26 SES 07 A, Local Education Authorities and their Ties to Leadership
This paper explores the role and leadership practices of Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) in Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) in England and it is situated on the context of extensive debates on neoliberal reform in education at an international scale. The research upon which this paper is based adopted a mixed-methods design involving a sample of five MATs. Findings from the qualitative analysis are reported in this paper. Using a multi-perspective, multi-site case study approach, the researcher explored five examples of CEOs leadership practices and the ways in which they contribute to the structures, cultures and standards in performance of their MATs.
The systemic changes in the education policy landscape in England under the academies reform movement have nurtured a growing prevalence of educational organisations such as MATs. The growth of MAT structures over time as a new policy approach to the governance of the English public schooling system suggests a continuous cluster of complex, loosely coupled, organic systems on the one hand, and tightly controlled hierarchical systems on the other (Hawkins and James, 2018; Simon et al., 2019). Many MATs employ an executive leadership model which includes a CEO surrounded by a central team of executive leaders. CEOs are the operational leads in the MAT and their role has been evolving considerably reflecting the reality of the demands involved in overseeing every academy within the organisation. Despite academies and MATs being a policy with a high political profile and while the literature provides insight into MATs as a context for executive leadership (Greany and Higham, 2018; West and Wolfe, 2019), it provides little specific insight into executive leadership, itself. The role of the CEOs is the area of interest in this paper, which gives further insights into the ways they seek to build coherence and instructional effectiveness systemically to drive up standards.
This research was guided by a system-centred approach which investigated the ways in which CEOs leadership practices are (or are not) able to contribute to school improvement processes, conditions, and cultures of the schools within their MATs. It considered the ecological systems approach from Bronfenbrenner (1979) a useful theoretical framework for understanding the processes and interactions involved in leadership actions, and that the dynamic, non-linear changes within the school ecosystem could be effectively understood by applying complexity theory.
An ecological systems approach may account for the developmental consequences of interactions within and between systems at different levels that impact and influence student learning and achievement. For the purposes of this research, the layers of the ecosystem are defined as follows: the micro-system (the pattern of activities, roles, and interpersonal relationships experienced by MAT executive leaders, meso-system (school and MAT organisational attributes such as institutional culture and profile, leadership practices, structural affordances or barriers), exo-system (the indirect, external environment i.e. government policies to reinforce accountability and autonomy, parental school choice, commercial and research partners, networks, and higher education institutions), macro-system (the neo-liberal political and economic agenda) and chrono-system (influence of time). An ecological model, therefore, examined interactions between the micro-, meso-, macro-, exo-, and chronosystems, and was used to develop context-sensitive accounts of leadership across groups of schools.
The qualitative approach, in particular interview-based multiple case study, was considered useful for exploring leadership practices enacted by the CEOs by getting into the real-life situation where the phenomenon was developed. A multiple perspective case study approach was therefore used to provide in-depth and insightful examples of CEOs leadership practices and to further investigate relevant perspectives of various key stakeholders in their MATs and participating schools. The focus was on their leadership actions and how their leadership influences the structures, cultures and the standards in performance of the MAT. This was achieved through visits to each MAT and involved individual interviews with CEOs, executive principals and members of the MAT leadership team that had strategic and operational responsibilities across MAT schools. Telephone interviews with head teachers and MAT trustees were also conducted. A purposive sample of five MATs was selected as case study sites and the recruitment of the participants was drawn from these MATs through purposive sampling as well. This included all CEOs who reflected their expected role to bring about change and improvement across the organisation at a systemic level, executive principals, principals and various key stakeholders who worked closely with the CEO in the development of standards of teaching and learning and strategic improvement across the MAT. Interviews were transcribed shortly after they had been conducted and the process of thematic data analysis was treated as synthetic, where constructions that emerged were reconstructed into meaningful wholes. In this way, the qualitative data were analysed in an inductive way. All interview data were coded, categorised and transferred into an analytical matrix (Miles and Huberman, 1994) to enable cross-case analysis and identification of key practices related to leading improvement in MATs.
