University of Leicester
2017cattersonfmedd.pdf (1.16 MB)

Small Primary School Leadership Structures: Challenges and Evolution

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posted on 2017-01-13, 15:29 authored by Francesca Morag Catterson
This study addresses the professional challenge facing headteachers in small primary schools, in particular those who lack experience and knowledge of small schools and their leadership structures. The aim is to investigate these structures in the UK, and examine how headteachers use a micro-political lens to scope the landscape of the inherited school and then apply this knowledge to inform change strategies to improve school effectiveness. There is a dearth of literature in this field and this research makes a contribution to fill this gap. The research questions ask; what type of leadership structures are effective in small primary schools, how micro-political understanding and application are used by headteachers, how processes and practices of participation enable effective schools and what new theories of leadership structures emerge. Positivist and interpretivist approaches are taken, using a case study strategy with mixed methods. The sample is twenty-one schools, defined as having four or less classes. Data was collected through surveys and semi-structured interviews; using descriptive statistical analysis of the quantitative data and thematic analysis of the qualitative data, taking an inductive approach. University of Leicester’s ethical code of conduct was used; informing, reliability, validity and trustworthiness of the data. Findings reveal that leadership structures have no impact on school effectiveness. High levels of participation and trust, in a ‘power with’ framework, underpin effective schools, where people are empowered, motivated and engaged in a shared vision for improving school effectiveness. Low levels of participation and trust, in a ‘power over’ framework, may produce effective schools, but stakeholders are disenfranchised, unmotivated and unable to engage with, and own, a whole school vision for improving school effectiveness. A new contribution to knowledge is made with a new theory of participation and trust.



Taysum, Alison

Date of award


Author affiliation

School of Education

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • EdD



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