Strategy, culture and school development planning: a case study of staff perspectives in a secondary school

Jones, Stuart (2002). Strategy, culture and school development planning: a case study of staff perspectives in a secondary school. EdD thesis The Open University.



This case study is concerned with the perspectives of staff and governors in the secondary school where the researcher works as deputy head. The focus of the inquiry is school development planning and its relationship to wider strategic planning. The study further explores the School's culture and organisational structure in order to contextualise the findings and examine the School's capacity for change. The author considers the difficulties of conducting case study research in one's own place of work and utilises a range of research instruments to improve the validity of the research approach. These include questionnaires and interview schedules designed by the researcher, together with research resources designed for the Improving the Quality of Education for All (IQEA) school improvement project and the Improving School Effectiveness Project (ISEP). The study concludes that the School's development plan is generally considered to provide a sense of direction for the School but that there is little evidence of direct engagement with the plans produced. The senior team are perceived to provide purposeful leadership and the School's development structure, i.e. its capacity for improvement, is strong but there are concerns amongst many staff that decision-making is insufficiently collegiate. The author argues that this lack of involvement in key decision-making is the foundation for a model of strategy development that does not provide an authentic shared vision for the School as a whole. The School's aspirations to become a 'learning organisation' are compromised by a political structure that does not develop leadership density across the staff team. It is argued that the complexity and ambiguity of the School's culture, as reflected by the perspectives of its staff and governors, challenges the credentials of technicist models of strategic planning within this context. The result of an essentially top-down approach to strategy formation is a staff team who partially disengage themselves from strategic implementation, i.e. the school development planning process. From consideration of both the value and the constraints and limitations of this research study, the author concludes that there is a need for further case studies that explore the complexity and contradiction of the school setting and, in particular, action research studies that help the reader to understand the dynamic reality of school management from the perspectives of the practitioners themselves.

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