A lot of managing, a little leading : the work of newly appointed secondary deputy principals and assistant principals : a thesis presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Educational Administration at Massey University
This study examines the perceptions of a group of newly appointed, New Zealand secondary deputy and assistant principals. The study is set against two dominant educational discourses of the last two decades: the reforming discourse of the 1990s, which positioned school principals as chief executive officers with business and management skills; and a leadership discourse which emphasises leadership over management and the role of the principal as the educational leader of the school. The focus of the latter is on improving student achievement and developing and maintaining an effective school. In both discourses the importance of the principal has been established and reinforced through legal and policy decisions and initiatives. The review of the literature shows, however, few studies about DPs/APs and their professional work in either discourse. The purpose of the research is to undertake a qualitative case study of newly appointed secondary DPs/APs in 2006 and their perceptions of their work as leaders and managers as they began their new work and then six months later. The study used two questionnaires, and in-depth interviews with six DPs/APs. The first questionnaire collected demographic information about this group, as well as to their understandings of the work they would do as they took up their new positions. In-depth interviews of six DPs/APs were carried out to explore their leadership and management work six months into the job, which was supplemented with a follow-up questionnaire to the other participants. It is intended that the research will provide greater understandings of the work of a group of school leaders and managers about how little is known and whose voice is not heard in the educational leadership discourse. Many findings in this study reinforced previous findings from a small number of other studies. In particular, the work of DPs/APs was heavy, reactive and largely managerial, although the extent of this was largely unanticipated. Many of these newly appointed DPs/APs wanted a greater balance between the leadership and management aspects of their work. The principal remained the most important influence on their professional work, which was largely learnt on the job without any formal professional development. The importance of previous experience acting in the role emerged as important in understanding and gaining confidence in the position. By far the greatest challenge facing these newly appointed DPs/APs was staff relationships, which highlighted issues of power and authority that arose moving from a predominantly teaching role to that of a senior manager.