A Compromised Role? Secondary School Heads of Faculty Priorities During Times of Initiative Intensity

Moorhead, Claire
Youngs, Howard
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Master of Educational Leadership
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Auckland University of Technology

Intentional educational change in the form of policy reform and initiatives is a significant feature of the present New Zealand education landscape. This is particularly evident in the secondary education sector, which is currently experiencing significant policy reform through initiatives such as the Curriculum Refresh and the Review of Achievement Standards for the NCEA qualification system. Such policy initiatives have a notable impact on the middle leaders in secondary schools by virtue of their unique positioning as conduits between strategic direction and classroom practice. In this context, they have a position of significant responsibility and influence in relation to the translation of change-motivated policy initiatives to practice.

This study aimed to explore how Heads of Faculty (HOFs) in New Zealand secondary schools experience initiative implementation in their middle curriculum leadership roles. It specifically considered the impacts that this work, and consequent intensification of workload has on the other elements of their roles, and the ways that they feel able to exercise their leadership practice in this context. A dual-methods approach was applied to this study, where eight HOFs were anonymously surveyed online, and this was followed by four semi-structured interviews that were conducted with participants who self-volunteered at the end of the survey. The use of these methods provided data that communicated the experiences of participants implementing policy initiatives as well as personal narratives to support understanding of the impacts on their roles and leadership practice. An interpretivist approach was applied to thematically analyse the findings.

Discussion of the findings generated in this study and its relationship to existing literature led to conclusions that initiative implementation contributes to a notable intensification of workload for HOFs, and that this impacts their capacity to effectively carry out other aspects of their roles. The resulting prioritisation of role-related tasks is influenced by a range of internal and external factors and the extent to which each of these influence individual HOFs is driven by a range of contextual factors.

In response to these conclusions, this study offers recommendations for future practice that are intended to support HOFs to manage their intensified workload to reach better outcomes in their day-to-day roles and initiative implementation work. These recommendations address each of the layers of influence which structure the discussion.

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