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Principals’ leadership and strategic planning in primary schools in Hong Kong and England: a comparison

By Les Bell and Daniel W. K. Chan


The strategic direction of much of education policy is frequently justified not as an end in itself,\ud but as a means to enhanced economic development leading to a more competitive economy,\ud greater productivity and increased wealth. At school level this leads to an emphasis on target\ud driven pupil performance and the utilisation of strategic planning, often in the form of school\ud development planning, as the main mechanism for holding schools to account for their overall\ud performance. This paper explores the consequences of such policies and practices on primary\ud schools in England and Hong Kong and, in particular, the role of school principals in the planning\ud process. The paper analyses how far primary school principals in England and Hong Kong adopt a\ud strategic approach to development planning in their schools and to what extent they seek to\ud modify both the process and the outcomes. It is recognised that school development planning is\ud only one of a number of forms of planning in schools. Furthermore, as MacGilchrist et al (1995)\ud point out, not all development planning is strategic in any real sense. Nevertheless, the purpose of\ud school development planning as conceptualised in policy is to define the strategic direction of\ud each school within a national policy context. School development planning, therefore, is\ud presented in this paper as an important example of school level strategic planning in England and\ud Hong Kong.\ud It should be recognised from the outset, however, that there are some significant differences\ud between primary schools in Hong Kong and England. Schools in England have fewer pupils than\ud those in Hong Kong schools. The English primary schools in this study cater for 200 to 380 pupils\ud age 7 to 11, while primary schools in Hong Kong admit about 1,000 pupils from age 6 to 12. On the\ud other hand, the English schools’ campuses occupy a much larger area than those of Hong Kong\ud schools. Thus, English primary schools are much better able to cope with the demands of inclusive\ud education and individualized learning than are their Hong Kong counterparts. Size also matters\ud because of the differences in span of control and the ‘Power Distance Index’ (Hofstede 1991). In\ud small English primary schools most principals can all call every pupil by name and are able to\ud work with smaller numbers of staff. Hence, the principal’s influence in England seems to be more\ud immediate than in it is in Hong Kong since these school principals seem to have a ‘span of control’\ud that is about three times larger than that in English schools for staff (teaching and non-teaching),\ud pupils and parents, it is inevitably that they need to spend more time on administrative work.\ud However, creating non-contact time for planning and curriculum development in English\ud primary schools is difficult. Hong Kong teachers have an average of three to five hours a week of\ud non-contact time, far more than their English counterparts

Topics: X320 Academic studies in Primary Education, N211 Strategic Management
Year: 2005
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