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Supporting school leaders to improve foundational literacy and numeracy (FLN)

Lead FLN: Our guide for school leaders on supporting foundational learning

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Observing a language and numbers class, Telangana, India


Foundational literacy and numeracy (FLN) are essential for success in school and beyond. Children who acquire foundational skills are set up well to read, understand numbers, and access and enjoy everything that school has to offer. However, millions of children do not attain FLN at the right time. Without the basics of reading, writing, and maths—they fall further and further behind, with some children losing out on education altogether.

We believe that school leaders have an important role to play in supporting teachers to deliver high-quality FLN in their classrooms.

Currently, there is a large gap in what is needed regarding support for school leaders around FLN and what is provided. School leaders generally receive no training at all on FLN, yet we know that they can best support student outcomes through strong instructional leadership. To provide instructional leadership around foundational literacy and numeracy, school leaders must be able to create a vision for FLN, engage the community, coach teachers, use data, and more. 

How are we working with FLN

Lead FLN is our guide for school leaders on supporting foundational learning that attempts to fill the gap between the support that is needed and provided to school leaders. It is the first collection of evidence-informed FLN guidance made for school leaders in low- and middle-income countries.


Lead FLN provides the following guidance to school leaders.

  • An overview of what FLN is

  • How school leaders can support FLN programs

  • Ways school leaders can independently improve FLN 

We intend to contextualize Lead FLN to different education systems and situations.

The next steps for our work in FLN

There is limited evidence on the specific link between school leadership and FLN. We need to find out and share what works when engaging school leaders in improving FLN.

We will continue working towards this end through the following activities in the near future.

  • Improve the guidance in the current version of Lead FLN and develop the toolkit into a series of flexible, video-based learning modules.

  • Conduct a needs assessment of school leaders, schools, and FLN programs to develop the most relevant forms of professional learning.

  • Design, develop, and implement context-specific learning offerings for school leaders.

  • Research school leaders’ take-up of professional learning and the effects of these forms of support.

    For our learning offerings, we are considering methods for utilizing both digital learning tools and low-tech resources to meet the needs of various contexts. In our research, we will seek to answer questions such as: How well do school leaders take up professional learning? What is the impact of Lead FLN on students’ FLN outcomes? What school and system-level factors might support or impede school leaders’ engagement with the professional learning modules and with FLN itself?

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