This book began as part of a modernist project to consider and refine how schools could be developed to create positive cultures that would foster successful learning through the support of exciting teaching and enthusiastic teachers. However, fascination with the political processes of bringing about change in schools, and the chance remark of a teacher, once a student and then a co-researcher of the author – oh, the poli-tics of this place! – have led to the project taking on a distinctly critical and post-structuralist hue that not only questions the ways in which power flows around schools but also the values attached to it by people trying to access and use it to achieve their agenda, whether for what they claim are altruistic purposes or for reasonable self-interest.
This focus on power, its uses and projection and the values and purposes for which it is used, stands at the core of this book as it attempts to balance modernist and critical agenda by considering how leaders at all levels in schools – from the most senior manager to the classroom teacher – negotiate and work with their colleagues, students and their parents and carers, as well as with external agencies and the local social communities in which a school's students live, to construct, sustain and improve successful learning and promote a sense of community among the students and staff who are members of a school. The book's conceptual framework is drawn from a literature on the nature of leadership, especially distributed and teacher leadership, education management, school improvement and the construction of collaborative work groups, and on critical perspectives of the micro-political processes of change and the relationship of people in school communities or organizations to their social, economic and policy contexts.