, and that there will be a renewed effort as school advisors take up a new role as in-service trainers. Providing effective professional development opportunities for teachers that is aligned to the needs of the schools and to the local context can contribute to improve teacher performance. This can be fostered through teacher training, through engagement with teacher networks, or by providing support for schools to develop their own training. School advisors and networks may support school-based training opportunities. It will be important to ensure that their roles are appropriately aligned, and that they build their capacities to take on these tasks. These options, along with the concept of schools as learning organisations, are discussed further below.

The OECD review team was informed of the Ministry’s intention to provide further support for teacher collaboration in schools and in teacher networks. If these are effectively developed, they may potentially play an important role in supporting teacher professionalism. Indeed, a growing body of research supports teacher collaboration as an effective approach to professional development and school improvement (Louis et al., 2010[30]; O'Day, 2002[31]; Scheerens, 2010[32]).

Teacher collaboration within schools, however, depends on effective school-level leadership, including whether and how: school principals adopt a pedagogical leadership role, stimulate team work and collaboration, focus on the use of school evaluation to support improvement, develop the capacity to find resources. A cohesive staff, which includes individuals with complementary competencies, also supports effective team working within a school.

Teacher collaboration may involve peer observation, mentoring and coaching, lesson planning, action research, and visiting and observing teaching in other schools. It may also involve collaboration with other professionals (community representatives, artists, employers). Collaborative professional learning helps to build trust among peers, and trust supports effective organisational learning.

Box 4.2. International research on observed factors that support effective networks in education

In the United States, DuFour (2012[35]) found that the school districts were able to create effective professional learning communities (PLC) by building shared knowledge about the PLC process and its rationale; creating guiding coalitions and sharing leadership responsibility for implementation and; setting clear expectations for schools and their engagement.

Williams (2013[36]) found that effective networks of teachers in urban school districts involved within-school collaboration (comparing and contrasting teaching approaches), use of data to identify areas for improvement, for individual schools within the network, and effective face-to-face collaboration to augment work in the wider network

Holmes (2013[37]) noted that online interactions through social networks that are free of bureaucracy allow teachers to talk more freely. Over time, teachers may build communities of trust, shared values and reciprocity. When teachers combined online learning with application in their own classrooms, and were able to see benefits, they were more willing to invest additional time in the network.

Hopkins (2003[38]) found that networks for innovation in policy and practice are most effective when values and focus are consistent; the structure of the network is clear; the network supports knowledge creation, utilisation and transfer; the impact on learning is clear; leadership is clear, participants are empowered, and there are adequate resources. Involvement of a wide range of stakeholders is also important, including teachers, school principals, network initiators and managers, consultants, researchers and evaluators, and policy makers.

Harris (2008[39]) argues that the following principles should be at the core of an effective online development and research network: participation beyond the boundaries of a traditional local authority; a clear purpose, mission and community values; bringing in new members and changing external contributors and facilitators over time; a clear plan of action to catalyse change; infrastructure to enable individuals to assess their capacity to contribute; feedback; and, perceived return on investment.

Teachers interviewed by the OECD review team said that they currently have opportunities to collaborate with their peers. For example, primary school teachers interviewed noted that the curriculum allows two to three hours each week to develop project-oriented lessons (referring to this as the “flexible zone”) and that the school principal and teachers work together to decide on the themes and how they will be addressed. The introduction of school self-evaluation in Greece may potentially serve the dual purpose of supporting evaluation of school performance as well as helping to build schools as learning organisations. Effective school self-evaluation will ensure that schools have data to identify strengths and areas where improvement is needed. The process of gathering and analysing data also supports schools as learning organisations.

Potentially, teacher networks may also support teacher peer learning across schools,. School-school partnerships and clusters may be effective for schools in closer geographic proximity. Indeed, the idea of the school as a learning organisation (Kools and Stoll, 2016[33]) views individual schools as part of a larger network with other schools. Other network members may include higher education institutions, parents, and community members. Currently educational networks in Greece are not well-developed, and teacher collaboration appears to be ad hoc, rather than as a regular occurrence, (European Commission, 2013[34]). Researchers have identified a number of features of effective networks (Box 4.2) that could be relevant for Greece.

Few data on school and student performance, but an emerging focus on the quality of performance and outcomes

A well-designed framework for evaluation and assessment is key to school improvement, and to ensuring transparency of school performance. There is broad consensus among researchers and practitioners that an evaluation framework needs to be underpinned by a shared understanding of effectiveness – whether it is defined in frameworks or standards. Expectations for performance of students, schools, principals and teachers should be aligned (OECD, 2013[40]).

Several education systems have developed a common definition of a “good school” in order to provide a common basis for evaluation (linked with the national vision for education; see Chapter 2). A robust, research-based foundation can support the development of clear standards and criteria for school quality (OECD, 2013[40]). Given the prevalence of regional disparities in Greece and declining educational outcomes as measured by PISA, addressing this has to be a priority for the country.

Factors generally associated with the quality and standards of schools include: the quality of teaching and learning; the way teachers are developed and helped to become more effective throughout their careers; the quality of instructional leadership in schools (Louis et al., 2010[30]; Robinson, Rowe and Lloyd, 2009[41]). Factors concerning the curriculum, vision and expectations, assessment for learning, and the rate of progress of students, including learning and well-being are also important. Research suggests a broad range of indicators for student learning and well-being be included, such as student progress and outcomes, and the extent to which every student in a school: is making better than expected progress given their earlier attainment; is pleased with the education at the school; feels safe and happy at school; gains the knowledge, skills, understanding and attitudes necessary for lifelong fulfilment (MacBeath, 2004[42]).

Often criteria for school evaluation are presented in an analytical framework comprising: context; input; and process and outcomes (OECD, 2013[40]). The national framework may then establish clear standards, criteria and quality indicators for key school areas, such as teaching and learning, student well-being, school leadership, educational administration, school environment, and the management of human resources.

Transparency of information, high-quality data, and the accountability of school agents are essential for a well-functioning evaluation and assessment system. Transparency extends to processes (e.g. how school principals and teachers are appointed, implementation of reforms) as well as evaluation and assessment and report of outcomes (e.g. student achievement and well-being).

Transparency extends to every level, including the overall performance of the school system, the performance of individual schools, school principal appraisal, and the quality of teaching and learning. It is important to ensure that the existing data and information are relevant and usable, and that they are actually used for development and improvement. This requires reflection on designing mechanisms to ensure that the results of evaluation and assessment activities feed back into teaching and learning practices, school improvement, and education policy development (OECD, 2013[40]).

Greece has initiated some promising efforts to move toward a more holistic approach to quality assurance in Greek education. In 2016, the Ministry developed a three-year education plan, with its main axes focused on reforms to the upper secondary school, vocational education and training, and tertiary education. The three-year plan suggests, inter alia, introducing school evaluation and school leadership appraisal. These plans may be further strengthened through strong links to an overall vision for education focused on student learning and well-being. Initiatives included in the plans will also require benchmarks to be established and school-level capacity to be supported.

These next steps will be vital for setting a clear roadmap for implementation as well as a realistic set of measures by which to gauge progress toward goals (Ministry of Education Research and Religious Affairs, 2017[43]). It will also be important to address teacher concerns that results might be used punitively.

Following the Ministry’s three-year plan for education, two advisory institutions were invited to develop proposals for school self-evaluation. Subsequently, the two complementary reports by the Authority for Quality Assurance in Primary and Secondary Education (ADIPPDE) and the Institute for Educational Policy (IEP) were submitted. The proposals provided to the OECD review team following the fact-finding visit in May 2017 reflect lessons learned from the 2013 teacher evaluation reform which quickly foundered, as described above.

