Investigating Applicants' Perceptions of the Recruitment and Selection Process of Headteachers in English Secondary Schools: Looking at Headship Through a Leadership Identity Lens

Kelly, Bethany Katherine (2018). Investigating Applicants' Perceptions of the Recruitment and Selection Process of Headteachers in English Secondary Schools: Looking at Headship Through a Leadership Identity Lens. EdD thesis The Open University.

Abstract

Recruiting headteachers in the UK continues to be a challenge. The route to headship is often considered a mysterious and arbitrary process. It is challenging for a first time applicant to find ways to convey their leadership potential, through a selection process that has barely changed for over 20 years. This study reviews this process by drawing upon international research on principal appointments (Walker and Kwan, 2012, Blackmore et al., 2006, Browne-Ferrigno, 2003) and compares this with research on different perceptions of headship. This review is considered in light of leadership identity theory (Ibarra, 2003, Lord and Hall, 2005) and asks how this process looks from the perspective of the headship applicant. In what sense does an applicant have an understanding of their own leadership identity and are they confident that this can be communicated when applying for the headteacher role? This research examines the dual aspect of the recruitment and selection of headteachers. I have constructed a conceptual framework to map the pathway that the applicant takes and set this against the recruitment process to follow the applicant’s journey through these stages.

The research brings together three different investigations; an online questionnaire of headship applicants, a textual analysis of headship recruitment packs, and follow-up semi-structured interviews with applicants, to form a multiple case design. Bringing these parts together, I examine how effective this process is, particularly against an interpretivist perspective of headship. Main findings suggest that certain models of leadership are communicated more effectively to applicants through the recruitment process than others, that the level of support for aspiring headteachers is hit and miss, depending upon their school context, and that the recruitment process would benefit from an integration with the language of leadership identity. Recommendations are made for revisions to initial teacher training as well as headship preparation training. The research will contribute to the field of educational leadership in what will be practical ways, for example, helping future applicants with preparation for senior leadership.

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