Leading the teaching and learning: a study of transformational leadership in secondary schools facing challenging circumstances

Wright, Graham

December 2007

Thesis or dissertation

© 2007 Graham Wright. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

This thesis researches headteacher leadership in secondary schools identified as facingchallenging circumstances. It adopts the hypothesis that headteachers with strong transformational leadership behaviours are more effective in raising standards of student attainment than headteachers with other types of leadership behaviour. The thesis focus is original as few educational studies link headteacher leadership behaviours to measurements of student attainment and none have been done on schools within the English education system that are designated to be facing challenging circumstances.

The research design examines the leadership qualities that headteachers possess in challenging schools. Secondly, it considers the extent by which effective headteachers are transformational. Third, it investigates the relationship between headteacher leadership behaviours and student attainment. Finally, it explores the possibility of outlining a set of model behaviours that may work in similar schools to positively impact upon student attainment levels.

The evidence is drawn from a quantitative research design based upon teaching staff and headteacher responses from eight schools. All eight schools were deemed by their last inspection (OFSTED) to be offering at least a satisfactory level of education with the current headteacher being in post for at least three years and leading the school at the time of the inspection. The schools were divided equally into two groups enabling comparisons to be made between those schools raising student attainment in line with national improvements and those schools raising student attainment at least twice as

The conclusions of the study do not enable a model of good headteacher leadership practice that guarantees an effective transition for schools away from a formal classification of facing challenging circumstances to be established. However, the research has established a number of elements that constitute effective leadership behaviours and attributes in such schools. In addition, it has been able to demonstrate that where these elements have been employed in their greatest intensity, the greater has been the school improvement in terms of student attainment.

Centre for Educational Studies, The University of Hull
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