9th January 2004 at 00:00
PRIMARY SCHOOL LEADERSHIP IN CONTEXT: Leading small, medium and large sized primary schools. By Geoff Southworth. RoutledgeFalmer pound;22.50

The introduction in September of the national agreement on raising standards and tackling workload entitles teachers to a "reasonable" amount of non-teaching time to support their leadership and management responsibilities. But what is a reasonable amount of time and what are leadership and management responsibilities? Many heads are starting to wonder if their systems of delegating responsibility are adequate and effective.

From its title, Geoff Southworth's book seems a source for examples of good primary school management. The cover says the book is particularly valuable to headteachers, deputies, subject leaders and others. This is true up to a point. Those with no experience of primary school organisation would gain most.

The title is a puzzle. Why the fuzzy divisions of small, medium and large primaries? Why has Southworth become tangled up with using the number of pupils to differentiate management types? Running a school of 401 pupils (classed as a large primary) is no different to running a medium one of 399 pupils. Much simpler and more natural distinctions can be made: the numbers of forms in the entry, for example.

The book links work from the author's studies on small, medium and large primaries. It's good at telling us what heads and (to a lesser extent) other staff in leadership roles do; without an observational base, it doesn't tell us how things were done.

Southworth states that effective leadership in medium-sized schools demands individuals who have drive and imagination. True, but don't all leaders in all effective schools need those qualities? Models of shared leadership and distributed leadership are described in detail, but these refinements are unlikely to excite most heads and teachers. An important element in the book is the emphasis on "learning-centred" leadership in which staff and pupils are learners.

In an appendix, the heads of four medium-sized schools describe the management structures and systems in their schools. There are some bright ideas: asking the caretaker to contribute to the school improvement plan; giving teaching assistants opportunities to lead staff meetings.

A thoughtful book, but one that is unlikely to inspire leaders and potential leaders.

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