Understanding Educational Leadership: People, Power and Culture

By Hugh Busher | Go to book overview

3 Where power lies within
schools

Developing a political understanding of school
organizations

At the heart of everyday life in schools lies the interactions of people: teachers with students, teachers with teachers, teachers with parents, teachers with senior staff and vice versa. A political model of organizations offers a dynamic and negotiative framework for understanding these interactions whether they are in the realm of management, the realm of ideas, values and beliefs, or the realm of people's social and interpersonal needs (Duignan and McPherson 1992). Some effort has been made to chart this model (Ball 1987), by describing the ways in which actors engage with the social systems and structures (Giddens 1979) that surround them, and the ways that leaders and teachers in schools engage with each other (Hoyle 1986) to achieve policies and practices that are claimed to meet the needs of the students, at least in the view of the dominant people in the school, or in a department of a school if the analysis focuses on such a sub-unit. An analysis of micro-political processes views educational institutions as arenas of contestations of values, which guide the implementation of practices, through political negotiations and policy processes (Grace 1995) and offers a holistic explanation for the interactions of people in organizations (Ball 1989) not merely a top-down view as managerial discourses tend to do. In these interactions participants (senior staff, teachers, support staff, students, parents) are actors with their own interests and values that they want to see implemented in practice through the accession of adequate resources to them. Gaining access to these resources requires actors to use different sources of power (French and Raven 1968; Sergiovanni 1995) in support of their preferred goals. However, these are contested, as many actors want access to the same scarce resources for different goals, leading inevitably to some members of a school resisting the implementation of policies and practices proposed by others. In a political model this is perceived as a normally occurring aspect of social and organizational life (van der Westhuisen 1996) rather than an indication of pathological malaise.

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