The ADIPPDE report notes the necessary elements of school self-evaluation as including:

  • the detailed mapping of the existing situation at school, where all aspects are registered, needs and problems are identified

  • the annual planning in each school unit, to include the design and implementation of improvement actions, and enabling schools to use evidence within their own context, to identify specific problems and decide upon corrective actions

  • the monitoring and evaluation of integrating improvement actions and the overall annual progress of the school unit

  • the final evaluation of all activities and processes implemented during the academic year in the form of an annual self-evaluation report, which is to include:

    • explicit indicators and criteria in order to highlight progress and good practices as well as needs, problems and points that require targeted support

    • a synthesis of the views of all teachers

    • annual school planning synthesising the directions put in place by the state, integrating the teachers’ vision for the school (ADIPPDE, 2017[44]).

The ADIPPDE proposal anticipates that teachers would work on SSE and planning prior to the start of the school year – typically teachers report for work ten days before school opening – and again at the end of the year. The SSE is to cover school infrastructure, resources, teaching and learning, school culture and climate, and student achievement. Teachers, parents and representatives of the local community would contribute to the development of plans and specific actions for improvement.

The ADIPPDE notes that SSE will also offer an opportunity to identify and disseminate good practices as well as trends at local, regional and national levels. They also emphasise that the “conclusions from the self-evaluation be used exclusively for feedback and formative purposes, and in no case will they be auditing or punitive”. The proposal suggests that this planning process will help to improve teacher collaboration and support professional learning. A “critical friend” (the regional school advisor), it is suggested, can provide additional objective feedback and mediate any internal disagreements. The resulting annual school reports would then be posted on a public web-based platform. Regional school advisors are to develop a joint report on the schools within their jurisdiction for the Head of the Scientific and Pedagogical Guidance of the Regional Directorate of Education. Reports with feedback are then to be generated (ADIPPDE, 2017[44]).

The IEP proposal builds on a school self-evaluation pilot about which the OECD review team was informed during its fact-finding visit. The pilot, in contrast with previous top-down attempts to introduce school self-evaluation in parallel with other evaluation approaches, was conducted on a small scale during 2011-13. The IEP, the pilot was based on a model developed by MacBeath (1999[45]), comprised of four key elements that prioritise school empowerment and self-determination:1

  • an overarching philosophy

  • a set of criteria or ‘indicators’

  • a toolkit.

The IEP researchers engaged with the project reported that the pilot went well, primarily because teachers understood that it was not linked to any kind of external control. The October 2017 proposal on Education Support Structures confirms this report and proposes greater pedagogical autonomy for schools and additional support for schools and teachers, including new regional centres of educational planning to support teachers at local level, and a stronger pedagogical and guidance role for school principals. Support for networking and collaboration among school “groups” and with supporting structures are also emphasised (Ministry of Education Research and Religious Affairs, 2017[43]). The proposal also suggests greater support for teacher collaboration to strengthen school improvement and as professional development, and to increase public recognition of educators’ work as part of the evaluation process.

It is apparent that Ministry officials have taken into account lessons learned from past efforts. The ADIPPDE and IEP proposals both suggested a scaffolded approach to building trust among teachers before introducing a more elaborated system of evaluation for improvement. The Ministry informed the OECD review team during its fact-finding visit that it also intends to hold itself more openly accountable to schools, communities and families. This is a strategic approach. However, to ensure that they can have long-term success both proposals require careful development of the details of the design and implementation, including the need to strengthen teacher buy-in and trust in this new system.

4.2.4. Enhancing the role of school principals

School principals have an important role to play in guiding school improvement and teacher development. Indeed, there is evidence that effective school leadership is key to student outcomes, second only to the quality of the teachers (Hargreaves and Fullan, 2012[46]; Leithwood and Louis, 2011[47]; Robinson, Rowe and Lloyd, 2009[41]). Principals establish the school environment for great learning to take place, and sets expectations for students and teachers to succeed. Pont, Nusche and Moorman (2008[48]) highlight four core responsibilities of school leadership that are important: 1.) supporting, evaluating and developing teacher quality; 2.) goal-setting, assessment and accountability; 3.) strategic financial and human resource management: and 4.) collaborating with other schools. These roles however, also depend on the context, and their level of autonomy.

In Greece, the role of school principals, as reviewed in Chapters 1 and 2, is more administrative, as they do not have the responsibility for selecting or evaluating teachers or a high autonomy in resource allocation or curriculum. There have been recent changes in the selection of principals, moving towards greater school level inclusion in the selection process and input in the principal’s appraisal. However, it is important to consider not only the principal’s selection process, but also their specific roles and opportunities for career development, including the need for targeted initial training, their recruitment and selection, appraisal, and opportunities for ongoing professional development. The definition of the key role they are expected to play, which referred to as “school leadership standards”, can underpin efforts to develop principal professionalism.

The definition of standards is based on existing research identifying areas where school leadership appears to make the greatest difference: working with and supporting teachers in the school, setting directions, and developing the school. According to Pont, Nusche and Moorman (2008[48]), standards for principal performance are needed. It is particularly important to preserve principals’ roles in pedagogical management and support for teaching teams (principals’ key contribution to student learning) as their duties and responsibilities in other areas expand.

Standards for principals can define what they need to know and be able to do, thereby providing clear expectations for their performance. In fact, countries that have developed performance standards for school principals perceive them as a strategic tool in raising education quality (CEPPE, 2013[49]). These frameworks or standards may bring clarity, and guide the development of processes to strengthen principals’ roles, such as initial training, selection or continuous professional development. Frameworks and/or standards can also serve to signal the essential character of the principal’s role as leadership for learning.

It is important that leadership frameworks also include local and school level criteria. For example, in Australia five specific professional practices for principals have been set out:

  • leading teaching and learning

  • developing self and others

  • leading improvement, innovation and change

  • leading the management of the work of the school

  • engaging and working with the community (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, 2018[50]).

At a European level, a wider recognition of the need to enhance the role and support for school leadership has led to the development of the European Policy Network on School Leadership. This network has developed a set of policy kits for improving school leadership across Europe. In Ireland, school leadership draft standards were developed to support school principals’ self-evaluation (Irish Department of Education and Skills, 2015[51]). These draft standards also reflect expectations for school leadership in an education system that is characterised by a significant proportion of small and rural schools.

Recruitment processes have an impact on school leadership quality. There is a need to ensure that these processes are transparent and that criteria used can support selection of the most suitable candidates. At the system level, procedures and criteria need to be transparent, consistent and effective. School board members, often composed of individuals without an extensive education background, may need to be prepared for their role in selection of school principals. School-level involvement is critical to ensure the “fit” between the candidate and the school staff. In Greece, recruitment processes have recently been updated to include teacher votes in decisions related to hiring of their school’s principal. Rigorous selection procedures that go beyond traditional job interviews, that are based on clear standards and procedures, and that that include external professional stakeholders can contribute to selection of the best candidates (Pont, 2014[52]).

Additionally, an IEP proposal had recommended tri-annual evaluation of school principals, based on the Portuguese school self-evaluation model. In this model, the focus of each evaluation is on improvement; school principals receive feedback at the end of each year, and at the end of three years, they are to receive a summative assessment. All public school principals are evaluated without exception, as part of the required appraisal in their teaching career by members of the school governing board, whose views account for 60% of the evaluation, with the remaining 40% of evaluation given by an external school evaluation agency (OECD, 2015c[53]).

4.3. Policy recommendation: Support school improvement

Greece has a committed teaching body which is accomplishing average results. The policy options outlined in this section are intended to establish an environment where school improvement can take place: improving workforce management in terms of allocation and working hours, supporting individual and collective professional development of teachers and principals, and developing capacity and a strategy for evaluation and assessment for accountability and improvement. A particular focus on developing valid and reliable student assessments will be a necessary pre-condition for success.

