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Transforming schools: illusion or reality?

By Bernard Barker


This paper was published as School Leadership and Management, 2005, 25 (2), pp.99-116. It is available from http://tandfprod.literatumonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13632430500036215. DOI: 10.1080/13632430500036215This paper explores the claim that appropriately trained heads can motivate teachers and students to achieve challenging targets and transform the prospects of future generations. Theory derived from the leadership literature is tested against the experience of three headteachers in the field. Case study evidence is used to examine how Hillside School was improved. Applying recommended styles, the heads won the commitment of their colleagues and built the capacity for further progress, despite adverse circumstances that included social disadvantage. Although the ‘turn around’ was achieved quickly, the interpersonal styles adopted by the heads were only part of a leadership repertoire that included beliefs, values, professional knowledge and micro-politics. Variations in the combination of context, leaders and followers seem to have been more significant than the common elements emphasized by the school improvement literature and national training programmes. OfSTED reported that the school's effectiveness was greatly enhanced. Test and examination results were more or less unchanged, however, confirming recent studies that have found little evidence of leadership impact on student outcomes. This supports the suggestion that intake mix may influence results more than the organizational characteristics shaped by heads. The paper concludes that while leadership training may improve school climate, a transformation in performance is unlikely

Year: 2005
DOI identifier: 10.1080/13632430500036215
OAI identifier: oai:lra.le.ac.uk:2381/999
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