Power and the ‘autonomous’ principal: autonomy, teacher development, and school leaders’ work

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One aspect of instructional leadership is the work principals undertake in supporting and developing teachers’ skills and capabilities. This paper examines this aspect of school leadership within a climate characterised by increased principal workloads, heavy external accountabilities, pressure to improve student results, and heightened autonomy which included discourses regarding principals’ increased freedom in staffing decisions. The case studies within this paper focus specifically on principals’ work in relation to the recruitment and development of staff. Policy and discourse suggests that principals have the autonomy to recruit and build staffing teams to meet school needs and improve outcomes, though questions have been raised about how autonomous public schools can be a part of a wider system. This paper explores the role autonomy plays in leadership practices relating to staff recruitment and development. The findings contribute to a body of knowledge regarding the ways principals make sense of and enact their work under highly pressurised school improvement policy conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)379-396
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Educational Administration and History
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2018


  • accountability
  • autonomy
  • instructional leadership
  • Leadership
  • principals

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