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How can you systematically change the school culture?

Lead Change in Your School Culture

Oulu, Finland
This innovation allows you to transform the structures of leadership at your school and shift from a traditional power structure into a collaborative school culture.

What is it all about?

“Working long and hard has resulted in a school culture that increases the wellbeing of the entire community and its members. This has made individual growth possible.”

Pertti Parpala, principal, Ritaharju school

The world outside educational institutions is transforming from rigid hierarchies into global networks where the individual has more power and influence. Schools should mirror this change.

When communities shift from strict power structures to a culture of influencing and collaboration, everyone feels like they matter. Furthermore, a collaborative culture is key to learning and development. This new school culture also empowers the work community and may even increase wellbeing among the staff.

By investing in this seemingly slow process of transforming the school culture, you can reap the rewards far into the future. The lack of hierarchies creates an environment where innovations come from collaboration, real dialogue as well as a desire to grow as a person and a team. It also prepares students for tomorrow's labor market.

Changing the school culture involves managing various aspects of everyday school life. These include school values, the implementation of the curriculum, recognizing staff knowhow, the organization of the instruction and reconfiguring the school facilities.

Ritaharju school began to transform their school culture in 2008. The results of this systematic implementation work became visible after about three years. The school has seen the change especially in the interactions between people instead of individuals' thoughts and attitudes. Life throws new situations at you every day and it is important to face the situation at hand and recognize your actions and reactions.

These five steps introduce the aspects behind the transformation at Ritaharju school:

  • Framework for leadership
  • Values, vision ja strategy
  • Team culture
  • Managing knowhow    
  • Facilities and pedagogy

The steps describe each aspect in more detail and explain how they can be managed.

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Innovation Overview
Target Group
1 024
Tips for implementation
Financial resources and time for the key team, planning days, organizing potential visits, acquiring and reading professional literature as well as acquiring and organizing training, if necessary
Contact information
HundrED Review

No school can change without leadership and this innovation provides schools with functional instructions to completely transform the school culture.


Implementing a new school culture in a comprehensive way increases the sense of belonging and wellbeing in the whole school and dismantles obsolete hierarchies.


You can adopt this model to fit your resources and needs, but it requires time.


Achievements & Awards


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Inspired to implement this? Here's how...

Framework for leadership
Assess your current situation. The goal is to analyze all aspects concerning influencing, decision-making and collaboration and ultimately to recognize the available knowhow and processes, both the functional and dysfunctional ones.
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Values, vision and strategy
Define your school's values, vision, strategy and mission with the entire school community.
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Team culture
Discuss what the leading ideas guiding the teams are. Create a shared process model to diffuse potential conflicts and tensions.
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Managing knowhow
Recognize teachers' knowhow and how it can be utilized in the restructuring process. Furthermore plan together how the new school culture can support the teachers' self-improvement.
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Facilities and pedagogy
Learning environments play an important role in the change in school culture because facilities steer activities. Plan and construct new facilities based on the new school culture, where possible.
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