McLay, Margaret (2004) Leadership in secondary independent schools in the UK. In: The 7th International BELMAS Research Conference, 8th – 10th July 2004, St. Catherine’s College, University of Oxford. (Unpublished)

This paper reports on research with headteachers in independent secondary schools in the UK, examining the preparation and training of women for senior management. The research comprised a 1) pilot study of interviews with 9 female headteachers of girls' and coeducational secondary schools; 2) a questionnaire sent to male and female heads of coeducational secondary schools. It examines: the profile of these headteachers; changes in the sector, particularly those affecting structure, leadership and management style, and preparation and training for headship. It finds that the sector has been subject to considerable change and that leadership has become less autocratic and more distributed as a result. It presents evidence of the similarities and differences in the experiences of men and women on the path to headship. Whilst there are only slight differences in leadership style, the career paths show that several of the women have experienced problems with sexist approaches compared to only one of the male respondents. This problem was especially acute in former all-boys schools which had become coeducational. The majority of women headteachers in the coeducational schools were married, and had children.

A significant finding was that they had had their families at a relatively early age which allowed them sufficient time to restart their careers and apply for promotion. The research findings are compared to other relevant studies in both the independent and maintained sectors in order to support conclusions and make recommendations to those aspiring to headship and those involved in their preparation and training.

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