Exploring the role of distributed leadership among senior leaders in two converted academies
new managerial pragmatism
Subject Categories::X330 Academic studies in Secondary Education
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AbstractOver the past nineteen years, many schools previously in Local Authority control in England have ‘converted’ to become academies. This study explored the role of distributed leadership (DL) among the senior leaders in two converted academies (CAs). Literature has shown that DL was a guiding philosophy in school leadership during the New Labour government. The study elicited the attitudes of school heads, heads of departments, heads of year, senior leaders, teachers and school governors towards the leadership approaches in a time of rapid change. It was concerned to understand whether or not there were differences in the models of leadership that were expressed and experienced by these teachers at these CAs. The research aims were in line with the research questions and the study addressed a gap in the knowledge because to date, there have been few detailed studies of academy leadership which have explored the perspectives of teachers and school leaders. The extent to which DL ideas and practices have survived the conversion of LA schools to academies has also been little explored. The study focused on two CAs. It employed a phenomenographic research approach to elicit and report the qualitatively different ways in which teachers experienced leadership at the CAs. A purposeful sample of five leaders from the first case study, and fourteen staff from different levels of leadership in the second case study were chosen to participate in this research. The findings showed that it was difficult to employ DL in academies which were run like businesses. However, DL was residing in specific people like the deputy head of the second case study who was committed to it and was trying to mediate between the HT and the staff. This means that there were some pockets of DL in these academies which otherwise were run very hierarchically because they adopted a ‘new managerial pragmatic approach’ due to pressure from the Department for Education (DfE) and Ofsted. This was a new policy-driven approach to leadership of academies and was one of the major contributions to knowledge. Although the academies were given the autonomy to run their schools, they were accountable to DfE and Ofsted which had some non-negotiable policies. Thus, their new-found autonomy was overshadowed by the new accountabilities. Furthermore, due to accountabilities to DfE and Ofsted the findings revealed that the HTs were aware of how precarious their jobs were, and as a result, they were reported to have employed top-down leadership styles which included ‘micromanagement’, ‘autocratic leadership’, ‘dictatorship’ and were risk averse in order to turn the school around. As a result of these leadership practices, the findings showed that it affected the teachers due to heavy workloads, and their work life balance was not considered. The study concludes that a lack of understanding of the type of leadership practices employed in academy conversion can lead to weaknesses in academy leadership not being recognised and the role that DL can play being ignored. The thesis argues that returning to DL models and implementing it in CAs may help resolve some of the challenges faced in academies leadership.
CitationJera, L. (2019) 'Exploring the Role of Distributed Leadership Among Senior Leaders in Two Converted Academies'. PhD thesis. University of Bedfordshire.
PublisherUniversity of Bedfordshire
TypeThesis or dissertation
DescriptionA thesis submitted to the University of Bedfordshire, in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
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