School Middle Leaders and Change Management: Do They Need to Be More on the “Balcony” than the Dance Floor?
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The term “middle leader” in the context of English education has evolved into an overarching title to describe a leadership position for practitioners who have school wide responsibilities in addition to their classroom duties. Such responsibilities can consist of pastoral leadership; curriculum leadership;
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The term “middle leader” in the context of English education has evolved into an overarching title to describe a leadership position for practitioners who have school wide responsibilities in addition to their classroom duties. Such responsibilities can consist of pastoral leadership; curriculum leadership; leadership of additional student support; leadership of a team or phase and leadership of a specific school improvement priority. Educational middle leadership is founded on the notion of bringing together the duty of contributing to a strategic leadership remit whilst remaining firmly within the role of a classroom practitioner. It is argued that this ‘space’ for middle leadership is due to the increasingly hierarchical organisational structures of schools; consequently, being viewed as the ‘middle layer’. However, it is often unclear how much real authority or autonomy middle leaders have either to act strategically or make leadership decisions for their school. Despite many studies having previously explored the impact of senior leadership in improving school systems through deploying varied leadership styles, there is an absence in literature underpinning what constitutes effective strategic middle leadership. This study explored and interrogated the strategic ability of middle leadership, to contribute to this discourse. It critically reflected on the effectiveness of middle leadership, in a small-scale context, when making sustainable curriculum changes to a primary school’s maths curriculum. The research methodology adopted was an autoethnographic approach. It used a documentary method, that consisted of a reflective journal, kept by the first researcher, who was also a maths curriculum middle leader within an English primary school. The reflective journal was used as an authenticated document for elucidation and analysis. The main findings suggested that collective leadership was appropriate for this research context. The study further evidenced the reality of how personal, yet important understanding leadership cultures are, in all levels of leadership. The conclusion pointed to the direction of middle leaders being more successful if they were strategic, and therefore must both find and develop systems that assist them to be located on the “balcony” rather than only the dance floor.