Leadership and the reform of education – author interview

Cover image for leadership and the reform of educationThe Policy Press (TPP) was pleased to have a chat with Helen Gunter (HG), author of Leadership and the reform of education, about the background to her book:

TPP: How did you come to be interested in this field of study:

HG: People in schools now have to think about themselves as a leader, talk about themselves and each other as leaders, and they have to be seen to do leadership in a very effective way. Twenty years ago this was called management, and forty years ago it was called administration. I first became interested in this issue when I began my masters in education management, and asked questions about the title, and also why much of what we learned in the sessions was more about business management than education. I was able to do some serious work on this through my doctoral studies where I studied the history of educational management through interviewing the people who had brought it as a field of study into the university.

TPP: What did you do next?:

HG: By the time I had graduated in 1999 the field was rebranding itself as leadership, and the New Labour government was making leadership a central feature of its reform strategy. It seemed to me that this needed investigation and I successfully applied for ESRC funds to undertake a mapping of the field, and use my doctoral methodology and conceptualisation to examine the knowledge workers involved in enabling the government do invest in leadership. Over 100 interviews were completed with researchers, politicians, civil servants and practitioners, and in addition policy texts and research outputs were examined.

TPP: Tell us about the book and why you wrote it:

HG: Leadership and the Reform of Education is about the way that successive governments – in this instance the New Labour governments from 1997 to 2010 – have tried to change what goes on in the classroom through changing the way that headteachers and other educational professionals go about their jobs and think about what it means to be a teacher.

What the book does is to report on the work I undertook, and what I set out to do is to include all who are involved. So much that is written about leadership is based on very narrow conceptualisations of what ‘leader’, ‘leading’ and ‘leadership’ is about, and the references are limited to a small group of writers who work in a particular way. Importantly, this type of approach is being sold to other countries, and knowledge workers from abroad are brought in to help this narrow form of leadership to be presented as international. However, when a full search is undertaken of the literatures, and when discussions take place with professionals there is other knowledge and ways of knowing within the library and in classrooms both in the UK and in the international field. So the book not only examines the dominance of a particular approach to leadership used by New Labour to bring about reforms, and why it was able to do that through working with a particular type of researcher, but also recognition is given to critical and socially critical research that is not only part of the field but also is accessed by professionals. I examine the working lives of professionals, and open up the research not accessed by New Labour to scrutiny.

Of course, as soon as I had completed the draft of the book there was a change of government, and so I end the book with not only a review of the New Labour period in office but also how the Coalition is conducting itself. Clearly this is my next project, but what is obvious is how ideas and people not only travel with their knowledge and ideas, but also travel over political boundaries and serve different governments.

TPP: Helen Gunter, thank you very much. Helen’s book Leadership and the reform of education is published by The Policy Press on 16 November and can be ordered here.

0 Responses to “Leadership and the reform of education – author interview”

  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Twitter Updates


Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print.

The work on the Policy Press blog is licensed under a Creative Commons licence.