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

By Geoff Southworth | Go to book overview

4

Leadership in large primary schools

This chapter focuses on leadership and management in large primary schools. It draws upon research conducted into large and very large schools. The chapter begins with an outline of the aims and methods of the research. The next section presents the head teachers' views, looking at what they think it is like to lead a large school, the advantages and disadvantages of large schools, the characteristics of successful leaders, management structures and management development. The third reports on the deputy heads' views, and these largely parallel the issues in the heads' section. These findings are then discussed in the next section, before I set out my conclusions about leading large primary schools.


Aims and methods

The need to study leadership in large primary schools - that is, schools with over 400 pupils on roll - arose from the fact that primary schools are increasing in size, as was noted in Chapter 1. The increases are occurring particularly in terms of large primary schools. To emphasise this point Table 4.1 highlights the increase in number of large primary schools.

The DfES statistics also show that leaders in large primary schools are now responsible for the education of about one in five of all pupils in primary schools.

What is also important about these statistics is the fact that there is now a relatively new group of primary schools emerging. As argued in Chapter 1, whereas once a school with over 400 pupils on roll was considered big, today such schools remain comparatively large; but the biggest schools are now those with over 600 children. The current trend, set out in Table 4.1, shows that there is a new group of very large schools developing. Indeed, this group of very large primary schools (n = 148 in 2001) are as large or larger than half of all secondary schools. Yet no specific attention has been paid to the particular development needs of the heads and deputies who lead these primary schools.

Having identified this trend I developed a proposal, with Dick Weindling as co-director, to research this group of very large schools (601-plus pupils) and then to compare our findings with those for large primary schools (401-plus pupils). The Esmée Fairbairn Foundation understood the need for the research and generously funded our two-year project.

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