Leadership in Small Primary Schools: The Headteacher's Perspective
Robinson, Janet Kathleen
The aim of this research is to identify and scrutinise current aspects of leadership in small primary schools in order to generate a new context-appropriate model of headship. The research is an in-depth study of leading the small primary school from the perspective of headteachers. There is a dearth of literature concerning leadership that is specific to small primary schools, so this research has accordingly significantly enhanced that body of knowledge. It is also timely as the newly-appointed Government is reviewing the resourcing and management of schools in England. This study has drawn on the descriptive and interpretive aspects of a case study of all the small primary schools in one Local Authority. The resulting response sample was twenty-six headteachers. The study has identified possible changes to enhance educational policy at three levels: school, Local Authority and Central Government. The research is characteristic of the realist tradition, generating rich, qualitative data which have been gathered through the use of interviews, questionnaires, Ofsted reports and ‘naturally occurring’ material. The research identified that the leadership structure in small primary schools is of a flatter and more interlocking nature rather than having a hierarchy of leaders. The headteachers used a combination of leadership styles in order to share the leadership with other members of staff. Headteachers had a multi-faceted role which included a range of both leadership and management activities, and also retained a teaching role. These features of small school headships made them ‘first among equals’ (Ironside and Seifert, 1995) rather than elevated CEOs. A new model of Leadership in Small Primary Schools has been developed which arises from the identified needs of these headteachers with regards to the perceived deficits in training, support and expected school performance and targets. This is relevant not only to all headteachers of small primary schools but also, in particular, to policymakers and educationalists in England at a point when there is an increasing loss of headteachers to retirement and an extreme shortage of applicants for these vacant posts.