Making Sense of Problems in Primary Headship

ISBN: 978-1-78973-904-6, eISBN: 978-1-78973-903-9

Publication date: 15 August 2019


Dunning, G. and Elliott, T. (2019), "Prelims", Making Sense of Problems in Primary Headship, Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. i-xii.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © Gerald Dunning and Tony Elliott, 2019.

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Making Sense of Problems in Primary Headship

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Making Sense of Problems in Primary Headship


Gerald Dunning


Tony Elliott

United Kingdom – North America – Japan India – Malaysia – China

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Howard House, Wagon Lane, Bingley BD16 1WA, UK

First edition 2019

© Gerald Dunning and Tony Elliott, 2019. Published under exclusive licence

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No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without either the prior written permission of the publisher or a licence permitting restricted copying issued in the UK by The Copyright Licensing Agency and in the USA by The Copyright Clearance Center. Any opinions expressed in the chapters are those of the authors. Whilst Emerald makes every effort to ensure the quality and accuracy of its content, Emerald makes no representation implied or otherwise, as to the chapters’ suitability and application and disclaims any warranties, express or implied, to their use.

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

ISBN: 978-1-78973-904-6 (Print)

ISBN: 978-1-78973-903-9 (Online)

ISBN: 978-1-78973-905-3 (Epub)


This book is dedicated with affection to the memory of our friend and colleague, Professor Ray Bolam, who exemplified all the very best qualities of leadership and management.


About the Authors ix
Acknowledgements xi
Introduction 1
Part I What’s the Problem?
Chapter 1 Mapping the Minefield: Explaining the Research Studies 9
Chapter 2 Landmarks in the Minefield: Generic Problem Issues 21
Chapter 3 New Heads on Their Blocks: The Problems of Assuming Headship 35
Chapter 4 Hard Labour: Managing a Problematic Workload 47
Chapter 5 Close Encounters: Problematic Colleagues 63
Chapter 6 Clients and Consumers: Problematic Parents and Pupils 81
Chapter 7 More Checks Than Balances: Problematic Partners in School Governance 97
Chapter 8 Counting the Cost: The Personal Impact of Headship 113
Part II What Every Head Should Know
Chapter 9 Making Sense of Headship: Knowing What 129
Chapter 10 Making Sense of Headship: Knowing How 139
Chapter 11 Back to the Future: Revisiting Classic Knowledge Bases for Problem Analysis and Framing 151
Chapter 12 Learning the Ropes? On the Ropes? Making Sense of Headteacher Succession and Socialisation 167
Chapter 13 Putting Problems in Perspective: Strategy and Reflection in Problem Management 181
Chapter 14 Hands on Hearts and Fingers on Pulses 195
References 205
Index 217

About the Authors

In writing this book, the authors draw not only on empirical research but also on personal experience. Both are former primary headteachers who, in subsequent university careers, led post-graduate and in-service school leadership development programmes in the UK and overseas. Gerald Dunning taught at Swansea University and, subsequently, the University of Glamorgan (now South Wales) where he was Head of the Department of Education and Deputy Head of the School of Psychology. Tony Elliott taught at Bangor University where he was Senior Lecturer in the School of Education and Dean of the Faculty of Education. Both were members of the consortium that delivered the National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH) for the Welsh Government for more than a decade (Tony Elliott as a former Chair) and worked on secondment to Ofsted (Gerald Dunning) and Estyn (Tony Elliott) as Lead Inspectors of primary schools. Gerald Dunning is a previous Chair of ENIRDELM.1 These diverse roles have made the problems of headship part of their professional DNA and enable them to apply almost 60 years of combined experience and knowledge to the study presented in this book.


While they have been promised anonymity, we record our sincere gratitude to all the headteachers who gave their time to participate in our interviews and share their problematic experiences.

We also acknowledge our appreciation of the help of other colleagues who facilitated access to subjects or offered comments on drafts of the book. Thank you, Jean Carter, Mel Hall, Jacqui Harrett, Richard Jones, Selwyn Jones, Mike Keating, Maggie McNorton, Val Miller, Ieuan Richards, Dilys Roberts, Jacquie Turnbull and David Turner.

Last, but not least, warm thanks to Kimberly Chadwick and Anna Scaife, our editorial team at Emerald, for their good-humoured support and guidance and the wonderfully positive reassurance that there would be no problem publishing a book about problems!

You suddenly realise you don’t have enough knowledge, you don’t have the skills, but you often have to act very carefully and very quickly. You can make a lot of mistakes as a head by accidentally wandering into a minefield.Val: primary head Leading this school has been like walking through a minefield at times. You tread carefully but all the time, at the back of your mind, you wonder whether the next step is going to set off the big bang. Lou: primary head The legal framework that affects headship is all a real minefield at the moment. Lloyd: primary head I think a large part of the head’s role is being the chief problem solver in the school. Judith: primary head


ENIRDELM (European Network for Improvement, Research and Development in Educational Leadership and Management) was originally formed as ENIRDEM in 1991 to draw together researchers, trainers, developers and practitioners in school leadership from western Europe and countries in the former communist bloc. It continues to thrive as a collaborative network bringing together a range of professional interests related to educational leadership and management, initiating collaborative research projects and organising an annual conference [].