4.3.1. Improve workforce management and efficiency for quality

More strategic approaches to teacher workforce management can help ensure resources are used more efficiently and effectively. As explored in this section, teacher allocation needs to be objective and fair, but to also consider the needs of schools and teachers. Teacher-student ratios need to be monitored to balance priorities to maintain small schools in remote locations and to support cost-effectiveness. Teacher time also needs to be used effectively, with more time devoted to core tasks of teaching and collaborative work with peers.

Teacher allocation

Teacher allocation needs to be objective and fair, but it should also make sense for schools and teachers. School principals need to have a greater say in the overall composition of their teaching staff in order to ensure that the overall team has complementary competencies. In addition, each school needs to have an effective mix of more experienced teachers (with some teachers having mentor status) and newer teachers. This is important for ensuring equity of provision – students in remote schools with inexperienced teachers may not have the same learning opportunities as those in more prestigious urban schools with experienced teachers.

Additional criteria may be considered within the placement decisions, as well. For example, for teachers who are from remote areas, proximity to their home town may also be considered. Training and experience in working with different types of students – for example with refugee learners – are also important. Currently, this type of experience is not taken into consideration, and valuable professional learning is lost with each new cohort of teachers. The burden of annual teacher relocation, which involves moving costs and in some cases, an increase in the cost of living, need to be taken into account, as well.

Teacher-student ratios

While teacher-student ratios are lower than the European average, the above analysis (Section 4.3) highlights the impact of Greece’s geography on the average teacher-student ratio in Greece. The choice to maintain small schools in remote communities represents a political decision to support those communities. Nevertheless, the Ministry should continue to monitor the data on teacher-student ratios in schools throughout Greece. Demographic trends in declining birth rates, new immigration, family relocation to urban areas, and so on, will have a corresponding impact on school and class size.

In addition, teachers should be provided with training to work with different types of classes. In remote areas, teachers may need targeted support to work with mixed-age classes. In larger classes, teachers may need training, including strategies for identifying and meeting diverse needs of students within the class. Training to manage student behavioural issues may also be needed.

Optimisation of teaching time

Teachers in Greece have fewer teaching hours, on average, as compared to teachers in other OECD countries and in the EU. This is in part because teachers have high administrative burdens, which may cut into teaching time. Another cause is that more experienced teachers are rewarded with fewer teaching hours. With growing numbers of teachers in the higher age bracket, this may have an important impact on overall teaching time.

Better use of teachers with more seniority time is needed. More experienced teachers may be provided with opportunities to mentor newer teachers. As schools are given greater pedagogical autonomy, more experienced teachers may also take leading roles in teacher collaborative work and in school self-evaluation and school planning. This may be part of a broader career strategy to prevent burn-out of older teachers and to capitalise on their experience. Streamlining of administrative procedures may also allow teachers to devote more time to working directly with students and colleagues.

A study of how teachers currently spend their working hours and the implications of new reforms granting greater school-level pedagogical autonomy and requiring school self-evaluation will be needed. This study should also identify opportunities to streamline routine procedures and to optimise time spent on substantive work. The focus needs to be on ways to increase efficiency as well as effectiveness.

4.3.2. Promote teacher professionalism with support for individual and collective development

A focus on teacher professionalism is central to any school improvement strategy. A professional competency framework can guide teacher policy. It can also take a career continuum perspective, with clear pathways for professional development and career growth. Teacher collaboration is also a key element in school improvement. Teachers need competencies to work in school-based teams and wider teacher networks. In turn, they may deepen their professional learning through this collective work. School improvement is supported as schools operate as learning organisations.

Develop professional competency frameworks for school principals and teachers

The IEP has recommended teachers be given greater pedagogical autonomy. As teacher opportunities to develop their own content and to innovate are currently fairly limited, this is a significant development. Teacher collaboration is also being encouraged through involvement in school self-evaluation and in teacher networks to support school improvement professional learning and development.

This focus on building teacher professionalism can be further supported through 1.) attention to building school principal competencies for pedagogical leadership, and 2.) development of professional competency frameworks defining the knowledge, skills and attitudes school principals and teachers are, respectively, expected to develop at different stages of their careers. Professional competency frameworks may include guidelines on content knowledge, pedagogical practices, learner development (including learning diversity), the ability to organise and explain ideas, to diagnose learning progress, and to adapt teaching to meet a range of learning needs. In addition, dispositions as such as willingness to engage in professional learning and to collaborate with peers, and to engage in research and innovation may be included (European Commission, 2012[54]).

These competencies should align with overall aims for education in Greece, and with the school curriculum. They should also reflect the skills teachers need to manage classes where students have diverse needs, and to ensure that all students can achieve to high levels.

In Greece, teachers working in remote regions with learners of different ages may need specific competencies that are not required in urban settings (such as working with mixed-age classes). Teachers working in Education Priority Zones (ZEP) may need competencies appropriate for working with disadvantaged students.

Developing a teacher career continuum perspective

Professional competency frameworks may be used to define the teacher’s career continuum and opportunities for professional growth, beginning with admissions to initial teacher education, certification processes and school recruitment. More experienced teachers may deepen professionalism, with advanced competencies related to research, mentorship, or in policy. Competency management may require a culture-shift toward greater employee self-direction and responsibility (Horton, 2000[55]).

Estonia is an example of a country that has used a competency framework to shape initial teacher education, continuing professional development and career growth. There are clearly defined stages for development (see Box 4.3 on Teacher Professional Competences in Estonia).

Box 4.3. Teacher Professional Competencies in Estonia

As of 2013, a new system of teacher professional qualifications has been introduced in association with a new career structure. Unique features of the career structure are that it has no formal links to salary levels and access to its higher levels is voluntary. Its main aim is to serve as a reference for teachers’ competency development. There are four career grades, which reflect different levels of professional competencies and experience:

Teacher (level 6): applies only to pre-primary teachers upon entrance in the teaching profession, following the completion of an initial teacher education programme (at bachelor’s degree level) or following the recognition of professional qualifications for this level by the teacher professional body. This career stage is awarded indefinitely.

Teacher (level 7.1): is awarded upon entrance in the teaching profession, following the completion of an initial teacher education programme (at master’s degree level) or following the recognition of professional qualifications for this level by the teacher professional body. This career stage is awarded indefinitely.

Senior teacher (level 7.1): is awarded to a teacher who, in addition to conducting teaching activities, supports the development of the school and of other teachers and is involved in methodological work at the school level. This career stage is awarded for five years’ period, after which the teacher needs to submit a new application.

Master teacher (level 8): is awarded to a teacher who, in addition to conducting teaching activities, participates in development and creative activities in and outside his or her school and closely co-operates with a higher education institution. This career stage is awarded for five years period, after which the teacher needs to submit a new application.

The career structure is associated with a set of teacher professional standards, which define the competencies associated with each career stage. The development of the teacher professional standards is the responsibility of a teacher professional organisation (the Estonian Association of Teachers). Teachers can apply for certification at any of the levels twice a year (April and November). The certification procedure involves two stages: i) an evaluation of a set of documents submitted by the candidate; and ii) an interview. The certification procedure is undertaken by a three-member committee.

Source: Santiago, P. et al. (2016[56]), OECD Reviews of School Resources: Estonia 2016, OECD Publishing, Paris,

Singapore’s Enhanced Performance Management System similarly supports teacher evaluation and career development. It is based on a competency model which is aligned with professional learning paths (the Teacher Growth Model and the Leader Growth Model), and includes four competency clusters: individual attributes, professional mastery, organisational excellence and effective collaboration. Within each competency cluster there are behavioural indicators, which articulate how these competencies can be demonstrated. With their school principals, they can identify areas for learning and development that are also aligned with the school needs.

Greece may consider, over the long term, developing teacher career paths that provide a way for teachers to build on professional experience and competencies developed. This could include opportunities for teachers to work as mentors, as master teachers, as specialised teachers, or as part of larger networks.

