1. What is educational leadership?
Leadership is a complex matter: a plethora of publications have been written on the subject. From the outset it should be stated that there is no one right way of leading, and that there are no quick fixes or easy recipes for resolving educational leadership challenges.
This course introduces some of the academic tools and ideas that will support you to develop a critical perspective about approaches to leadership in your own context. We have all experienced the leadership of others in our professional and personal lives, and we will all have a view about which leadership actions, behaviours and strategies might be required in a given situation.
However, there can be confusion about what terms such as ‘leadership’, ‘leading’, ‘administration’ or ‘management’ can mean across organisations. Over time, the names of roles have evolved to reflect the amount of leadership expected. Schools use terms such as:
- ‘middle managers’
- ‘subject leaders’
- ‘leaders of learning’
- ‘senior management teams’
- ‘senior leadership teams’.
What is generally accepted is that:
- leadership is exercised by many professionals
- leadership tasks can be performed by many members of an organisation with and without positional authority.
Many roles are a combination of ‘leading’ and ‘managing’, and the emphasis will vary from person to person and from organisation to organisation. Leading has been described as working with people to change behaviours, attitudes and values, whilst managers are more likely to maintain the performance of people and systems. However, from an academic perspective, educational leadership and management remain as contested concepts!
Activity 1: Leadership and management
Consider the ‘leadership and management’ structures in an organisation that you are familiar with. Who appears to have leadership responsibility as part of their role and what evidence do you have to support this judgement?
Can you think of and list some examples of change within your school that are a direct or indirect result of leadership practice? Again, what evidence can you draw upon to support your views?
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Schools vary with respect to phase, size and location. However, within Wales the majority still have their own headteacher who will report and be accountable to the Governing Body; this person is likely to have a major view and influence on the leadership and management structures that exist.
The majority of headteachers will be non-teaching, although there are still small (often rural) schools, where headteachers with some teaching commitments will only have part of the week to exercise leadership and conduct management duties. There may well be other members of staff who have allocated time for delivering leadership and management responsibilities that see them with reduced teaching workloads. These decisions will be determined at the individual school level.
Schools should have clear, hierarchical leadership structures that might include deputy headteachers, assistant headteachers and chosen teaching and learning responsibilities (TLRs). The number of people involved in these formal and remunerated positions will depend on the size of the school and the chosen set-up that may have been influenced by previous headteachers and governing body decisions. Changing the structures can be quite difficult, for varying reasons, and there have been very few changes in the legislative and salaried approaches to middle management over the last fifty years. The last of these saw the introduction of TLRs in 2006 and these are available in bandings.
It is possible that headteacher’s reports to the Governing body will provide a level of detail about progress being made towards the School’s Development or Improvement Plan, and staff may well be named within this process. There might also be presentations from staff made to Governors that reflect upon leadership actions that have been taken and evaluated. However, the approach taken will vary from school to school. It is also possible that there will be examples of leadership from members of staff that do not have formal leadership positions. Schools will choose to distribute or delegate leadership in different ways and this may be influenced by the schools’ developmental agenda, the number of staff and the available budget.
There are times when school’s need to respond to changes in legislation and consider a new or evolving approach. This might be a change to GCSE requirements in a curriculum subject, which might see a small number of staff led by one person. However, with an example like the implementation of the Donaldson curriculum, there are likely to be many members of staff tasked with a leadership role and the impact of such a macro change will be felt across the entire school community.