Turbulence, Dilemmas and Leadership: A Case Study of an English School after Academisation

Prof Doc Thesis

Macklin, J. 2020. Turbulence, Dilemmas and Leadership: A Case Study of an English School after Academisation. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London School of Education and Communities https://doi.org/10.15123/uel.88379
AuthorsMacklin, J.
TypeProf Doc Thesis

This thesis uses critical incident technique (CIT) (Chell, 2004) in a qualitative case study to show the responses of leaders in an English secondary school when faced with dilemmas arising from a transition into a multi-academy trust (MAT). The use of CIT interviews allowed for school leaders self-identification of dilemmas they had encountered.
The case study school was transferred from local authority control to a local MAT because of a falling student roll and not because of a failed OfSTED inspection.

The study addresses how leaders in a mainstream school adapt to UK Government policy (The Academies Act, 2010) on academisation and the subsequent dilemmas this process creates. The aim is to identify the impact on school leaders of change into a school within a MAT. The study includes an analysis of school leaders as street-level bureaucrats and their use of discretion (Lipsky, 2010) to navigate leadership dilemmas.

The study addresses three research questions:
1. How do school leaders respond to turbulence and any subsequent dilemmas in the context of academisation?
2. To what extent are school leaders able to use discretion when dealing with dilemmas?
3. What patterns of school leadership are associated with school leaders’ responses to dilemmas?

This thesis reveals how an apparent consensus of organisational priorities (improving results through emphasis on teaching and learning) can mask an underlying ‘blindness’ to the perceived realities of groups and of the individuals within them who function as street-level bureaucrats (Lipsky, 2010). Thus, the normal and expected turbulence of a major transition may be exacerbated, rather than mitigated, by decisions taken by leaders, unaware of the at times restrictive impact on the discretional freedom of their subordinates. This has the inadvertent outcome of cascading turbulence and undermining the ethos of distributed leadership (DL). The result is that often leaders are functioning as managers operationalising the head teachers’ diktats rather than leaders demonstrating leadership.

PublisherUniversity of East London
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.15123/uel.88379
File Access Level
Publication dates
Online15 Jul 2020
Publication process dates
SubmittedOct 2019
Deposited15 Jul 2020
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