Case Study: School Co-Leadership
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Case Study: School Co-Leadership

Daniela Schädeli

I completed my training as a primary teacher and then taught part-time in a class from 5th to 9th grade. I mainly worked as a video journalist and editor for television. After a stay abroad in Thailand and the birth of our two sons, I worked part-time as a teacher for technical and textile design. In 2014 I started my current job as a school principal at the primary school and the region for integration and special needs in Unterlangenegg (BE). At this time I began also the MAS in educational management of the PHBern, which I graduate in November 2019. I discovered my interest in scientific topics by reading specialist literature, which is why I started in autumn 2018 studying for a Master’s degree in Educational Sciences at the University of Fribourg.

Introduction: School Co-Leadership

Most of the schools in Switzerland are led by single school principals or in a hierarchical model in which a “Head Principal” works with subordinate “Vice-” or “Assistant-Principals.” A second, more innovative model has more than one individual leading the school in a team fashion. This type of co-leading is attractive to people who want to work collaboratively, who might want to work part-time, and who want to share the complex and demanding responsibilities and decision-making of a school principal in the current challenging educational landscape.

How to learn from this case study?

Potential overall critical thinking questions:

  1. How can principals be prepared for co-leadership?
  2. How can co-leading be explained to teachers, community members and parents?
  3. In what ways can co-leading enhance reflective practice?
  4. How can co-leading be a model for professional learning communities/communities of practice?


Suggested class activities (pre-, during-, or post-class):

  1. The participants of the class could reflect on what they think is important about working in a team. This could be a written or verbal exercise.
  2. The participants could imagine how they would organize their job when sharing it with someone else.
  3. The participants could discuss what they have heard before about co-leadership, or working as a team in general, citing mutual advantages and disadvantages.
  4. The participants write or discuss responses to scholarly articles, policies, empirical evidence or other materials.

Related Video

Power of Cooperative Decision Making

Division of Responsibilities

How are Conflicts Resolved?

Principal as Team Leader



Switzerland is a federal state: power is divided between the Confederation, the 26 cantons and around 2250 municipalities. The Federal Constitution has defined the tasks of the Confederation since 1848. “The cantons implement the federal guidelines but organize their activities according to their own needs. They have a considerable freedom for action in areas such as schools, hospitals, culture and the police” (cf. Swiss Federal Chancellery, 2019, p.13).

Cantonal (Bern)

After the canton of Zurich, the canton of Bern is the second largest Swiss canton in terms of population. The Canton of Bern has approximately 1 million inhabitants (as of 31.12.2017) living in 351 municipalities (Justice, Municipal and Church Directorate, 2017).

According to the “Database on schools in the municipalities,” there are 469 school organisation units (SOE = Schulorganisationseinheit) in the Canton of Bern. An SOE designates an entire school or a part of a school, e.g. a school building or a region for special measures, which as a unit is financially and organisationally distinguished from other units.

Local/Community (for example, Roggwil)

The school is jointly funded by the canton and the municipality. The costs and supervision are shared. The canton is in contact with the municipal authorities and the school management mainly via the regional school inspectorates. Each year, at the request of the school management and the municipal authorities, they award a certain number of lessons, which depend on the number of pupils and finally determine the number of teachers and the school management to be employed. The employment percentages for school principals are reported separately for each SOE.

Larger communities sometimes have several SOE per community. This is a strategic decision whether to merge the SOEs that function individually.

For more detailed information on school leadership in Switzerland see the following:


School Governance in Switzerland: Tensions between New Roles and Old Traditions

Huber, S. G. (2011). School Governance in Switzerland: Tensions between New Roles and Old Traditions. Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 469-485.


This article analyses school governance in Switzerland. It elaborates on the different actors involved, their roles and functions, and how these change as school governance in the cantons changes. Quality management is identified as a core activity at all levels and for all actors involved in school governance. In these re-structuring processes, various conflicts and tensions between and within groups of actors become evident. In particular, the governing body experiences an overlap of its tasks with those of other actors. Models to modify the roles and functions of the school governing body on the meso-level are discussed as it becomes clear that all the other actors at both macro- and micro- levels are professionalizing and becoming more differentiated in their functions.

Comparative Perspectives on International School Leadership


The Swiss case study traces the development of a new education law primarily in the Canton of Zürich which dictate the installation of schulleiters (school leaders) for the first time there, as Swiss schools had previously not had this type of in-house leader (in the sense of the American “school principal” or in other countries the “school director” or “headteacher”). In addition to revealing a convergence of ideas at the policy level, in which theoretical notions from the United States and New Zealand “traveled” to Switzerland via Swiss university faculty members and policymakers, the study examines the development of leadership preparation programs and current successes and challenges faced by school principals who are implementing the new leadership policy. It suggests that local difference is critical to understanding how what looks similar in policy terms is actually quite unique in practice.

Policies regarding school leadership:

There are no policies guiding co-leadership in particular. However the following policies at the Cantonal and local levels describe the responsibilities of school leaders.

Policies in the Canton of Bern

This document (in English) summarizes the most important elements regarding school leadership in the ‘Volksschulgesetz’ (Elementary School Act): organization, school commissions, management, the role of the municipality, teacher recruitment and responsibilities.

Canton Bern: Elementary School Act (VSG/Volksschulgesetz) Organization and management of elementary schools

Policies for Primary School Roggwil

The documents collected here present policies and regulations implemented at the primary school in Roggwil, Bern, Switzerland, as exemplars of local school leadership regulations.

Funktionendiagramm Einwohnergemeinde Roggwil

Reglement über das Schulwesen

Verordnung über das Schulwesen

Scholarly articles and guidebooks regarding co-leadership

Wexler Eckman, E. (2018). A Case Study of the Implementation of the Co-Principal Leadership Model. Leadership and Policy in Schools 17(2), 189-203.


This case study followed the implementation of the co-principal leadership model in a K–8 school district for three years. A district superintendent implemented the co-principal model to (1) resolve issues around merging existing schools with well-established principals; (2) provide leadership stability and succession planning; and (3) serve as a model for shared decision-making and problem solving. This study combined research with practice by investigating the implementation of the co-principal model as experienced by individual co-principals. The complexities involved in transitioning from the solo principal model to the co-principal model in the schools of one district were evident in this case study.

A Case Study of the Implementation of the CoPrincipal Leadership Model 2018

PTO’s (“Part Time Optimisation”) Guidebook Jobsharing

This guidebook introduces the concepts of job-sharing, part-time employment and co-leading. It points out advantages and possible difficulties and gives concrete implementation ideas based on various models. It also advises on how to find the right partner to share a job and responsibility with as well as how to go separate ways if a job-sharing experience did not go as planned. It is an essential guide for everyone who wants to learn more about the fast-growing field of job-sharing in times where traditional work models are no longer compatible with the modern society.

2014 RATGEBER Jobsharing

Swiss Case Studies