Individual Schools, Unique Solutions: Tailoring Management Techniques for School Leadership

By Adrian Raynor | Go to book overview

Chapter 4

Chaos and emergence

In this chapter I want to show how some of the understandings of complexity science can help us to understand the processes occurring in school. We will look at events in three schools, drawn from my own research, over a period of time from the arrival of a new head. I believe that this longer-term view enables us to see some of the complexity concepts in action. For example, they show that outcomes are generally co-determined by the effects of several mechanisms, and the way new forms emerge through self-organisation at the edge of chaos. The main description will concentrate on Beldene Secondary School, with shorter supportive descriptions from the other two, Enderby and Thornwood. This is for brevity, since similar overall processes can be seen in each, and may be summarised as shown in Figure 4.1.


Beldene secondary school

Beldene was a large secondary school with approximately 1,500 students, 90 staff and a range of administrative and support staff, and was a school that was performing well in terms of national examination results. John had been head there for eight years.


Antecedent conditions

Before John came, the school had been led for a number of years by a head who had been at the school a long time and 'risen through the ranks'. Everybody knew everybody, and had generally worked together for a long time. This, John felt, meant life for staff was reassuring. Local inspectors had told him that the school was declining and stagnating, with people having been a long time in post. In short, they felt it 'needed a shake-up'.

Figure 4.1 The process of emergence

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Individual Schools, Unique Solutions: Tailoring Management Techniques for School Leadership
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Figures and Tables vii
  • Foreword ix
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter 1 - In the Mind 3
  • Chapter 2 - The Illusion of Rationality 16
  • Chapter 3 - The Illusion of Control 34
  • Chapter 4 - Chaos and Emergence 52
  • Chapter 5 - The Art of Juggling 71
  • Chapter 6 - The Art of Steering 90
  • Chapter 7 - Be a Paradoxical Leader 103
  • Chapter 8 - Cultivate Effective Relationships 120
  • Chapter 9 - Develop Sustainable Strategic Fitness 137
  • Chapter 10 - Manage for Creativity 155
  • Chapter 11 - Value Your Intuition 168
  • Appendix 185
  • Bibliography 187
  • Index 193
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