Positioning or positioned : teachers' perspectives on the leadership of sixth form colleges
The aim of this research was to explore the issue of leadership of Sixth Form Colleges (SFCs) from a Critical Theory perspective. SFCs have experienced rapid and wide ranging change since their removal from the aegis of Local Education Authorities (LEAs) in the early 1990s. SFCs exist as nominally autonomous institutions, funded by Government agencies competing in a marketised environment. It is within this context that Government has sought to propagate a view of leadership as being crucial to organisational effectiveness and responsiveness to local needs. Much of the literature published worldwide relates to leadership in schools. Although there has been a significant amount of research undertaken into the general Further Education (FE) and university sectors in the United Kingdom (UK), relatively little work has been undertaken in regard to the experiences of teachers in SFCs. The goal of this research was not only to gain a greater insight into the social reality of leadership, but also to arrive at a closer definition of what leadership means for SFCs as organisations. The research methodology chosen was a social-constructionist multi-site case study. The primary research method involved interviewing 20 teachers from four SFCs, three of which were close neighbours. Interviews were later supplemented by a brief survey of 40 teachers in 8 SFCs. In addition, documentary material produced by SFCs, Government and its executive agencies was analysed. The principal finding of the research was to challenge the term `leadership' as has been promoted by Central Government. The data obtained generated discussion on the role of the local Learning and Skills Councils (LSCs), the changing nature of educational provision and the position of teachers as professionals. The conclusions drawn from the research suggest that there is a need to reconsider what constitutes `leadership'. These findings also lead into a wider discussion about the impact of Postmodernism and whether we are witnessing new forms of organisation in the provision of education in the UK. Given the scope and rapidity of change, this work calls for institutional leaders to ensure that they engage in values-based leadership.