Home' Independence : Independence Vol 33 No 2 Oct 2008 Contents Independence Volume 33 No. 2 67
Dr William McKeith
LEADERSHIP & MANAGEMENT
Dr William McKeith, Executive
Principal of Presbyterian Ladies'
Colleges, Sydney and Armidale,
NSW traces the evolution of
current school leadership models.
To varying degrees, one can recognise
in today's independent and government
schools qualities of dominant school lead-
ership models of the past. Furthering our
understanding of these models can aid
our appreciation of where we are today
as school leaders.
Recognising British influence
Australia's close socio-political ties to
Britain, particularly during the 19th and
20th centuries, have deeply influenced
schooling in this country and an under-
standing of the evolution of school lead-
ership practice in Britain brings consider-
able illumination to school leadership in
Australia in general and to independent
school leadership in particular.
For many Australian independent schools,
strong links to British schooling models are
reflected in their very establishment. Many
were founded as Protestant church schools
in the 19th century. A majority of the found-
ing guarantors were men born in England
and Scotland who had emigrated to Sydney,
and they carried to this new school planting
an admiration of the discipline and rigor-
ous academic heritage of British education,
as well as a religious drive to establish a
strong intellectual and moral education for
girls and boys of Presbyterian, Anglican and
The Head Master tradition
The pedagogical and moral leadership
model common in early 20th century
British schools -- and which persists in
a particular tradition of independent
schools -- has been linked to the influence
of 19th century Britain's hierarchical and
Pedagogical leadership positioned the
head teacher as an exemplar of efficient
and effective whole class teaching, teach-
ing to the requirements of a prescribed
curriculum, and as an organiser of the de-
ployment of other teachers who were, in
this sense, assistant teachers to the head
teacher. Moral leadership was concerned
with being a personal exemplar of certain
religious and moral values in schooling
and of being the chief agent for their
transmission in the schooling process.
Known as the 'Head Master tradition',
school leadership as moral leadership was
pre-eminent in the public schools of Britain
and reflected in the successful creation of
influential leaders such as Arnold of Rugby
and Thring of Uppingham.
At its most influential, the mystique of
such leadership was distinguished by per-
sonal charisma, moral and frequently re-
ligious authority, impressive scholarship,
the capacity to 'master' all other members
of the school, indefatigable energy and a
sense of mission or vocation in the role.
For many schools, whole institutional
leadership was not entrusted to the head
teacher. Responsibilities, such as estab-
lishing the school's mission, allocating
resources, and setting the goals, values
and ethos, resided elsewhere.
Women head teachers in this period had to
face not only the ideology of class superior-
ity distinguishing head teacher from Board
members, but also the ideology of male
superiority often accompanying member-
ship of school Boards.
According to Grace, however, the Head
Master tradition as a cultural and organi-
sational strategy did work to empower
head teachers relative to the formal
authority of the governing body.2
The passing of this leadership tradition
did not occur uniformly. In some schools
it still persists.
In most schools the emergence in the mid-
20th century of the head teacher as 'the'
school leader was related to a complex
of cultural and historical elements. In a
more democratic and participative political
culture, the membership of school manage-
ment committees and governing bodies had
become socially comprehensive and heter-
ogenous. Head teachers were no longer in a
servant relationship to the governing body.
Considerable whole-school responsibility
was delegated to the head teacher.
School leadership models
A brief history
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