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Trust into mistrust: the uncertain marriage between public and private sector practice for middle managers in educationThe role of the middle manager has proved to be a difficult one to define due to the fluid nature of the tasks performed and the heterogeneity of understanding that exists for the term. This is further complicated by the differences associated with the context in which individual manager’s work. This research, which explores the drive towards neo-liberalism and the subsequent adoption of leadership and management practice from the private sector, makes a comparison between the roles of managers in English education with those in other settings. Using a questionnaire with 252 responses and interviews with 6 managers in the private and public sector, the role of middle managers was compared to identify the similarities and differences between organisations driven by social policy as opposed to profit. Participants surveyed were based in primary, secondary and further education and the interview respondents were employed in non-education contexts. The findings suggest that the initial reforms, which required higher levels of accountability through the introduction of key performance indicators, appear to be fully embedded within the education manager’s role and there is a high degree of convergence in relation to the expectation of managers at this level in all the settings. The findings also highlighted a fundamental difference in relation to how middle managers were expected to carry out their duties, the autonomy they had to do so and the authority that was bestowed upon them.