The Educational Leadership Model recognises that leaders must respond to their particular contexts. For middle and senior leaders, the context is influenced by variables such as:

  • the vision and priorities set by the Ministry and school communities;
  • the type of school, for example, years 1–6, intermediate, area, or secondary; number of students, location, and community demographics;
  • their own leadership role, positioned between principal and teachers.

Ministry of Education context

All educational leaders are responsible for pursuing the vision and priorities of the Ministry. Strong middle and senior leadership is key to achieving the following priorities:

  • a world-leading education system that equips all New Zealanders with the knowledge, skills, and values to be successful citizens in the twenty-first century;
  • every young person achieving literacy and numeracy levels that will enable their success;
  • every young person gaining skills and qualifications that will give them options and enable them to contribute to New Zealand’s future;
  • Māori achieving educational success as Māori.

The principles of inclusion and cultural responsiveness mean that priority is also given to:

  • Pasifika students receiving high-quality education and achieving good outcomes;
  • students with special education needs being included in all aspects of school life and supported to achieve socially as well as academically.

The New Zealand Curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa set the direction for student learning. Together, the two documents help schools give effect to the partnership that is at the core of our nation’s founding document, Te Tiriti o Waitangi / the Treaty of Waitangi.

Both put the student at the centre of learning and teaching, and affirm the identity, language and culture of the learner. They each have a vision of young people who will develop the competencies they need for study, work, and lifelong learning; students who will become confident, connected and have the skills, knowledge and values to participate in their communities and the wider world.

Given their potential to enhance and transform education, schools are expected to be actively exploring the use of ICT and e-learning to advance this vision and these priorities.

While all schools are accountable for responding to these requirements, the way they do this will be influenced by the needs and values of their particular community.

Case study 1  

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. 

School context

Each school has its own culture, history, and model of leadership. New leaders may want to negotiate a rather different, more participatory approach. If so, teachers in a school that has traditionally operated with a top-down leadership model may find this change discomforting and a challenge.

Schools differ in their needs for leadership, both pedagogical and administrative.These differences arise from differences in geographical location, decile, socio-cultural context, age and condition of buildings, vision, priorities, and educational goals. A school’s type and size influences how leadership is distributed.

When taking on a leadership role, the new leader should negotiate with the principal the purpose and key responsibilities of the role. Over time this negotiated role may evolve to better utilise the leader’s strengths and in response to changes in the school context.

A study involving middle and senior school leaders in New Zealand secondary schools (Cranston, 2007) found that, while generally satisfied with their roles and responsibilities, leaders were experiencing the impact of:

  • increased public accountability;
  • new school structures and contexts;
  • increased school committee work;
  • pressure for quick responses to community and student requests;
  • changing technologies.

A leader’s ability to successfully manage the cumulative impact of these pressures depends in part on how leadership responsibility is distributed in the school and on their negotiated job description.

Middle and senior leaders can seek support from their principals to determine how best to approach their role in relation to other leaders and in relation to their own teams (Cardno, 2008; Feist, 2008).

Role context

Middle and senior leadership roles differ across schools because they are created and defined in response to each school’s unique context and needs. Nevertheless, all middle and senior leaders have a pivotal part to play in helping their schools pursue their goals and achieve their objectives.

They do this by ensuring that:

  • teaching staff understand their role in implementing the school’s vision and policies;
  • teachers’ needs are understood and taken back to the leadership team;
  • teachers feel they can have influence.

Similarly, such leaders provide a link between the school and its parents, whānau, and community, ensuring that the school’s educational goals are co-constructed, understood, and supported. A shared understanding of goals, and a willingness to take the needs of all parties into account, are necessary for creating and nurturing relationships of trust.

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