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Title: Primary schools facing challenging circumstances : effective leadership and the potential contribution of complexity theory
Author: Harcourt-Heath, Michèle Jean
Awarding Body: University of East Anglia
Current Institution: University of East Anglia
Date of Award: 2013
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Schools operate in a multitude of different contexts, with some facing more difficult situations than others. The central question this research seeks to investigate is, ‘What happens in primary schools facing challenging circumstances that results in their improvement or decline?’ It reports on a study of three English primary schools either subject to an Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education) improvement category following inspection and/or coping without a permanent headteacher or with a school merger. It seeks to explore the existence of common factors across the different circumstances and examines the leadership characteristics associated with improvement or decline. Each of the case study schools is also examined more holistically through a complexity theory lens to determine the extent to which this view might add to current understanding. The study is unusual in that, in the past, researchers have found it difficult to gain access to such sensitive contexts. The researcher in this case was seconded to the leadership team within one of the case study schools for six months and used a journal as well as participant observation and interviews to gather data. Existing literature identifies circumstances deemed to be challenging and explores a range of aspects of leadership including the difficulties associated with it. This research identifies common themes in primary schools facing challenging circumstances, with a particular focus on leadership, and explores further the links between them, the networks they create and the contribution that these combinations might make to improvement or decline. The original contribution made by this research is to establish complexity theory as a useful approach in examining the nexus between school leadership and primary schools facing challenging circumstances, including a proposition for representing these complex school systems. It seeks to support identification of early indicators of a range of problematic circumstances (pressure nodes) and those factors potentially enabling improvement (building nodes), through the creation of network maps.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available