Middle leaders play an important role in the education landscape, first and foremost as teachers, and second as leaders. The purpose of this paper is to identify the expectations and challenges experienced by first-time middle leaders in New Zealand primary schools, and identify the leadership development and support they were provided with.
This was a small qualitative study designed to collect data from the perspectives of first-time middle leaders and principals in New Zealand primary schools. Three methods were employed. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with six middle leaders who had been in the role for one to three years. These participants were identified through an analysis of recent public appointment records and then e-mailed with an invitation. Four principals from a local principals’ association were invited to comprise a focus group and relevant documents were analysed.
The findings from this study are presented in three sections: expectations, challenges and leadership development and support. Whilst the principals described wide and varied role expectations the middle leaders highlighted the importance of their teaching role with leadership responsibilities as secondary. From both perspectives time to do the administrative work was an overwhelming difficulty. A key finding was related to a lack of confidence to undertake the role in spite of efforts to provide and receive support. Overall, there was agreement that further development for new middle leaders was essential.
This small, limited study highlights the central role that middle leaders play in leading learning and teaching, and the existence of a lack of confidence. Further research is needed to delve into conditions that would enable new middle leaders to manage the challenges of time and confidence.
The research recommends that practitioners who are new to a middle leadership role be allocated dedicated time for performing the administrative tasks and participating in an ongoing induction programme. The middle leaders themselves and their schools would benefit from efforts to strengthen middle leadership development.
Although a great deal has been written about middle leadership, there is only a small amount of research about primary schools. This research adds valuable new information in a primary school context and breaks new ground in researching early career, first-time middle leaders in this context.
Bassett, M. and Shaw, N. (2018), "Building the confidence of first-time middle leaders in New Zealand primary schools", International Journal of Educational Management, Vol. 32 No. 5, pp. 749-760. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJEM-05-2017-0101Download as .RIS
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