Leading from the middle: case studies

These case studies highlight aspects of the middle and senior leadership practice described in Leading from the Middle.

They will be of value to middle and senior leaders working in professional learning groups, and to mentors and coaches.

Download complete set of case study video transcripts and reflective questions.

Case study 1: 

Anne Coster: Enhancing teaching and learning


Anne Coster, Deputy Principal, Wellington Girls’ College, describes how a student leadership project was the “logical conclusion” of several years of intensive curriculum implementation and review. 

Exploration of the curriculum values, principles, and key competencies was followed up by a cross-curricular focus on pedagogy. Teachers worked across learning areas to observe different contexts and teaching styles.

This willingness to collaborate led to a culture of trust among the staff and a paradigm shift in the relationship between teachers and students. The staff realized their inquiry into practice would not be complete without the student voice.

Case study 2: 

Brian Filipo: Leading change


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

He promptly began to implement a suite of new technology, including computers, interactive whiteboards, a new school website, a student management system, and a wireless connection.

On reflection, Brian thinks that he brought in the changes too quickly. The technical nature of ICT means that staff require in-depth support, and he now recognises the importance of ensuring that teachers understand the purpose of any change implementation.

Case study 3:

Iain McGilchrist: Network learning communities


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

The Dunedin-based community meets several times a year to discuss experiences and issues related to teaching English.

Iain finds that sharing his experiences with colleagues from other schools has meant he doesn’t feel like he is reinventing the wheel.

Participating in learning communities or presenting a paper at a conference provides personalised learning that directly improves his practice.

Case study 4:

Carol Jarrett: Leading pedagogical change


Carol Jarrett, Head of Department English, Kelston Girls’ College, uses the teaching as inquiry approach in her department to investigate what she labels “problems of practice”.

Carol shares her experiences in the classroom with colleagues, encouraging an environment where teachers feel safe to talk about their practice.

They reframe the conversation using the teaching as inquiry tool – describe the problem, identify possible solutions, make a change, evaluate. 

Carol recognises that teachers need to take ownership of the process if the change is to be successful. She says it is important for participants to understand the change – what it is and why it is being prioritised.

Case study 5:

Hurae White: Distributed leadership and manaakitanga


Hurae White, Deputy Principal, Nawton School, describes the leadership structure at Nawton School as “distributed”. Teachers from each syndicate are represented in the leadership team, creating a collaborative approach within the school.

Hurae identifies manaakitanga as a core value that, in practice, means the leadership team support each other and the rest of the teaching staff.

Teachers are encouraged to take on leadership roles and responsibilities and are provided with appropriate support. One teacher, with expertise in pāngarau, was nominated to lead a focused mathematics programme in the immersion class. She worked with an adviser and two other teachers to improve student outcomes and also increase their own knowledge.

Case study 6:

Detroit Stirling: Culture and relationships


Detroit Stirling is a learning advisor, at Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti in Christchurch. He has a pivotal role in supporting staff and students around Māori student achievement.

In this story he talks about the importance of relationships in his work.

Case study 7: 

In these three videos two senior leaders and one middle leader at Homai Primary School in Manurewa talk about their roles and their professional ambitions.

Anuja Singh: Leading learning and leading change


As a deputy principal Anuja Singh has particular responsibility for maths. She works directly with the four maths mentors in the school who in turn work with classroom teachers.

Louise Miller: Pedagogical leadership in maths


A key role for leaders who are subject specialists is the mentoring of other teachers. Maths specialist Louise Miller describes the process that Homai School has developed around teacher mentoring.

Melinda Bell: Awhinatanga


Melinda Bell has her view fixed on principalship. She is currently a senior leader in her school and has a wide range of leadership responsibilities. She want to become a principal because she recognises how influential the role is.

Case study 8: 

In these two videos the deputy principal and one of the school's literacy leaders at Finlayson Park School discuss their work. Finlayson Park School is New Zealand's largest primary school, with over 900 students. The majority of its students are Māori and Pasifika, with students from a wide range of other ethnicities. It has no European students. 

Nardi Leonard: Pono


Deputy principal Nardi Leonard talks about her leadership journey in this video and why she relishes the challenge of working at Finlayson Park.

Sumithra Naidoo: Pedagogical leadership in literacy


Sumithra Naidoo describes how she has grown in confidence in her role as a literacy leader. She works closely with beginning teachers and those new to Finlayson Park School.

Related pages

Mangere Central School

Building middle leadership capacity to lead learning

This school story looks at how leadership capacity has developed and grown at Mangere Central School in South Auckland through a determined focus on the practices of the school’s middle leaders. 

Strongly evident in the story is the collective moral purpose (pono) that underpins the teachers’ desire to address inequities and underachievement.

Louise Anaru, Principal, Flaxmere College

The leader as learner

Louise Anaru experience as deputy principal at Taipa Area School inspired her to step up into her new leadership role at Flaxmere College. Louise has participated in several leadership programmes that have supported her to grow as a leader. She believes openness to ako gives leaders the opportunity to participate in the learning journey, as well as tap into relevant expertise within the school community.

Maggie Reid, Deputy Principal, Flanshaw Road School

Developing leadership potential within a school

Senior leader Maggie Reid explains how her principal provides opportunities for professional development and discussion, supporting her to build on her knowledge base. Maggie was encouraged to set up support networks in her role as a school leader. When appointed acting principal, these relationships were core to sharing ideas, concerns, and practices. 

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