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Title: Raising the curtain on relations of power in a Maltese school network
Author: Mifsud, Denise
ISNI:       0000 0004 5347 1578
Awarding Body: University of Stirling
Current Institution: University of Stirling
Date of Award: 2014
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This study concerns school reform in Malta. Under the policy framework ‘For All Children to Succeed’ (Ministry of Education, Youth & Employment, 2005) [henceforth referred to as FACT], Maltese state schools embarked on the process of being organized into networks called ‘colleges’. These consisted of primary and secondary schools according to geographical location, under the leadership of the Principal – a newly-designated role hierarchically above that of the individual Heads of School. The purpose of my research is to explore relations of power in a Maltese college. My study gives prominence to both theory and methodology. The theoretical research question investigates how networking unfolds among the various leadership hierarchies in school governance in a Maltese college. This is explored through the performance of policy-mandated collegiality; the circulating relations of power; and leadership distribution. My study is framed within a postmodern paradigm and adopts a Foucauldian theoretical framework, more specifically his concepts of power, discipline, governmentality, discourse, and subjectification. Data for my case study are collected through semi-structured, in-depth interviews; observation of a Council of Heads meeting; and a documentary analysis of FACT. Narrative is not only the phenomenon under exploration, but also the method of analysis, and mode of representation. Thus, I attempt to answer my methodological research question that investigates the ways a researcher negotiates the methodological tensions and contradictions in the conduct of qualitative inquiry in order to construct knowledge differently. The Maltese college is viewed as a surveillance mechanism by both the Principal and the Heads, with collegiality being regarded as a straitjacket imposed by the State through a policy mandate. However, there is unanimous agreement on conscription being the only way forward for Maltese state schools. Different degrees of ‘support’ and empowerment exist, according to the directives of the Principal and the State. College setup is problematized on geographical clustering and college streaming, due to which it may end up defying the primary aim of networking by clustering students from particular areas in isolation, resulting in social injustice and educational inequality. This study exposes a strong sense of sectoral isolation among the Heads – a situation being mirrored at macro-level with very few opportunities for inter-networking among colleges. There is an asymmetrical power flow among the college schools, both within the same level and across different levels. Despite the policy FACT mandating distributed leadership, hierarchical forms of accountability are still inherent within the system, bringing out a tension between autonomy and centralization.
Supervisor: Watson, Cate; Fox, Alison Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: autonomy ; collegiality ; crisis of representation ; decentralization ; distributed leadership ; Foucauldian theory ; narrative dramatization ; relations of power ; school networks ; writing process ; Education Malta ; School management and organization Malta ; School management and organization Decision making