School leadership selection and recruitment

Eventually, the career path can also integrate the post of school principal (with the principal’s role incorporating pedagogical leadership). As in a number of OECD countries, until recently, there have been few formal requirements for teachers wishing to become principals in Greece beyond years of teaching experience and undergoing a selection process.

The process for promotion to school leadership would need to be updated to reflect new roles and responsibilities. Candidates may be required to present evidence of their track record, training, and other qualifications in order to be considered. And to achieve transparent and professional selection processes there should be objective procedures to find suitable candidates, which can build on alignment to the school leadership standards. The composition and professionalism of recruitment panels for vacancies is important to ensure that the best possible candidates are selected for the position.

To support newly selected principals, Greece may consider having an induction period, as well as leadership training. For example, in Austria, there is a strong induction programme as the main way to provide foundation skills for principals. Principals are initially appointed on a provisional basis. Extension of their appointment is based on completion of a course in management training within the four years after their initial appointment. When first introduced, the training was limited to preparation for legal and administrative tasks, but as school autonomy has grown, more appropriate qualifications have been adopted. The two-year programme has different phases of study, including basic training modules and independent study. In other countries, induction training periods may complement of initial training or be the only leadership training focused on legislative, financial and other administrative topics. Greece may consider introducing induction over the longer term to ensure that principals are well prepared to respond to the increased autonomy and to the new school support strategy that is planned.

Enhance recruitment and support for initial teacher preparation (ITP)

Teacher professionalism begins with an effective process for identifying teacher candidates who have strong academic qualifications and are motivated to teach, and effective initial teacher education programmes. In Greece, it will be important to build on the existing quality initial teacher education and consider it as part of the broader teacher career continuum. ITE provision may also need to be updated to respond the needs of 21st century students (see Chapter 3). To this end, the government can:

  • Evaluate the current quality of provision of teacher education across the country to understand how the different educational institutions equip teachers for their future in schools to include not only knowledge, but also enhance their capacity to develop competences and skills for their students. This may also involve raising the bar for accreditation to improve the quality of ITE programmes, incentivising school-university partnerships, and collecting input and outcome data to support workforce planning and improve ITE programme quality and feedback loops (see Box 4.4).

  • Strengthen criteria for selection into ITE programmes, to ensure that teacher candidates have strong academic qualifications and are motivated to teach. A variety of country efforts to raise the bar for entry into ITE are described in Box 4.4.

Box 4.4. Quality assurance in ITP in the Netherlands

Initial teacher preparation in the Netherlands has built several quality assurance measures into the system, which in all promote a culture of equity and quality in ITP provision:

A strong university accreditation system. The accreditation process for ITE programmes looks at vision, quality assurance systems and the culture of improvement. It also involves a review panel of peers and consequences for very poor performing institutions.

All frameworks are developed collaboratively for system-wide minimum quality standards. There are legislated professional standards for teachers and national tests for primary school teacher candidates in three subject areas, in addition to teacher educator standards and teacher knowledge bases for different subject areas and year levels. These elements set system-wide expectations for the base level of what new teachers and teacher educators need to know.

The system analyses and actions data to make improvements. The ministry conducts a survey of all newly qualified teachers, which are reviewed collaboratively to identify national trends and to make policy recommendations that are based on what is actually happening in schools.

Accreditation of school-university partnerships. The accreditation body looks at some school partnerships and has to approve these before they are funded.

The certification examination for entering teachers should also align with the competency framework. The Greek ASEP examination has been critiqued for its heavy emphasis on teachers’ knowledge, with little emphasis on how the teacher would use pedagogical knowledge in practice, or how they would address various classroom challenges. Nor does the examination assess how teachers would adapt teaching to meet diverse learning needs. These shortcomings need to be addressed.

Box 4.5. Selection criteria into ITE programmes

In recent years, the use of academic criteria, namely results from the end of secondary education, as the principal selection criteria into initial teacher education has been challenged by policy makers (OECD, 2014[57]) for the following reasons:

By raising the bar to enter the teaching profession, these systems discourage young people with poor qualifications from entering teaching and attract people with high qualifications. Capable young people who could go into high status occupations are not likely to enter an occupation that the society perceives as easy to get into and therefore likely to attract people who could not get into more demanding professions (OECD, 2011, p. 236[58])

A number of countries participating in the ITP Study have taken this line as part of their ITE reform agendas:

In Australia, national selection guidelines implemented from 2017 recommend the use of both academic and non-academic criteria, and encourage use of evidence-based and transparent selection methods. National accreditation guidelines require providers to use evidence-based selection process, minimum entry requirements and show evidence of impact (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, 2015[59]).

In the Netherlands, new entry requirements (i.e. entrance exams) for initial teacher education programmes at primary level appear to be reducing dropout rates and increasing the quality of candidates, though more empirical evidence is needed to support this.

In Norway, entry to ITE programmes was recently raised to results in upper secondary education based on minimum score of 35 points, minimum of grade 3 in Norwegian languages, and minimum of four in mathematics. Those who attain only grade 3 in mathematics are offered preparatory courses.

However, research on the predictive value of academic and other ITE selection criteria – such as essay writing, interviews, reference letters, psychometric test and standardised test results – on teacher quality is relatively scarce and shows mixed results (Byrnes, Kiger and Shechtman, 2003[60]) (Jacobowitz, 1994[61]), though Caskey, Peterson and Temple’s (2001[62]) study of admission data for 82 successful ITE applicants found that ratings of reference letters were most highly correlated with overall programme performance, followed by writing test scores, simulations and essays. Academic achievement as measured by Grade Point Average (GPA) showed the second lowest correlation with overall course.

In effect, an ITE programme may not be highly selective, but may still do an excellent job of preparing teacher candidates (Feuer et al., 2013[63]). The need to show evidence of impact of selection methods in countries such as Australia may shed light on this issue to help guide further reform efforts (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, 2015[59]).

Support schools as learning organisations

The Ministry sees policies to promote greater pedagogical autonomy as well as school self-evaluation as an important vehicle to promote school-level learning and teacher collaboration. These aims are also in line with the idea of schools as learning organisations (SLOs). Drawing on the work of Watkins and Marsick (1999[64]) as well as other theoretical perspectives, Kools and Stoll describe SLOs as involving “…an integrated model that consists of seven overarching ‘action-oriented’ dimensions: 1.) developing and sharing a vision centred on the learning of all students; 2.) creating and supporting continuous learning opportunities for all staff; 3.) promoting team learning and collaboration among staff; 4.) establishing a culture of inquiry, innovation and exploration; 5.) establishing embedded systems for collecting and exchanging knowledge and learning; 6.) learning with and from the external environment and larger learning system; and 7.) modelling and growing learning leadership” (Kools and Stoll, 2016[33]).

School cultures, teacher and school principal capacity, and accountability are all necessary components of the SLO model (European Commission, 2017[65]). These aspects are also important because they shape the context in which teachers and school principals work, and thus have an impact on their job satisfaction and effectiveness (Johnson, Kraft and Papay, 2012[66]).

The Ministry may support the development of schools as learning organisations by setting out clear expectations in teacher and school principal professional competency frameworks as well as providing support for capacity building and evaluation. For example, competency frameworks may set out guidelines for knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that are important within the SLO model, including abilities to: collaborate effectively, give and respond to feedback, address pedagogical challenges, innovate, engage in action research and other modes of inquiry, communicate with others within and beyond schools. Competencies for data gathering and interpretation, planning and reflection should also be highlighted. Teacher and school principal engagement in professional learning opportunities may be seen as pre-conditions for professional advancement, as well.

