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Primary school head teachers and collaborative networks

Project Description

It has long been noted that strong school leadership is key to a school’s success, but the form that this leadership should take has changed immeasurably over recent times. At the turn of the century the emotional capability and complexity of the individual leader came under scrutiny and the much sought after leader attribute became ‘emotional intelligence’ (Goleman et al 2002). Over a decade later a focus upon the effective characteristics and qualities of successful leaders has become embedded within head teacher expectations. The values and traits of the individual leader are now squarely under the microscope, with a focus upon self-knowledge and how this is demonstrated through behaviour (Berkovich, 2014).

In 2016 the Education Development Trust (no page) emphasised that “the best unit for school improvement is no longer single institutions. It is the cluster.” The intention of this studentship is to investigate this claim, not only in terms of the continued improvement of school processes and product, but also in relation to the emotional wellbeing of its leaders.

This PhD studentship represents a unique and exciting opportunity to contribute to a clearer understanding of the workings and benefits of school-based collaborations and partnerships between head teachers in primary schools in England. The successful candidate will be responsible for developing the detail of this proposal further and will work closely with the supervisory team to select appropriate methods of enquiry. It is anticipated that the successful candidate will have knowledge and understanding of the primary school phase, its wider educational and policy environment, and the critical role of the head teacher.

To better understand the contribution of leadership collaborations in providing support to primary head teachers.

• To undertake original research with head teachers (in England) drawing upon qualitative and quantitative approaches;
• To gain a better understanding of the range, structure and workings of collaborative support groups;
• To understand the role that support groups can play in the continuing professional development of the head teacher;
• To investigate the role of support groups in providing head teachers pastoral/ emotional support;
• To understand, from the perspective of the head teacher, the potential that collaborations have to impact upon whole school improvement;
• To interrogate documents and statistics which evidence the impact of collaborative leadership clusters;
• To contribute to educational policy, practice and the theoretical literature.

Proposed research approaches:
Interpretivist approaches including head teacher narrative stories/ life histories
School and Local Authority level longitudinal data interrogation
Documentary evidence (Ofsted/ collaborative interventions/ policy)

Funding Notes

During the period of your studentship you will receive the following:
• a tax free bursary of £15,009 for a period of 3 years
• a fee-waiver for 4 years
• a budget to support your project costs for the first 3 years of the project
• a laptop
• use of the Research Student Study Space in the Research School

You will play an active role in the life of both the Research School and of the School. You will be given opportunities to gain experience in learning and teaching under the guidance of your Director of Studies.


Apple, M W (2010) Global Crises, Social Justice, and Education. New York: Routledge.

Berkovich I. (2014) Between person and person: Dialogical pedagogy in authentic leadership development. Academy of Management Learning and Education 13(2): 245-264.

Berkovich I and Eyal O (2017) Methodological review of studies on educational leaders and emotions (1992-2012): Insights into the meaning of an emerging research field in educational administration. Journal of Educational Administration 55(5): 469-49.

Berkovich I and Eyal O (2015) Educational Leaders and Emotions Review of Educational Research March 85(1): 129–167.

Brennan J and Ruairc G M (2019) Different worlds: The cadences of context, exploring the emotional terrain of school principals’ practice in schools in challenging circumstances. Educational Management Administration and Leadership 47(1): 129–146.

Education Development Trust (2016) Effective Clusters Diagnostic (electronic reference no longer available).

Goleman D, Boyatzis R and McKee A (2002) Primal Leadership: Realising the Power of Emotional Intelligence. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

Maxwell A, and Riley P (2017). Emotional demands, emotional labour and occupational outcomes in school principals: Modelling the relationships. Educational Management Administration and Leadership, 45(3), 484–502.

Solvason and Kington (2019) Collaborations: Providing Emotional Support to Senior Leaders. Journal of Professional Capital and Community,

Tahir L, Haruzuan Mohd M N, Daud, K, Vazhathodi H and Khan A (2016) The benefits of headship mentoring: An analysis of Malaysian novice head teachers’ perceptions. Educational Management Administration and Leadership, 44(3): 420–450.

Whitehead, J. (2008) Using a living theory methodology in improving practice and generating educational knowledge in living theories. EJOLTS, 1(1); 103-126

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