Findings from the examples of CEOs leadership have demonstrated that their approaches reflect most of the principles and practices found in current models of both instructional and transformational leadership (Day et al., 2016; Leithwood et al., 2017; Robinson et al., 2008). Their efforts emphasise the improvement of the quality of teaching and learning in the MAT as a whole (the primary focus of instructional leadership models), and the creation of organisational conditions which would enable and support those improvement efforts (the primary focus of transformational leadership models). The personal and professional qualities of the CEOs appeared to interact with elements of their schools and MAT-wide organisational contexts as they believed they had enabled them to be successful in their role. The value of recognising these qualities in their efforts to enable success revealed the interconnections of how executive leadership shapes school and organisational processes to improve school conditions that, in turn, would promote better pupil outcomes. It was also important for CEOs to establish and sustain links between different leadership levels, positioning themselves and the schools they lead to mediate exo- and macro- level reforms and absorb policy. Nonetheless, several examples have illustrated that their core professional values and the contextual priorities of their schools were compromised in their efforts to navigate the educational policy landscape and integrate reform agendas to scale up innovation MAT-wide. MATs are teeming with complexity and interdependence that make particularly important the role of executive leadership. To understand and explain why and how executive leaders enact their leadership practices, one would need to consider how an executive leader’s individual values, experience and perspectives interact with all elements of the ecosystem and how the activities in which these leaders participate reciprocally affect and are affected by the changes that occur from participation in these activities.
Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979), The ecology of human development: Experiments by nature and design. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Day, C., Gu, Q., and Sammons, P. (2016), “The Impact of Leadership on Student Outcomes: How Successful School Leaders Use Transformational and Instructional Strategies to Make a Difference”, Educational Administration Quarterly, 52(2), pp.221–258. Greany, T. and Higham, R. (2018), Hierarchy, Markets and Networks: Analysing the 'Self-Improving School-Led System’ Agenda in England and the Implications for Schools, London: IOE Press. Hawkins, M. and James, C. (2018), "Developing a perspective on schools as complex, evolving, loosely linking systems", Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 46 (5), pp. 729–748. Leithwood, K., Sun, J., and Pollock, K. (2017), How school leaders contribute to student success: The four paths framework. Springer Berlin Heidelberg. Miles, M. B. and Huberman, A M. (1994), Qualitative data analysis, 2nd ed., Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Robinson, V., Lloyd, C. and Rowe, K. (2008), "The impact of leadership on student outcomes: An analysis of the differential effects of leadership types", Educational Administration Quarterly,44, pp. 635–674. Simon, C.A., James, C. and Simon, A. (2019). “The Growth of Multi-Academy Trusts in England: Emergent Structures and the Sponsorship of Underperforming Schools”, Educational Management Administration & Leadership, pp. 1-16. West, A. and Wolfe, D. (2019), “Academies, autonomy, equality and democratic accountability: Reforming the fragmented publicly funded school system in England”, London Review of Education, 17 (1), pp.70-86.
00. Central Events (Keynotes, EERA-Panel, EERJ Round Table, Invited Sessions)
Network 1. Continuing Professional Development: Learning for Individuals, Leaders, and Organisations
Network 2. Vocational Education and Training (VETNET)
Network 3. Curriculum Innovation
Network 4. Inclusive Education
Network 5. Children and Youth at Risk and Urban Education
Network 6. Open Learning: Media, Environments and Cultures
Network 7. Social Justice and Intercultural Education
Network 8. Research on Health Education
Network 9. Assessment, Evaluation, Testing and Measurement
Network 10. Teacher Education Research
Network 11. Educational Effectiveness and Quality Assurance
Network 12. LISnet - Library and Information Science Network
Network 13. Philosophy of Education
Network 14. Communities, Families and Schooling in Educational Research
Network 15. Research Partnerships in Education
Network 16. ICT in Education and Training
Network 17. Histories of Education
Network 18. Research in Sport Pedagogy
Network 19. Ethnography
Network 20. Research in Innovative Intercultural Learning Environments
Network 22. Research in Higher Education
Network 23. Policy Studies and Politics of Education
Network 24. Mathematics Education Research
Network 25. Research on Children's Rights in Education
Network 26. Educational Leadership
Network 27. Didactics – Learning and Teaching
The programme is updated regularly (each day in the morning)
- Search for keywords and phrases in "Text Search"
- Restrict in which part of the abstracts to search in "Where to search"
- Search for authors and in the respective field.
- For planning your conference attendance you may want to use the conference app, which will be issued some weeks before the conference
- If you are a session chair, best look up your chairing duties in the conference system (Conftool) or the app.