In addition to setting guidelines for professional competency development, investments in building teacher and principal capacity are also essential. A range of professional development opportunities, aligned with the overall aims for education and with the specific school and teacher/principal needs, should be made available. These may include professional development courses delivered by external providers (universities and other providers) tailored to meet the local needs, and support for internal school collaboration and inquiry. As schools gain greater autonomy they should simultaneously be encouraged to launch school-based learning and to reach out via networks of schools and communities. The Ministry will also need to ensure that teachers and school principals have the time and opportunity to participate in different professional learning opportunities. School self-evaluation may itself place an emphasis on professional learning of the school staff. Annual school measures of teacher and school principal engagement in collaborative and individual learning to support school development may be tracked and its effectiveness measured. Engagement of more experienced teachers in mentoring junior colleagues, peer learning, collaborative inquiry and other modes of professional learning may be tracked.

The Japanese method of Lesson Study is one model of teacher collaboration that may be of interest for Greece as it develops schools as learning organisations. Lesson Study is a structured process for teacher-led research focused on a specific area for development. Teachers’ research, plan lessons, teach and observe lessons and discuss how to improve practice in a specific area on an ongoing basis. They also monitor and reflect on their progress. This process is described in more detail in Box 4.6.

Box 4.6. Lesson study: A means for collaborative professional learning of teachers in Japan

In Japan, all teachers participate in regular lesson studies in their schools. The Japanese tradition of lesson studies in which groups of teachers review their lessons and how to improve them, in part through analysis of student errors, is an effective mechanism for teachers’ self-reflection as well as a tool for continuous improvement.

Observers of Japanese elementary school classrooms have long noted the consistency and thoroughness with which a mathematics concept is taught and the way in which the teacher leads a discussion of mathematical ideas, both correct and incorrect, so that students gain a firm grasp on the concept. This school-by-school lesson study often culminates in large public research lessons. For example, when a new subject is added to the national curriculum, groups of teachers and researchers review research and curriculum materials and refine their ideas in pilot classrooms over a year before holding a public research lesson, which can be viewed electronically by hundreds of teachers, researchers and policy makers.

The tradition of lesson study in Japan also means that Japanese teachers are not alone. They work together in a disciplined way to improve the quality of the lessons they teach. That means that teachers whose practice lags behind that of the leaders can see what good practice is. Because their colleagues know who the poor performers are and discuss ways to support them, the poor performers have support to improve their performance. Since the structure of the teaching workforce in Japan and other East Asian countries includes opportunities to become a master teacher and move up a ladder of increasing prestige and responsibility, it also pays for the good teacher to become even better.

Source: OECD (2011[58]), Strong Performers and Successful Reformers in Education: Lessons from PISA for the United States, OECD Publishing, Paris,

Support the development of teacher networks

School clusters in Portugal have facilitated pedagogical collaboration and smoothed transitions for students moving from primary school to lower and to upper secondary levels (see also Chapter 3). In Croatia, which like Greece has a number of small islands, networks are increasingly seen as a way to support small and dispersed schools and their teachers as they are given more autonomy (see Box 4.7).

Box 4.7. Croatia: Closed Networks for Professional and Institutional Development

The Ministry of Science and Education in Croatia has established a County Council of Experts to carry out and co-ordinate professional development of teachers, educational school experts and principals in accordance with the Institute of Education's programme. These networks are currently developing approaches to support the new Strategy of Education, Science and Technology. The strategy identifies priorities as: raising the level of institutional autonomy and accountability; establishing mechanisms to support co-operation; and ensuring targeted training for those working with special education or gifted students.

The networks may be used as a platform to consult with national councils and school principals on national policy reforms, as well as for a public consultation on proposed changes. In addition, it is hoped that teacher and school principal local networks (within school clusters) will initiate or get engaged in school change processes. This may include new approaches to organising public consultation.

The development of school networks has involved adoption of new regulations with the establishment of specific support networks.

The County Council of experts are organised in two different networks:

  • The County Council for general subject teachers and school principals is managed by the Education and Teacher Training Agency with four regional offices, each facilitating the work of sub-networks of county council leaders.

  • The Agency for Vocational and Adult Education facilitates County council for vocational subjects teachers (engineering, health care, tourism), each with multiple programmes.

Source: Adapted from ET2020 Working Group Schools 2016-18 (2016[67]), "Quality assurance for school development: Guiding principles for policy development on quality assurance in school education", European Commission, Brussels.

4.3.3. Support capacity building and processes for effective school self-evaluation and school principal appraisal

The Ministry has introduced requirements for school self-evaluation (following a pilot phase which is seen as successful) and is considering the appraisal of school principals. These are two key components of an overall evaluation and assessment framework. School principals and teachers will be required to monitor their performance and to identify areas for improvement. Effective processes and capacity to interpret and respond to results will be key to their success.

Develop capacity for effective school self-evaluation

School evaluation, whether internal or external, requires specific competencies, including for identification, gathering and analysis of data, as well as development of strategies for improvement. Evaluators need strong observation skills, the ability to deliver constructive feedback, and to develop relationships that foster trust and openness. Evaluation may also be strengthened by gathering results from beyond the school including parents or parent groups, the student council, and local community organisations through the use of questionnaires and interviews (Poland and Sweden each reach out to these various stakeholders) (European Commission, 2017[68]). National governments may offer targeted training to school principals and teachers on how to gather and interpret results.

Developing the capacity to use results of SSE for school planning is also essential (OECD, 2013[40]). Schools may follow established planning approaches, such as the Deming Plan-Do-Check-Act (based on (Hofman, Dukstra and Hofman, 2005[69])):

  • The planning stage involves an analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT); setting of goals to support mission development; the setting of priorities; indicators to track progress; communication among team members; resource allocation.

  • The do stage involves implementation of the plan, ongoing communication with the aim of stimulating a professional culture and advancing the plan.

  • The check stage involves evaluation of progress toward goals, an analysis of staff and student satisfaction, reporting of results to the school community.

  • The act/adapt stage involves analysis of results and whether adjustments are needed to strengthen the plan. At this stage, the cycle begins again.

Schools will need to be careful to identify priorities that are achievable, and to be careful not to try to do everything at once. A systematic approach to planning and implementation will also support early successes. Follow-up on what has gone well and what has not and why can support development over time (Vanhoof and Van Petegem, 2012[70]). Scotland’s approach to continuous improvement could serve as a model for this plan (see Box 4.8).

Box 4.8. Scotland (United Kingdom): School self-evaluation and plans for improvement

In Scotland, schools take responsibility for the quality of the education they provide and must demonstrate that they are taking action for continuous improvement. The standards in Scotland's Schools Act 2000 require public schools to produce an annual self-evaluation report and a plan for improvement. The approach to self-evaluation and the effectiveness of the improvement process is one of the five quality indicators subject to external inspection by Education Scotland.

In evaluating their own work, schools are supported and challenged by their local education authorities. The self-evaluation report and a plan for improvement completed by schools are analysed by local authority staff, which seek clarification to ensure schools continue to improve. Schools who require additional support to improve will work closely with local authority staff. All three actors (schools, local authorities and inspectors) use the same, shared criteria to identify strengths and areas for improvement, listed in the framework, "How good is our school" (DICE, 2015[71]; European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2015[72]).

The quality of the teaching and learning process is arguably at the heart of school improvement so observations of classroom teaching and learning should be a part of the SSE process. While this may be challenging in schools where there has not been a culture of collaboration focused on instructional development, effective and sustained training and evaluation tools may support this process. For example, the International Comparative Analysis of Learning and Teaching (ICALT) developed for external evaluators may also be used for internal peer observations. The tool allows reliable and valid observations of five classroom features which are positively correlated with student involvement, attitude, behaviour and attainment: efficient classroom management; safe and stimulating learning climate; clear instruction; adaptation of teaching and teaching-learning strategies (OECD, 2013[40]; Van de Grift, 2007[73]).

At the school level, plans for school self-evaluation may be complemented by capacity building for school staff to gather and interpret data, and over the long term, external school evaluation. While Greece has indicated its preference to avoid ranking and comparison of schools, a more fully-developed system of school evaluation seems preferable. External evaluators can provide an objective view of school performance, and can develop a well-rounded view of the strengths and challenges of a school. They can also share insights from other schools that have addressed similar challenges.

