Next April I will be one of three international keynotes at the Edu-Lead Research Group (North-West University, South Africa) conference. The other two are Petros Pashiardis (Open University, Cyprus) and Stephen Huber (University of Teacher Education, Central Switzerland).
The conference is entitled ‘Lead, manage and govern in a diverse and complex context towards quality education for all’. The challenge to be debated by keynotes and participants is:
Does leadership matter more in underperforming school context than in performing schools?
For those who know my work, particularly my more recent stuff, this question is not my usual location. Therefore, between now and then, I am going to test out some ideas through this blog.
My initial thoughts are that ‘leadership’ is so inter-connected in our understanding of organisation performance that they are almost one and the same. I have taken this up previously here and here. What this means is that we equate ‘leadership’ with high performing organisations. It is constructed as the difference between high and low performing organisations. Therefore, while high performing organisations are perceived to possess ‘leadership’, it is seen as absent in lower performing organisations.
The result, ‘leadership’ by its very construction is not as evident in ‘underperforming’ schools (yet another example where the criteria makes the decision prior to any analysis) as it is in high performing ones.
Is ‘leadership’ more important in ‘underperforming’ schools? Under current usage of the term, I say yes. Does this mean we need to accept this- absolutely not. There is a need to problematize ‘leadership’, ‘performance’, ‘organisations / schools’. In short, there is a lot of the focus topic that needs to be serious engaged with if we are to understand what it means to be ‘performing’, ‘underperforming’ and of course what is ‘leadership’ and its role in the debate.
Given the centrality of ‘leadership’ and school ‘performance’ in education policy debates globally, and the lived experience of individuals within schooling, this is an interesting and important debate to have.