Global processes are reshaping the education systems of the Western world (Resnik 2008). New public management models are implemented in the public sector to govern schools and control teacher quality (Moos & Møller 2003). Together with this comes the notion of accountability; the belief that teachers are to be held responsible for low standards among pupils (Ingersoll 2011). The relationship between teacher quality and pupils’ results also is a common argument in international reports (see Barber & Mourshed 2007; Natale et al. 2013). Altogether, these trends influence national educational policy and trickle down to district and school levels. A recent example in Sweden is ”the first teacher reform” aimed at providing new forms of career services for teachers that the government launched in July 2013. In brief it allows accountable authorities to create, shape and appoint head teachers and as a consequence of this there is a great variety between the municipalities (Skolverket 2013).
The first teacher reform has introduced a new and formalised category of teachers concerned with issues involving educational leadership. Educational leadership relies on interaction between school leaders and teachers (Hultman 2001; Ludvigsson 2009) and previous research underlines both structural and cultural aspects in leadership as prerequisites for successful schools (Ärlestig 2009; Törnsén 2009). My paper explores the implementation of the reform on local level by analysing policy documents and data from interviews with district administrators, principals and first teachers. The theoretical framework builds upon an understanding of leadership as relational and contextual (Pierce & Newstrom 2007) and Leithwoods et al (2007) aspects of ”distributed leadership”. My work here is largely exploratory and suggestive where I seek to answer two main questions: In what ways does the emergence of first teachers effect the educational leadership of the principals? How do first teachers describe and understand their role in the organisation?
Preliminary results suggest that first teachers are resources in mentoring their colleagues and leading quality improvement, offering support for the principals as educational leaders by taking over processes related to collegial learning. However there is also a concern that first teachers lack legitimacy and the ability to question traditional teaching patterns for the improvement of teaching. The first teachers on their hand call for more guidance and clarity from the principals and district administrators regarding their assignments. The amount of meetings has increased and first teachers express that principals tend to move organisational issues tend to the first teachers. Most of all first teachers call for more time for their work. For some first teachers the relationship to colleagues have been strained and they experience that there are troubles to lead development processes due to envy and suspicion.
Educational Leadership in Transition. The Global Perspectives. Uppsala 5-6 november 2014