Luxembourg has recently introduced internal evaluation structures and processes to provide support as needed in schools. These processes are described in detail in Box 4.9.

Box 4.9. Luxembourg: School self-evaluation to drive improvement

Luxembourg emphasises school self-evaluation (SSE) as a means of improving the quality of schools. In 2009, the Agency for the Development of School Quality (ADQS) was created within the Ministry of Education, Children and Youth (MENJE) to offer methodological and evidence-based support to help schools improve their quality. This SSE approach, based on national guidelines and templates, involves an initial analysis of the school context, strengths and weaknesses, after which priorities are identified, objectives defined and annual action plans drawn up and implemented. Progress and achievements are reviewed annually (DICE, 2015[71]; European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2015[72]).

All primary schools are legally required to draw up, implement and review the results of their three-year development plan. For primary schools, each school development plan should be based on a standard form available on the ADQS website. This requires a diagnosis of the schools' strengths and weaknesses according to a common methodology. Schools are encouraged to examine student performance results when examining their priorities for improvement. Beyond these requirements and recommendations, schools are free to choose how best to gather and analyse their data, as well as to define their priorities (DICE, 2015[71]; European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2015[72]) ADQS strongly recommends secondary schools to also create a three-year development likewise although this is not yet prescribed in law.

The goal of this internal evaluation is for the school itself, and results are intended solely for school improvement, not for external accountability purposes (DICE, 2015[71]).

Another example of co-operation between the central evaluation office and individual schools may be found in New Zealand. The Ministry’s Education Review Office (ERO) and individual schools have established strong cooperative relationships (Box 4.10)

Box 4.10. New Zealand: Self-review as centre piece of school evaluation

New Zealand’s approach to evaluation is collaborative, characterised by good levels of trust between schools and the Education Review Office (ERO). Schools and ERO work together to agree on a vision of the school that recognises its strengths and areas for ongoing development. In recent years, school self-review has become the centre piece of school evaluation. Schools have gained an increased responsibility for accountability while ERO provides an external validation of the process and focuses on building self-review capacity.

ERO and the Ministry of Education provide support for schools to conduct self-review. Since 2008, ERO has been leading the Building Capacity in Evaluation Project, seeking to build the capacity of ERO members, school leaders and Boards of Trustees. The Framework for School Review (Education Review Office, 2014[74]) distinguishes three types of self-review: strategic reviews that are long-term and evaluate the capacity of school to achieve its vision, regular reviews that are part of the schools’ ongoing monitoring process and emergent reviews that need to be put in place as a response to unplanned events or new initiatives. ERO’s guidance documents set success indicators, formative and summative tools for external evaluators that schools can benefit from to implement their own self-review processes. Workshops disseminate good practices, reassure staff, give schools access to tools to support self-review for improvement and accountability purposes.

ERO has been promoting self-reviews as habit embedded in teachers’ daily practices rather than an exceptional event. Self-reviews are conducted through a participatory approach that involves both teachers and students in the process. Teachers invite students to participate in the school evaluation and equip them with the knowledge and vocabulary on assessment and evaluation.

Sources: OECD (2013[40]), Synergies for Better Learning: An International Perspective on Evaluation and Assessment, OECD Publishing, Paris,; Education Review Office (2014[74]), Framework for School Reviews; Nusche, D. et al. (2012[75]), OECD Reviews of Evaluation and Assessment in Education: New Zealand 2011, OECD Publishing, Paris,

School principal appraisal

Developing a central appraisal framework for school principal appraisal may be an option in more centralised system, such as in Greece. This can ensure consistency and fairness, and that expectations for the process are shared. The framework should also leave a margin for adjustments to regional or local circumstances. To be effective, it needs to be embedded in the overall appraisal framework and build on its different components, especially aligning school principal appraisal to teacher appraisal and existing or planned school evaluation. Relevant examples of education systems that integrate or combine or align school and school principal appraisal include Portugal or Poland in Europe, or Australia and Ontario, Canada, in the wider OECD membership (OECD, 2013[40]).

Define the purposes of the appraisal

Defining and clarifying the purpose of the principal appraisal is key. School principal appraisal should be aligned to the overall educational goals of the system, and focused on leadership for improved teaching and learning in schools.

Appraisal can be used to identify the principal’s strengths and areas where improvements are needed, and to provide feedback. In selected countries, it is used to hold school principals accountable for their performance, and can inform career and employment decisions. This is the case in the Czech Republic, France, Poland, Portugal and Spain (some provinces), where summative appraisal is linked to performance incentives such as career advancement, and/or other rewards or consequences of underperformance (OECD, 2013[40]).

There is evidence pointing towards conflicts in combining formative and summative assessment into one evaluation process. Condon and Clifford (2012[76]) also point out that summative appraisal seeks to assess competencies without a vision for future development, while formative appraisal is oriented towards future actions and individual growth. The objective also changes the nature of the relationship between the people who do the evaluation and the school principals, and the information which may be presented, with more openness to appraisal if it is for improvement and more potential to influence practice. Indeed, as suggested in the OECD report, policy makers face the challenge of finding a balanced appraisal that ensures that principals receive feedback and support, but that they are also held accountable for the quality of their schools. Within these constraints, it is important to ensure that the system design does not undermine the process and objectives of school and educational improvement.

In studies of jurisdictions that have introduced appraisals, it was found that appraisal of school principals could provide the opportunity for reflection and growth (Anderson and Turnbull, 2016[77]; Parylo, 2012[78]). What is important to consider is how the evaluation system can contribute to improve the practice of school principals and how it is integrated within the broader evaluation and assessment framework.

Selected examples of a more comprehensive approach to school leadership policies and support can be found across OECD, including in Victoria, Australia, Ontario, Canada, and Poland or Portugal (OECD, 2013[40]).

In Poland, school evaluation and school principal appraisal processes are aligned as the results of school evaluations are also taken into account. In Portugal, appraisal has been introduced for principals, schools and school cluster directors, but it appears that the processes have shifted towards self-appraisal for each of these, accompanied by a five-year cycle of external appraisal.

It is also important to ensure that the objectives of the evaluation are clear and agreed among those participating. Research has found that evaluators and principals being appraised may have different conceptions of the objectives. Evaluators may perceive the process as more serving accountability purposes, while principals may consider it as supporting professional development purposes – or vice versa. Having clarity on the objectives that are agreed by all those involved is key for success (OECD, 2013[40]).

Tools and guidelines

There is clear evidence that good school leadership can directly contribute to improving school performance and student outcomes. Several select limited criteria in leadership appraisal can be core to this process. These include:

  • working with teachers and developing collaborative working environments in schools for effective teaching and learning

  • allowing for contextualisation, in relation to the particular goals or issues and challenges the individual school may face.

School principals are also key in school evaluation processes, as they are not only involved in but may well be the drivers of these processes. Leadership appraisal can also introduce aspects to support this practice as well as develop the skills to be able to respond to the results (OECD, 2013[40]).

Consider capacity, availability of information and frequency

To achieve success in the implementation of a school principal appraisal, the quality and capacity of the evaluators is paramount. In different countries, appraisals are undertaken by educational supervisors, inspectors, by “school improvement partners”, or by evaluation partners who are already part of the education system. At stake is their capacity to engage in evaluation – that is, their ability to gather and interpret the evaluation materials within the context of the principal and their school and to provide feedback in a way that contributes to their improvement. In Northern Ireland for example, school principals are evaluated by two reviewers from the school's Board of Governors, and are supported by External Advisors (OECD, 2013, p. 540[40]). The OECD report on evaluation and assessment frameworks suggests that building capacity for implementation at the local level requires finding the right partners to undertake the evaluation, and who have the trust of the professionals. Funding for targeted training and development for evaluators, the piloting of new systems, and the opportunities for evaluators to discuss and share experiences, as well as ongoing discussions to review and improve the system for effectiveness are also important.

