High-impact leaders

The featured research on high-impact leaders is part of a suite of funded projects currently underway. They include:

Project title: High-impact school leadership, relations and context

Chief Investigator: A/Prof Scott Eacott (UNSW)

Higher Degrees Researchers: Dean Findlay (EdD), Yun Yan (Grace) Ho (Research Intern)

Funding Source(s): TBC

Overview: The ranking of the Australian school education system is declining (Thomson et al., 2017; Thomson et al., 2017) and there are enduring inequities in outcomes based on socio-geographic context (Gonski et al., 2018; Halsey, 2018). The Australian Government is increasing education funding by 84.4 per cent, or $310.3 billion, however the OECD (2019) warns that increasing funding alone is not enough.

Leadership is a key lever for achieving maximum impact from schooling (Leithwood et al., 2019, Hattie, 2009). However, not all leadership practices are equal in improving outcomes (Robinson & Gray, 2019). In the absence of robust data reforms and interventions have been limited to one-size-fits-all approaches imported from ‘successful’ locations elsewhere. The failure of this approach to improve outcomes means the question of how to prepare, develop and support school leaders for high-impact remains one of fundamental significance internationally. 

Overcoming the evidence void is imperative for improving the quality of school leadership impact. This research project offers standards for high-impact (Eacott, 2019). An important empirical question is whether school leadership that approximates the standards of high-impact in context actually improves school performance. This project will provide robust empirical evidence to advance policy, practice and research to facilitate the concentration of reform efforts on key enablers that drive improvement in education outcomes.

Status: Ongoing

Outputs: Pending

Project title: High-impact leaders in regional, rural, remote education

Chief Investigators: A/Prof Scott Eacott (UNSW), Dr Richard Niesche (UNSW), Dr Tony Loughland (UNSW), Dr Tracy Durksen (UNSW), Dr Amanda Heffernan (Monash) & Dr Brad Gobby (Curtin)

Research Assistants: Cynthia Raffe

Higher Degree Researchers: n/a

Funding source(s): Australian Federal Department of Education ($88,000)

Overview: The key challenge for regional, rural and remote education is ensuring, regardless of location or circumstances, that every young person has access to high quality schooling and opportunities (Halsey, 2018). Ten per cent or 392,559 students attend schools in regional, rural and remote Australia. Ensuring a quality education for these students is important to improve not only educational outcomes but also health, employment, wages, social inclusion, and reduce crime, incarceration and teenage pregnancy.

Recent analysis by the Gonski Institute for Education shows that closing the human capital gap between urban (major city, inner regional) and regional, rural and remote Australia would increase nation’s GDP by 3.3 per cent, or $56 billion.4 That is larger than the contribution of the entire tourism industry. The Australian government has recognised this potential and budget estimates show an increase of 74.6 per cent in funding, from $3.9 billion to $6.8 billion in the period 2017-2027 to explicitly target improving education in regional, rural and remote locations. However, the OECD notes that increasing funding alone is not enough. What are required are targeted and tailored interventions to achieve maximum return on investment.

In the absence of such data, significant reforms and policy interventions have frequently been limited to financial incentives for staff and attempts to makes schools more like their urban peers. Given the limitations of these approaches, the question of how to improve regional, rural and remote education remains one of fundamental significance internationally. Most troubling is that for Governments there is a void of evidence for how best to achieve sustainable reform.

Building on the Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools (RAEEAS) and the Independent Review into Regional, Rural and Remote Education (IRRRRE), this project will deliver:
• A report on the leadership practices of high-impact school leaders, and the impact of school leadership on student outcomes;
• A series of case studies illustrating the practices of high-impact principals and school leaders across a range of contexts;
• A report on barriers and challenges of attracting and retaining high-impact school leaders and educators in regional, rural, remote and disadvantaged schools; and
• An analysis of the non-monetary incentives to attract and retain school leaders and teachers that could be applied in different contexts, with a particular focus of rural, regional, remote and disadvantaged schools.
To achieve the above, the project design is based on two, inter-related, themes: i) High impact school leadership; and ii) Attracting and retaining high-impact leaders and educators.

Status: ongoing (2019)

Outputs: pending