A study into the practice of distributed leadership within the post-primary school sector in Ireland
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School leadership in post-primary schools in Ireland is in a state of flux. Since 2007, policy makers are advocating that school leaders should redesign their leadership practice to reflect a distributed style of leadership. The pace of change in the educational sector in Ireland due to the abundance of new policies and initiatives is driving this need for leadership change. The current dominant administrative style of leadership cannot meet the daily demands now expected of school leaders. Existing international studies into distributed leadership argue it has the potential to foster greater levels of engagement, creativity and accessibility to the wider expertise of the school community and so enable a better response to the rapidly increasing demands being placed on schools. It is not without its critics. Misconceptions, conflated terminology and a limited, albeit growing empirical study base fuels the cynicism. In Ireland the most salient criticism is the limited research available to support practitioners in the practice of distributed leadership. Compounded by the statutory obligation now on school principals to reflect distributed leadership, these school leaders face many challenges to translate this theoretical concept into their daily practice. The researcher undertook this study to respond to this challenge. Using James P. Spillane’s theoretical framework of distributed leadership, the researcher observed the leadership interactions between the principal, teachers and the school environment from two separate post-primary schools. Arising from this one-year case study a schema was constructed. The schema is configured by the practices of modelling, resourcing, cohering and judging. The study identifies specific issues in current practices that will need to be addressed to support the accepted practices of distributed leadership within the schools.
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