Areas of practice

The particular responsibilities of school leaders fall into four categories or areas of practice: culture, pedagogy, systems, and partnerships and networks. All four areas have exactly the same goal, to support the learning of all students.

Culture: “What we value around here”

Middle and senior leaders have a key role both in contributing to the building of a positive and inclusive whole school culture, and in ensuring this culture is reflected within their own particular areas of responsibility. In achieving this they will show that they value diversity within the school, and recognise that culture counts in improving teaching and learning for all (Bishop and Glynn, 1999). School leadership will consider the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi / the Treaty of Waitangi by building a sense of identity, actively protecting and preserving the Māori language and connecting the culture of the community and whānau to what is valued in each school.

Middle and senior leaders contribute by:

  • ensuring that educational practices are inclusive;
  • ensuring that the language, identity, and culture of students and their families are acknowledged and valued;
  • actively engaging in the development and implementation of shared goals and vision;
  • ensuring a safe and well-organised environment that allows teachers to focus on their teaching, and students on their learning;
  • supporting the development of practices that set an expectation that all students will experience success in learning;
  • modelling practices in which teamwork is expected and valued;
  • leading and creating opportunities to celebrate the progress and success of students and staff.

Case study 2 

Leading change

Brian Filipo had a clear vision when he began as deputy principal at Brockville School. His background had given him the opportunity to see ICT in practice in a range of schools.

Pedagogy: Teacher knowledge and actions that promote learning

Middle and senior leaders are key to improving the quality of student learning (Chetty, 2007; Fitzgerald and Gunter, 2006; Moore, 2007; Stoll and Temperley, 2009). They contribute by:

  • modelling pedagogical practices that are effective for all students (Alton-Lee, 2003);
  • engaging in and leading professional development and keeping up to date with teaching and learning theory;
  • leading curriculum planning, development, and review.

They also lead professional development and base changes in pedagogical practice on collegial discussion in the context of cycles of inquiry and investigation (Alton-Lee, 2003; Bishop et al., 2007; Timperley et al., 2007).

This involves setting evidence-based goals, establishing a cycle of inquiry-based teaching, implementing trials, and following up with reflection and evaluation.

Case study 3

Network learning communities

Iain McGilchrist, Assistant Principal, John McGlashan College, is a member of a network learning community for secondary English middle leaders.

Systems: “How things work around here”

Middle and senior leaders are largely responsible for creating the systems and conditions in which staff and students can function effectively and in which learning can occur (Lee, Kwan, and Walker, 2009). For senior leaders in particular, this involves being accountable for day-to-day school management and administration. Both middle and senior leaders are involved in decision-making processes and in designing practices for:

  • general and strategic school administration, such as planning, resourcing, staff appointments, budgeting, timetabling, and running school events;
  • academic tracking of students through assessment, evidence collecting, and data analysis;
  • pastoral care of students and support for staff.

Middle and senior leaders lead the way in using technologies and “smart” tools – tools that are intentionally designed for a specific purpose and incorporate a sound theory (Robinson, Hohepa, and Lloyd, 2009).

Partnerships and networks: Links that support learning

Middle and senior leaders are participants in a range of networks, both internal and external. Internally, they are part of the school leadership network and groups such as syndicates and faculties. Participation in internal networks enables leaders to address school-wide issues with consistency across subjects and levels. It also provides opportunities for establishing relationships and practices that support teacher and student learning.

Externally, middle and senior leaders benefit from:

  • ongoing learning, such as attending conferences and belonging to committees and subject associations, particularly if they are from small departments or schools or from schools in isolated areas;
  • networking across schools to share ideas and challenge practices;
  • working with parents, whānau, hāpu, iwi, and caregivers to establish shared expectations for students (and encouraging teachers to do the same);
  • developing networks in the wider community, including the local media, to ensure that the school’s achievements are well presented.

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