Resistant leadership: countering dominant paradigms in school improvement

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In Australia, school leadership is influenced by neoliberal discourses of accountability and performativity. Many schools seek to balance systemic pressures that narrow outcome expectations with a desire to deliver schooling in the broad interests of the students and communities that they serve. In this case, the principal was appointed to a school under threat of closure. To re-establish he purposefully disrupted traditional arrangements using approaches that disregarded many standard school improvement paradigms. The school improved in enrolments, reputation and student learning. This paper examines how this principal found and created spaces for disruptive change within the local context and the broader policy environment. While the value or ethics of the leadership are not the focus of the paper, it is noted that the autocratic position he assumed was problematic. Despite this, the case provides insight into leadership that resisted the confines of normative pressures to support radical school improvement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)256-272
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Educational Administration and History
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2019


  • change management
  • educational leadership
  • innovative improvement
  • KEYWORDS: School improvement
  • resistance
  • student empowerment
  • turn-around

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