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“Trying to feel comfortable in an ill-fitting jacket” The professional lives of primary school headteachers in Wales

Baldwin, Justine 2022. “Trying to feel comfortable in an ill-fitting jacket” The professional lives of primary school headteachers in Wales. EdD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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This thesis aims to illuminate how the professional role of primary headteachers has changed within a devolved Welsh education system. Drawing on an interpretivist epistemology and qualitative methods, the professional lives of headteachers were interrogated through online semi-structured interviews during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic. Thematic analysis was used to systematically identify, organise and highlight patterns in their shared experiences, which provides insight into their subjective perceptions. The findings of this study show that headteachers articulated their core purpose as being driven by, and focused on, the needs of their pupils. When this core function was compromised through the burden of management tasks and overly bureaucratic accountability, headteachers felt themselves deprofessionalised. Headteachers in this study espoused notions of increased risk, reduced agency and low levels of trust in their professional capacity as a result of organisational and political changes. Risk management, heightened by the Covid-19 pandemic, was a cause for concern, including the risk of social media and the risk of improper or inadequate training. Identified in their accounts was a paradox of leadership where headteachers are simultaneously experiencing reduced agency, increased demands in terms of practical management of their settings, and where leadership is core to school improvement. There was a strongly held belief by headteachers that they should be allowed to exercise agency and there were expressions of excitement at the prospect of designing a new curriculum as an indication that professional agency was re-emerging through the third phase of educational reform. However, trust as a core competency of headship was cited as being lost through a remaining dominance of organisational professionalism despite these latest reforms. The relationship between headteachers and the meso-level bodies interwove all these interactions and opportunities to exercise intelligent accountability was seen as aspirational. This study found that the recruitment process for headship positions to be a-contextual, resulting in feelings of disillusionment and uncertainty when headteachers were new in post. Where a school was reflected honestly and transparently at recruitment, the appointed candidate felt in a strong position to lead the school successfully.

Item Type: Thesis (EdD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 14 April 2023
Last Modified: 14 Apr 2023 11:34

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