One possible way for the Ministry to reassure those being appraised is to ensure that evaluators are themselves appraised. There are relevant examples from a range of countries which have internal appraisal of the inspection work in place. Internal evaluation of the inspectorate includes discussions on approaches and instruments within the inspectorate, often under the supervision of a co-ordinating inspector or a chief inspector. Data on the experiences of school managers or parents with the inspectorate can be systematically gathered, as is done in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. In the Czech Republic, after finalising the inspection report, the Czech School Inspectorate (ČŠI) Headquarters sends a questionnaire to the school heads in order to receive feedback on the work of the inspection in the school.

A separate unit within the inspectorate can be exclusively focused on the quality of the inspection work (Standaert, 2001[79]). In Scotland, an audit unit is responsible for evaluating the work of the inspectorate, including the results of the follow-up to the inspections, while a working group of inspectors is permanently engaged on the effectiveness of the guidelines (Standaert, 2001[79]).

Systematic evaluation of each inspector may be considered in Greece, following practice from several countries. In the Flemish Community of Belgium, each new member of the inspectorate has to complete a one-year trial period, which is round off by an evaluation carried out by the co-ordinating inspector. During the trial period, beginning inspectors are supported by a mentor and receive around 30 days of training focused on the core stages of an inspection and differentiated according to the level of education they will inspect, and which is tailored according to their personal development plan. Thereafter, each inspector receives is evaluated annually in the first three years of their career, and is evaluated at least every two years after that (European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2016[4]; Faubert, 2009[80]). The Department of Evaluation in the Swedish agency was evaluated in 2004, and the agency as a whole in 2005. Similarly, the Danish Evaluation Institute’s methods were evaluated in 2005 by Högskoleverket, a Swedish institution which usually evaluates the Swedish higher education sector (Faubert, 2009[80]).

In addition to the staff undertaking the evaluation, a set of materials and instruments needs to be made available to gauge performance. Using a mix of materials and tools can provide a fairer and more reliable picture of performance than just individual interviews, but this also depends on the availability of data at the school level. There is a need to identify and gather data with the necessary levels of fairness, reliability and validity. In some countries, school principal portfolios have been used, as they can present school principals’ views on their own performance. School documents can also be used, as well as interviews, and other materials including school plans, student outcomes and information related to the school environment. The standards can be used as self-evaluation tools for principals to reflect on their own practice, and can then be used to gather information and guide the evaluation process between evaluators and the school principals.

Finding the right frequency for the evaluation is a challenge. Across OECD countries, there is great variety (Pont, Nusche and Moorman, 2008[48]). In some education systems this happens annually, while in other countries it may range between every three to five years. The frequency is important in terms of the impact it may have on principals and on the system, and needs to take into consideration capacity, costs, contractual arrangements, and the sustainability of the process.

At the heart of the purpose of the appraisal is how the results will be used by the practitioners and the system – and their capacity to do so effectively. Many countries use the results to guide training and professional development, or to provide additional support to school principals in areas of need. It is important that the appraisal provides feedback which is of value for principals and which supports their own career development, as well as for the needs of the system more generally. In some systems, it may result in the development of improvement plans and the provision of support or training, in other systems it may result in contractual reconsideration or career progression. What is indicated as a result will act as the main incentive for how principals and evaluators engage in the process. A study of school principal appraisal systems in selected states in the United States found that principals reported that the system was fair, and had provided a common language for professional practice, set clear expectations for performance, and had been useful in informing professional practice and identifying areas for improvement (Anderson and Turnbull, 2016[77]). For this to happen, there needs to be solid investment in engaging with stakeholders, ensuring that it is fair, that there is enough capacity in the system to undertake the evaluation, that there are data, and that the purposes are clearly identified and valued by those who will need to engage in the process.

To conclude, there are three key issues in developing school principal appraisal:

  • Start by developing leadership standards or frameworks.

  • Focus the evaluation on the aspects that matter most for improving practice.

  • Reflect on, and clarify if necessary, the purposes of the evaluation with a focus on the future.

Whether for accountability or for improvement, how the appraisal is embedded or integrated into the broader evaluation processes needs to be articulated. This includes both school and teacher evaluation, as well as how the appraisal fits into the broader school leadership policy framework (Anderson and Turnbull, 2016[77]; OECD, 2013[40]; Pont, Nusche and Moorman, 2008[48]).

4.3.4. Develop a long-term strategy for an overall evaluation and assessment framework

To support school improvement and increase transparency, it is important to develop a long-term strategy to introduce an overall evaluation and assessment framework. This final recommendation goes beyond the specific remit for this report, which is focused on teacher professional, and evaluation for school and school principal improvement, to suggest the need for an overall evaluation and assessment framework. This more comprehensive approach to evaluation and assessment would underpin efforts to support teacher professionalism and the quality and equity of student outcomes across the education system. Moreover, in the context of the Greek economic crisis, well-designed evaluation and quality assurance in education can support reforms focused on improving efficiency and effectiveness.

Design of an overall evaluation and assessment framework that bring the different components together

Over the past two decades, OECD countries have developed a range of evaluation and assessment components for a range of purposes. Systems have been typically developed in piecemeal fashion, and subsequently countries have faced challenges in ensuring consistency and alignment across the different components (OECD, 2013[40]).

Table 4.2 outlines the features of an evaluation and assessment framework as developed in OECD’s review of evaluation and assessment frameworks across OECD countries (OECD, 2013[40]). It takes the view that the elements of any evaluation and assessment framework should reinforce and support each other, and that the primary focus should always be on improving student learning and well-being. An overall framework supports gathering of data to support a student learning, school improvement, school principal and teacher development, and system-level evaluation (see Table 4.2).

Table 4.2. Main features of an evaluation and assessment framework

A holistic approach

Engage stakeholders and practitioners in the design and implementation of evaluation and assessment policies.

Place the students at the centre of the evaluation and assessment framework.

Align the evaluation and assessment framework with educational goals and student learning objectives.

Establish articulations between components of the evaluation and assessment framework.

Sustain efforts to improve capacity for evaluation and assessment.

Students at the centre

Place the students at the centre of the evaluation and assessment framework.

Engage stakeholders and practitioners in the design and implementation of evaluation and assessment policies.

Draw on a variety of assessment types to obtain a rounded picture of student learning and well-being.

Maintain the centrality of teacher-based assessment and promote teacher professionalism.

Ensure the consistency of assessment and marking across schools.

Ensure a good balance between formative and summative assessment.

Ensure that student assessment is inclusive and responsive to different learner needs.

School evaluation to support improvement

Ensure the focus for school evaluation is the improvement of teaching, learning and student outcomes.

Develop nationally agreed criteria for school quality to guide school evaluation.

Raise the profile of school self-evaluation (SSE) and align external school evaluation with school SSE.

Evaluate and adapt external school evaluation to reflect the maturity of the school evaluation culture.

Strengthen school principals’ capacity to stimulate an effective SSE culture.

Promote the engagement of all school staff and students and other stakeholders in SSE.

Report a broad set of school performance measures with adequate contextual information.

School principal appraisal focused on whole- school improvement

Promote the effective appraisal of school principals within the broader assessment and evaluation framework.

Develop a common leadership framework or set of professional standards.

Promote the appraisal of whole-school leadership together with scope for local adaptation.

Build capacity for effective school principal appraisal.

Ensure school principal appraisal informs professional development.

Consider career advancement opportunities to reward successful school principals.

Teach e r appraisal to enhance professionalism

Establish teaching standards to guide teacher appraisal and professional development.

Establish periodic career-progression appraisal involving external evaluators.

Establish links between teacher appraisal and career advancement decisions.

