Although much research has focussed on how various educational policy initiatives have attempted to improve problems of social exclusion, little research has systematically examined, categorised and synthesised the types of leadership in schools that might assist improving social inclusion. Given the importance of school leadership in New Labour educational policy for bringing about education change and improvement, it seems rather strange that this is the case. This article attempts to set out an analytical framework for undertaking such research by exploring the various links between social inclusion, educational policy and school leadership. At one level the framework develops questions about the nature of the conceptualisations of social inclusion that educational policy, schools and its leaders might have, and in particular what knowledge and view of equity might be privileged by such conceptualisations. The framework then suggests the need for a school leader's perspective on social inclusion to be examined in relation to three suggested leadership rationales that emanate from both policy and practice on school leadership - delivery focussed, localising and democratising. Finally the framework argues for a need to understand the narratives adopted by school leaders in pursuing particular leadership rationales vis-a-vis social inclusion. By charting the various educational policies and practices that are theoretically and empirically possible with regard to school leadership and social inclusion, we suggest the framework might enable policymakers and practitioners to develop an educational theory of change on social inclusion that both explicitly and critically explains and justifies the position being taken at any particular time. © 2008 Taylor & Francis.