Manchester Metropolitan University's Research Repository

Transforming challenging schools through the leadership of superheads

Henning, Elizabeth (2016) Transforming challenging schools through the leadership of superheads. Doctoral thesis (EdD), Manchester Metropolitan University.


Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

Download (2MB) | Preview


The ascent of ‘school-improvement’ discourses in recent educational development initiatives has often centred on the installations of senior teachers from other schools into those that are seen as ‘failing’. Specifically, the notion of ‘superhead’ has been introduced in recent years as a strategy for improving ‘failing’ schools, where such individuals are given a brief of ‘raising standards’. Education' texts have abundant literature on alternative conceptions of leadership and on the role of leadership in effecting change. Little exists, however, on the impact of external leaders or ‘superheads’ transforming schools in challenging circumstances. Less still has been written on how individuals assume such roles and how they understand the process of transformation. This study takes an insider-outsider perspective on the practical challenge entailed in transforming school performance. From working as a teacher and consultant in two of the three inner city case study schools in Northern England, I draw upon data generated by using a mixed methods approach across these schools, all emerging from challenging circumstances. I examine how leadership impacts upon middle leaders and pupils through the narratives of mainstream ideology. The voices of the adults and children in these data serve as a reminder of the human impact resulting from external and internal interventions in schools. Social theory is mobilised in support of this task by drawing upon the writings of Foucault to problematise taken-for-granted practices in education. Foucault’s tools provide a mechanism for inspecting the narrative, through which I align history, power and discipline to education. Thus, I argue that a ‘superhead’ being transported in to transform a school is too simplistic a notion and one that undermines the complexities visible within these data gathered in this study.

Impact and Reach


Activity Overview

Additional statistics for this dataset are available via IRStats2.

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item