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Principals in remote New South Wales, Australia: The work lives of central school principals in the context of devolution reforms of the New South Wales Department of Education and Training, and social and economic changes in remote Australia

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Pietsch, B (2013) Principals in remote New South Wales, Australia: The work lives of central school principals in the context of devolution reforms of the New South Wales Department of Education and Training, and social and economic changes in remote Australia. PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

This thesis investigated the work lives of principals of central schools situated in remote inland areas of the state of New South Wales (NSW), Australia. This research considered how the situational contexts of central school leadership in remote NSW have affected the work lives of principals of central schools in remote NSW. These contexts included the education policy context of devolution of government school systems, the community context of remoteness and low socio-economic status (SES) and the specific school context of leading a small school and leading both secondary and primary departments.
Research literature such as Ballet and Kelchtermans (2008), Gronn and Rawlings-Sanaei (2003) and Southwell (2008) on the factor of the education policies of devolution in the work lives of principals described characteristics which match the attributes of work intensification including longer hours of work, more tasks to be completed in a day, and diversification of skills. However, current literature has much less data about the particular contexts of the work lives of principals living in, and working with the issues of, remote and low SES communities. There is even less data about the implications for principals attempting to provide secondary education in such communities.
This research study used a mixed methods design beginning with a survey questionnaire of all principals of central schools in NSW. Nearly half of the survey respondents then participated in a longitudinal program of interviews conducted in the schools of the principals. The rapport with principals developed by the researcher as an „insider‟ facilitated the collection of rich data on the work lives of the principals. Many of the issues raised had not been fully researched in broader studies.
The study confirmed the research of Starr and White (2008) and Hatton (1995, 1996), who reported “massive intensification” in the work lives of principals in remote Australian schools. In addition, the study provided a more nuanced understanding of the work intensification of these principals as it reported on the many aspects and consequences of the personal, family, social and professional isolation of principals in remote schools as they responded to issues related to high welfare needs of students and of the community in general.. Principals were threatened with violence and, in several cases, were required to respond to high levels of child sexual abuse in their communities. Participant principals in this study were professionally isolated and faced limited career prospects. The data in this study provided a greater understanding with respect to the issue of low numbers of applications for the principalship, particularly in remote areas.
Much of the literature on school leadership is generic in nature with considerable reliance on theories of leadership and management which have been developed in non-school contexts. This study suggested that there needs to be more research on the variety of educational and social contexts in which principals work in order to provide a more nuanced understanding of the work lives of principals of remote, low SES schools and the high stakes in the career prospects of these principals. For policy makers, a removal or amelioration of the disincentives in remote school principalship identified in this study would appear to be more urgent and more effective than the current policy of provision of incentives to work in such schools.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: principals, central schools, work intensification, isolation, career limitation
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Date Deposited: 19 Feb 2014 03:52
Last Modified: 15 Sep 2017 01:06
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