Primary School Leadership in Context: Leading Small, Medium, and Large Sized Schools

Primary School Leadership in Context: Leading Small, Medium, and Large Sized Schools

Primary School Leadership in Context: Leading Small, Medium, and Large Sized Schools

Primary School Leadership in Context: Leading Small, Medium, and Large Sized Schools


How does school leadership differ in different sized primary schools? This book responds to the urgent need to explore how different contexts influence the nature and character of primary school leadership and shows how headteachers in different sized schools shape their leadership accordingly. Geoff Southworth draws on a trilogy of related research projects, which investigated leadership in small, medium and large sized primary schools, and sets out the main features of leadership in each category. He presents an evidence-informed portrait of leadership is presented, drawing on the views and experiences of heads, deputies, teachers and governors. As well as focussing on school size the book considers the following related issues: * Learning centred leadership - influencing what happens in classrooms * Structures and systems in schools - how leaders use them * Developing leaders and leadership - the importance of building leadership capacity This informative book sets out in a straightforward way what leaders in different sized schools need to attend to and provides many examples of how leaders can do this. Primary School Leadership in Context will be particularly valuable to headteachers, deputies and subject leaders in primary schools, those who aspire to these positions, and those who are moving schools in search of promotion. Academics and students of school leadership will also find the book useful.



What we know about school size and leadership

This chapter focuses on four issues. In the first section I explain why context is important for school leadership. In the second, I argue that school size is a significant but ill-defined contextual issue. In the third, I set out the trends in primary school sizes in recent years before moving on to the fourth section, where I report what the literature has to say about schools of different sizes and leadership in them.

Context matters

Research into leadership generally and school leadership in particular shows that context matters. On the face of it this seems an obvious point to make: plainly, where you are has a very important effect on what you do. On closer analysis, however, this idea contains many more subtle aspects.

If we take context to mean the school you work in, then clearly the features and factors that go to make up each and every school will have a part to play in shaping what leaders do. For example, if you are a head, deputy or subject leader in a school where the staff work well together, trust one another and support one another, this will have a bearing on how you operate. By contrast, if the staff do not work together at all, do not share and are forever criticising and attacking one another in public, then this too will shape what the leaders do.

Context is thus about understanding the culture of the school: that is, the way things are done in a particular school. However, it also involves many other factors. The school's performance levels are very important: to be a leader in a school which the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED) deems to be poor and classes as being in 'special measures' or as having 'severe weaknesses' will dramatically influence the priorities set by that school's leaders. On the other hand, in high-performing schools leaders may have very different priorities. In both contexts 'improvement' will be a prime objective, but the nature of the task involved and the roles the leaders need to play will differ. Thus the school as a contextual setting for leadership affects what its leaders focus on and how they discharge their responsibilities.

Yet context is about more than school culture and performance levels. The school's image and reputation, its community links, the school governors' roles,

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