Prepare teachers for appraisal processes and strengthen the capacity of school principals for teacher appraisal.

Consolidate regular developmental appraisal at the school level.

System evaluation to inform policies for system improvement

Ensure policy making is informed by high-quality measures, but not driven by their availability.

Develop a national education indicator framework and design a strategy to monitor student learning standards.

Ensure the collection of qualitative information on the education system.

Ensure collection of adequate contextual information to effectively monitor equity.

Establish and secure capacity for education system evaluation.

Strengthen analysis of education system evaluation results for planning and policy development.

Source: Adapted from OECD (2013[40]), Synergies for Better Learning: An International Perspective on Evaluation and Assessment, OECD Reviews of Evaluation and Assessment in Education,

Greece has the opportunity to design a coherent overall framework for evaluation and assessment. In this way, different components can be conceived as part of a holistic system. By taking this approach, it is possible to generate complementarities and to prevent inconsistencies across the system.

The elements of a coherent evaluation and assessment framework, as set out in Table 4.2 (OECD, 2013[40]) can be applied to the Greek context with the following considerations:

  • Student assessment: Student assessment may include national (full-cohort or sample-based) standardised assessments, with diagnostic and monitoring purposes, and externally based summative assessment, including for secondary education certification. At the school-level, classroom-based assessment provides information on student learning. It may include tests, student projects and activities, and may be formative or summative.

  • School evaluation (internal and external): External and school self-evaluation are the two main forms of evaluation. External evaluation is typically conducted by an external agency. It may involve a sequence of activities, beginning with school-level reflection and a visit by an external evaluator or team of evaluators, followed by a summative report that may be published and may require a follow-up process.

  • Teacher appraisal: Approaches vary considerably across countries but in addition to probationary appraisal, appraisals may also be: 1.) part of a performance management process, including regular appraisal to gain and maintain registration/accreditation to teach, and for promotion; and 2.) to identify a select number of high-performing teachers to reward and acknowledge their teaching competency and performance. These formal schemes are often complemented with more informal school-level practices of feedback to teachers (by school principals or through peer review).

  • School principal appraisal: Approaches vary considerably across countries but, in addition to probationary processes, they are typically part of the employer’s performance management processes with emphasis on administrative and pedagogical leadership.

  • System-level evaluation: Education system evaluation may involve: 1.) the monitoring of student outcomes at a given point in time, including disparities across regions or among student groups (e.g. by gender, socio-economic or immigrant background); 2.) trends in student learning; 3.) the monitoring of the impact of specific policy initiatives or programmes; 4.) the monitoring of demographic, administrative and contextual data; 5.) sharing of relevant information at different levels of the system; and 6.) the use of information generated for policy analysis, development and implementation.

A coherent framework incorporating these components can ensure that evaluation and assessment provide information needed at each level, and that they are aligned. For each component, different kinds of information are gathered and used to support different purposes. Ultimately, the components need to work together effectively to improve student outcomes.

4.3.5. Sequencing of the policy options

This chapter includes a set of recommendations for Greece to move forward with school improvement strategy, highlighting teacher professionalism, school evaluation, principal appraisal, and eventually, an overall assessment and evaluation framework. These require a long-term sequenced strategy that integrates and takes into account the different components. Figure 4.12 sets out a sequenced strategy for the introduction and development of evaluation for school and school leadership improvement.

Figure 4.12. Suggested steps for school improvement: A sequential approach

In Phase 1, it will be important to define competences teachers and school principals need throughout their careers, in line with the overall vision for education (see also Chapters 1 and 2), and objectives for teaching, learning and assessment. Stakeholder involvement will be important to ensure buy-in and support.

At this stage, it will also be important to consider how teachers are assigned to schools. As schools prepare for greater pedagogical autonomy, school principals should have the opportunity to communicate staffing needs to ensure that staff have a full complement of competencies needed, and that there is a fair balance of teachers with different experience levels. Teachers who are working in remote or disadvantaged schools have training needs.

In parallel, it will be important to also define what are the core elements of school effectiveness, what are the priorities for school self-evaluation, and what are the supporting structures and processes that will underpin evaluation. Plans for school self-evaluation may be further developed, including the definition of tools and assessments, which can then be piloted. In addition, specific standards for school principals can be developed which can then serve for their appraisal.

As part of the longer-term planning, it will be important to also define student learning outcomes aligned to the curricula, and to the vision and priorities for learning identified in the Preparatory Phase. It will also be important to strengthen classroom-based training for effective assessment. This will require training to support formative assessment practices (that is, the frequent assessment of student progress to identify learning needs and shape teaching) (OECD, 2005[81]). Some investments will need to be made to ensure consistency of teacher marking across schools. Surveys, research and engagement of stakeholders to define knowledge, skills, attitudes and teachers' need will also be important at this point.

In Phase 2, it will be important to use teacher competencies as part of the certification examination and to define career paths. Options for school-to-school collaboration, including through school clusters and teacher networks, should be explored. The objectives for effective inter-school collaboration should be clearly defined, and resources to support this work identified.

Approaches for teacher appraisal, beginning with a self- and peer-assessment are important. Feedback should target strengths and areas for individual improvement, and collective capacities for the school's staff. Given Greece’s negative history of teacher appraisal as an instrument to cut the workforce, it will be important to demonstrate the importance of feedback to support teacher professionalism and career growth and school improvement, and to ensure that weak teachers always are provided with necessary support to improve.

At this stage, earlier phases of the process should be evaluated, including school self-evaluation and school principal appraisal, and adjusted as appropriate. At this point, plans for development of an external agency for school evaluation may also be launched. The structures and processes should align with school self-evaluation. External evaluators will need to be trained, and to have tools and guidelines to ensure reliability and validity of evaluation.

In Phase 3, new options for teacher career development may be defined. This may include options for experienced teachers to expand their roles to include mentorship or roles as practitioner researchers or for school leadership. These new roles may require changes to employment legislation, and should be considered along with any changes based on recommendations of Chapter 2. It will also be time to review policies and implementation for new external evaluations and teacher competencies and to adjust as appropriate. It will be important to track student learning, and at this point, some type of national student assessments may be developed and piloted. Undertaking parent and student surveys regarding their views on the school may also be an option.

In Phase 4, it will be important for the government to analyse the results of school self-evaluation, strengthen its capacity to interpret the various elements of the evaluation and assessment framework and to adjust priorities and allocation of resources to better meet needs. Teacher competency models should also be reviewed to be sure they have been used effectively, and that they are aligned with curricula and evolving priorities.

Phase 5, the school system itself should be developing capacity to interpret the results of evaluation and assessment results and to adjust educational priorities and allocation of resources to meet identified needs. Throughout this process, it will be vital to keep attention focused on overall goals for education and learning that have been defined with stakeholders. The Ministry will need to engage stakeholders and to communicate the vision for educational development on an ongoing basis. At this point, a review of class size and teacher-student ratios should be implemented, taking into account the impact of demographic trends,

Ministry officials may wish to set out a more specific timeline for the introduction of each of these phases as well as detailed steps to be followed in each phase to ensure the overall objectives are attained. This would require:

  • the definition of objectives for each phase

  • the allocation of concrete responsibilities for carrying out the different objectives

  • the allocation of resources and funding for their implementation;

  • the definition of sustained training for those involved

  • the definition of the calendar.

Teachers and other stakeholders need to be engaged in the allocation of responsibilities throughout reforms, the definition of indicators to measure progress in implementation, as well as for evaluating the reform. This will both strengthen the quality of policy design and implementation, and support stronger buy-in in the challenging process of reform.


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← 1. A detailed description of the calculation can be found in Box B7.1 in the OECD Education at a Glance 2017 (OECD, 2017[5]). The analysis computes the differences in expenditure per student among countries and the OECD average, and then calculates the contribution of these different factors to the variation from the OECD average.