Primary Headteachers: new leadership roles inside and outside the school

Robinson, Susan (2009) Primary Headteachers: new leadership roles inside and outside the school. Doctoral thesis, Birmingham City University.


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This thesis is the result of an investigation into the issues impacting on the role of the primary headteacher. The research is framed within the calls in the early years of the 21 st century to redesign the school system leading to a degree of earned autonomy and new roles for headteachers.

The theme underpinning educational policy was that transformational and systemic change was identified as necessary due to:
• The 'standards' plateau at the end of KS2.
• The need to provide a suitable workforce for the knowledge economy.
• The problem of succession management caused by the retirement of the 'baby boomer' generation and a reluctance of aspirant leaders to apply for headship.

Calls for system redesign were partly predicated on recognition of the importance of the role of the headteacher in leading and delivering the reforms in schools. This has led to changes in the role of the headteacher. Themes underpinning that change were:
• The opportunities for new internal and external roles.
• The leadership skills and practice required to manage change effectively.

The research design is qualitative involving semi-structured interviews of21 primary headteachers, over two rounds of interviews from 2005-2008. The headteachers from nine different Local Authorities and different contexts were purposively sampled because of their validation as very good, excellent or outstanding leaders in their latest Ofsted inspections. In the second round heads were also sampled for the degree to which they had a new internal or external role.

My research suggests that government policy has led to opportunities imposed on or offered to headteachers to undertake new roles. New internal roles include co-leadership and managing a children's centre on site and external roles include system leadership such as the roles of National Leader of Education and other forms of executive headship, and School Improvement Partner and Consultant Leader. In addition there are other extemalleadership roles in networks and with non government departmental agencies.

System redesign has led to new roles for other staff and new ways of working in order for the headteachers to build the capacity in their schools to manage their new roles. However they can only do this while maintaining their Ofsted rating as effective leaders and so the impact of accountability and performativity is crucial. This leads to a managed compliance to the educational policy agenda for accountability made more critical due to the increased public reputation they experience. Despite this there is evidence of courage to lead particularly in those areas which have not yet been incorporated into governmental micro-management within the school system. My results consider implications for the system as a whole and in particular with regards to system leadership.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
May 2009Completed
Subjects: CAH22 - education and teaching > CAH22-01 - education and teaching > CAH22-01-01 - education
Divisions: Faculty of Health, Education and Life Sciences > Centre for Study of Practice and Culture in Education (C-SPACE)
Doctoral Research College > Doctoral Theses Collection
Depositing User: Richard Birley
Date Deposited: 19 Jul 2017 13:17
Last Modified: 03 Mar 2022 17:02

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