Middle Leadership in a Composite School in New Zealand: a Complex and Challenging Role

Utting, Craig
Smith, Alison
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Master of Educational Leadership
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Auckland University of Technology

A constant challenge for middle leaders in schools is juggling the myriad of responsibilities within their role. These include: managing the complexity of the role, working with a team of staff, encouraging and promoting student achievement and conflict resolution, as well as finding the time to do all the above.

This research focused on gaining an in-depth understanding of the role of a middle leader in a composite school - that is, a school that encompasses Years 1-15, in comparison to middle leadership in a primary, intermediate or secondary school. The research examined the complexities of middle leadership and the key challenges faced. It also investigated the level of professional development and support offered by senior leaders. I chose to take a qualitative methodological approach to my research. Semi-structured interviews, involving two participants in each of three schools were used to collect data. The key research questions were: • Do middle leaders see their core roles and responsibilities in a composite school as different to those in a primary or secondary school? • What key challenges do middle leaders face in a composite school and how they are supported by senior leadership to overcome these challenges? • In what ways do middle leaders in composite schools feel equipped to manage and lead a team of people?

This study revealed that middle leaders in composite schools find the challenges different to those in a primary, intermediate or secondary school. The findings highlight that the role in composite schools is complex, requires a broad managerial and leadership skill set, along with a breadth and depth of curriculum knowledge. A key recommendation arising from this research is that composite schools are deliberate and intentional when offering support and guidance to those in middle leadership positions. A nationwide programme that is accessible and targeted to the specific needs of those in middle leadership in composite schools would be an asset according to participants of this study.

Leadership , Composite school , Challenging , Middle leaders
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