Leadership in extended schools: Working in an inter-agency collaborative context

Yakavets, Natallia (2011). Leadership in extended schools: Working in an inter-agency collaborative context. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000eea2

Abstract

This study examines the leadership practices of practitioners involved in implementing the UK Government's extended schools programme. It specifically explores how leaders deal with a variety of situations and tasks while working within an inter-organizational collaborative context involving schools, community and partner organizations. The study's conceptual framework is based on theories about social capital (Coleman, 1988; Putnam, 2000) and on the theory of collaborative advantage (Huxham & Vangen, 2005). A multiperspective qualitative case study design was adopted, utilising semi-structured interviews, documentary analysis, and observation to collect data during a ten-month period in one local authority in a city in England. The interview data were collected from 20 participants from schools, the local authority, and different partner organizations working with selected schools. These data were cross-referenced with observations of leadership practice and a range of available documentation. This study highlights the challenging task for practitioners of synthesising multiple government initiatives into a coherent strategy of partnership working. Findings indicate the value of the extended schooling programme as an opportunity for improving the life chances of children and their families, and illuminate the functioning of schools as `appropriable social organizations' (Coleman, 1990) which can not only assist educational purposes but build social capital more generally. This study shows that building and using aspects of social capital - such as networks, trust, shared values and norms - is essential if leadership practice is to promote effective inter-agency collaboration. However, the study argues that there is a danger of exaggerating the capacity of collaborative leadership, since the problems faced by people in deprived communities are not easily resolved by short-term inter-agency partnership working. Nevertheless, its potential contribution should not be underestimated, and this thesis provides a framework for understanding and promoting collaborative leadership in inter-organizational contexts.

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