Inside the Primary school leadership team: An investigation into Primary school leadership practice and development as an integrated process.

  • Maureen Cain

Student thesis: Doctor of Education


AbstractThe University of ManchesterMaureen E. CainDoctor in EducationInside the Primary school leadership team:An investigation into Primary school leadership practice and development as an integrated process.November 2011This thesis makes a conceptual contribution to the field of school leadership studies with a descriptive and analytical representation of the current practice and development of leaders in English Primary schools. The aim of the research is to investigate the development of nineteen school leaders, nesting their own vivid descriptions of their leadership development within a professional researcher enquiry for new knowledge and understanding. An extensive literature review locates the argument in a historical and cultural context, directed by the first research question: 'What are the knowledge claims about the changes to school leadership and management in the policy and research literature in the last twenty-five years?' The second research question asks: 'What are the knowledge claims of the practice of school leadership in Primary schools as found in the official and research literature?' Findings from the literature provide knowledge of the official expectations and advice given to school leaders in the implementation of their work. The literature also provides knowledge of leadership practice associated with issues of power, micro-politics, social and moral frames used by leaders as social agents in interpreting their leadership. Research questions three and four direct the field-research asking: 'How are leadership roles practised and developed in Primary schools?' and 'What are the empirical findings that build knowledge of Primary school leadership practice and development?' A case-study methodology structured the field-work, with qualitative research conducted in four Primary schools in North-West England during one academic year, 2008-2009. The empirical data for the case was primarily collected from nineteen members of four Senior Leadership Teams (SLT) through semi-structured interviews and observations of SLT meetings. The analysis of the full research findings is presented in an original construction of leadership, conceptualised as the PIVOT. This framework presents the key findings as integrated factors in a holistic frame around a central point, the PIVOT of leadership, which is explained as the Purpose, the Identity, the Values, the Options and the Trust, presenting wider issues for educational leadership decisions. The final research question five asks: 'What recommendations can be made for policy and practice regarding school leadership development in Primary schools?' Findings from the case-study make a contribution to knowledge about current school leadership practice and development, explained as a holistic, integrated approach underpinned by a wider, educative rationale, identified in the PIVOT framework. This raises issues for policy-makers and school practitioners in the development of Primary school leaders as educational leaders and provides a resource for further research enquiry by academic researchers with an interest in developing Primary school leaders.
Date of Award31 Dec 2011
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorHelen Gunter (Supervisor) & Olwen Mcnamara (Supervisor)


  • School leadership in Primary schools, leadership teams in Primary schools, leadership development, holistic framework of leadership.

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