School leadership: an examination of the role of the Irish primary school principal in a period of change and rationalisation
Thesis or dissertation
- © 2006 Michael Crowley. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.
This thesis is set against a backdrop of major rationalisation in primary education in the Republic of Ireland which has heralded unprecedented change in the working lives of primary school principals.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that the role of the primary principal, framed as it currently is in a historical context that, arguably, limits its potential, is becoming an unattractive one due to sustained societal, curricular and educational expectations. Principals may be coping with change, but, it is clearly not managed change and increasingly their frustrations at not being able to achieve professional selfactualisation in their careers are becoming evident.
Therefore, the purpose of this thesis is to gather evidence in support of better working conditions for the Irish primary principal and, it remains the opinion of the researcher that, unless proper training and supports are offered, the latent leadership potential within our schools will remain untapped. This would be unfortunate as leadership may well be the single most important element in school effectiveness in the future. In this thesis, which adopts a quantitative approach with supporting qualitative and statistical triangulation, the perceptions of the principals with regard to some of the core skills and competencies of their work are analysed.
In particular emphasis is placed on their skill levels, the source of these skills and their training needs. Arguments are subsequently developed in support of the need for planned systematic support for all primary principals. This would, ideally, replace the current ad hoc arrangements, which put all of the responsibility on individual principals in an educational environment where they are seen as 'first amongst equals' and where the autonomy of the individual teacher is traditionally guarded.
The thesis is divided into six chapters.
Chapter one gives a brief overview of the Irish primary school system and looks at the historical development of the role of the primary principal which still underpins their working lives.
In Chapter two relevant literature is reviewed which explores aspects of leadership theory with the intention of facilitating the framing of any emergent theory within a relevant theoretical context and supporting the broad hypotheses of the research.
Chapter three outlines the methodology involved in this research and explains the rationale behind the particular research approach in this thesis, i.e. quantitative analysis supported by qualitative and statistical triangulation methods.
Chapter four presents the principal findings of the quantitative research which were analysed using SPSS and these results are discussed in the context of the literature as well as emerging theory in Chapter five of the thesis. In addition results are triangulated using qualitative follow-up group interviews and statistical reporting procedures.
In Chapter six, which is the concluding chapter of the thesis, results are discussed in the context of optimum working conditions for the primary principal and suggestions are offered as to how the leadership potential of the current cohort of primary principals might be harnessed for the benefit of their schools.
- School of Education, The University of Hull
- Bright, Barry P., 1947-
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