Up close and personal: an investigation of headteacher departure from Anglican primary schools in England

Whiteoak, Daphne A. (2014) Up close and personal: an investigation of headteacher departure from Anglican primary schools in England. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Headteacher supply is of critical concern to policy makers and Governing Bodies in England as many schools continue to experience difficulties in recruiting school leaders despite succession planning and school organisation strategies at national and local level. Church of England schools appear to experience greater difficulties in recruitment and a lack of focus on leaders of Anglican schools in the empirical literature has resulted in little being known about the nature of Anglican school headship and why headteachers of this category of schools leave.

This study focused on the scale and nature of headteacher departure of headteachers leaving Church of England primary schools in England during one academic year, examining the influences leading to headteachers' decisions to leave a post and exploring what might have persuaded headteachers to remain in post as Anglican school headteachers.

In employing a sequential explanatory qualitative dominant mixed methods design, the study utilised data from two postal surveys and a number of semi-structured interviews with headteachers and Chairs of Governors in a complementary and negotiated manner. An inductive thematic analytical approach allowed a focus on the experiences and voices of headteachers which are heard through the conceptual framework of Wenger's theory of communities of practice.

The haemorrhage of headteachers leaving Anglican school headship includes a group of headteachers not currently recognised in the discourse about headteacher supply: headteachers choosing to leave headship altogether and Anglican school headship in particular. Many headteachers leaving headship altogether are leaving with few or no plans and with no intention to return to headship at a later date. Of those headteachers leaving for a substantive headship many are electing to move to a non-Anglican school. Some of these are leaving with no intention of returning to headship of an Anglican school in a future career move.

Headteachers experience dis-identification with members and/or the practice of four communities of practice (Professional, Nurture, Family, and Spiritual) as they negotiate meaning for themselves through relationships, mutuality of engagement, imagination, alignment and participation.

This thesis argues that there are substantive issues associated with Anglican headship which influence headteacher departure. Anglican headship has a historical dimension which intersects with public and personal dimensions of headship in particular ways which reflect historical aspects of Christianity and Anglicanism, the history of Anglican schools in England and individuals' own faith perspectives. Five expectations coalesce in the experiences of headteachers as members of the spiritual community of practice which present challenges as headteachers negotiate meaning for themselves in their own identity work. The expectations can lead to 'dis-ease' and dis-identification with members and/or the practice of the spiritual community. It is this 'lack of fit' which can lead to a decision to leave an Anglican school, headship per se and Anglican school headship in particular. Personal faith can be a powerful influence in the lives of some headteachers and this study also concludes that experiencing a calling from God can influence headteacher departure.

The thesis concludes with implications for policy and practice which would enable schools to reduce the haemorrhage of experience and expertise from Church of England schools.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Hobson, A. J.
Thomson, P.L.
Keywords: Church of England, education, school principals, resignation, psychology, England,
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher education
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > School of Education
Item ID: 29270
Depositing User: Airey, Ms Valerie
Date Deposited: 02 Jul 2015 07:52
Last Modified: 09 Jun 2018 02:02
URI: https://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/29270

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