This article draws on longitudinal research into the establishment of co‐principalships. It discusses this innovative approach to school management in relation to women’s negotiations of their motivations, aspirations and strategies for career advancement and work/life balance. Longitudinal case studies of three primary school co‐principal initiatives were carried out between 1995 and 2000. Repeat interviews and observations with co‐principals, board chairpersons and school staff were conducted. Interviews were also undertaken with parents; students; and representatives of state education agencies, national governing boards, principals’ associations and teacher unions, alongside analysis of school and state policy documents. The resulting case study narratives described how each co‐principalship was initiated and either established or dis‐established. A discourse analysis of these narratives then examined how links between discourse, knowledge and power were being negotiated and challenged, as the new subject position of “co‐principal” was being constructed in New Zealand. This article analyses the significance of the similarities and differences in the women’s career backgrounds, motivations and strategies for moving into management positions. As they initiated their co‐principalships, the women variously went “against the grain” and/or co‐opted elements of the new public management corporate executive model for school leadership, which was introduced within the radical state restructuring during the late 1980s and early 90s in New Zealand.
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