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Between a rock and a hard place: a case study from the borderlands of Ireland

Between a rock and a hard place: a case study from the borderlands of Ireland
Between a rock and a hard place: a case study from the borderlands of Ireland
Schools along the Irish border operate on the cusp of two national education systems, two conflicting political affiliations, two opposing religious ideologies, and during the worst of the Troubles, two warring factions. While individual secondary schools have not formally operated in more than one national jurisdiction, their pupils frequently attend schools on one side of the border while living on the other, and in any case have been affected on a daily basis by the socio-economic decline and political conflict going on around them. This chapter is essentially a case study of how school leadership is understood in this context: the internal dimension of how the conflict impacts on students and on the curriculum; and the external dimension of how it influences parents and the local community. Some of the issues and challenges are distinctive, if sometimes subliminal, but generally the challenge is one of capability: a headship can only occur at a particular place at a particular time - we cannot choose when to live - and in conflict societies like Northern Ireland, schools deal on behalf of innocents with events that are outside their control.
The fashion in recent decades, particularly in the UK, has been for more leadership, so that the word itself has become imbued with a type of mysticism; as if the mere fact of having the commodity was enough to ensure its desired effect. Actually, in many cases, and particularly in conflicted societies, what is needed is not more leadership, but better management. The two are not mutually exclusive, but in practice there are probably as many typologies of leadership as there are actual management roles, and most have been constructed by ‘consultants’ with little practical experience and no demonstrable skill in the field, so that the academic study of leadership has become little more than a compendium of anecdote and folk wisdom designed to promote a marketable idea for lecture tours. There can be very few adjectives remaining that have not at some stage prefixed the word ‘leadership’, but there is little research evidence to quantify the effect on student or societal outcomes of all these so-called ground-breaking understandings. Certainly, we can reasonably assume that purposive leadership is probably better than distracted management, in the same way as an organised learning environment is probably better than a chaotic one, but it is difficult to find consistent evidence for the size of the effect on student learning or for the mechanisms by which its influence is exerted. Yet things are not all bleak for practitioners acting on the fault lines of society: several leadership models, like the Social Change model from the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA, promote leadership as a social responsibility and as an activity which can enhance student self-awareness and citizenship (Dugan, 2006)
978-1138817326
Routledge
Kelly, Anthony
1facbd39-0f75-49ee-9d58-d56b74c6debd
Clarke, Simon
O'Donoghue, Tom
Kelly, Anthony
1facbd39-0f75-49ee-9d58-d56b74c6debd
Clarke, Simon
O'Donoghue, Tom

Kelly, Anthony (2015) Between a rock and a hard place: a case study from the borderlands of Ireland. In, Clarke, Simon and O'Donoghue, Tom (eds.) School Leadership in Heterogeneous Contexts. Abingdon, GB. Routledge.

Record type: Book Section

Abstract

Schools along the Irish border operate on the cusp of two national education systems, two conflicting political affiliations, two opposing religious ideologies, and during the worst of the Troubles, two warring factions. While individual secondary schools have not formally operated in more than one national jurisdiction, their pupils frequently attend schools on one side of the border while living on the other, and in any case have been affected on a daily basis by the socio-economic decline and political conflict going on around them. This chapter is essentially a case study of how school leadership is understood in this context: the internal dimension of how the conflict impacts on students and on the curriculum; and the external dimension of how it influences parents and the local community. Some of the issues and challenges are distinctive, if sometimes subliminal, but generally the challenge is one of capability: a headship can only occur at a particular place at a particular time - we cannot choose when to live - and in conflict societies like Northern Ireland, schools deal on behalf of innocents with events that are outside their control.
The fashion in recent decades, particularly in the UK, has been for more leadership, so that the word itself has become imbued with a type of mysticism; as if the mere fact of having the commodity was enough to ensure its desired effect. Actually, in many cases, and particularly in conflicted societies, what is needed is not more leadership, but better management. The two are not mutually exclusive, but in practice there are probably as many typologies of leadership as there are actual management roles, and most have been constructed by ‘consultants’ with little practical experience and no demonstrable skill in the field, so that the academic study of leadership has become little more than a compendium of anecdote and folk wisdom designed to promote a marketable idea for lecture tours. There can be very few adjectives remaining that have not at some stage prefixed the word ‘leadership’, but there is little research evidence to quantify the effect on student or societal outcomes of all these so-called ground-breaking understandings. Certainly, we can reasonably assume that purposive leadership is probably better than distracted management, in the same way as an organised learning environment is probably better than a chaotic one, but it is difficult to find consistent evidence for the size of the effect on student learning or for the mechanisms by which its influence is exerted. Yet things are not all bleak for practitioners acting on the fault lines of society: several leadership models, like the Social Change model from the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA, promote leadership as a social responsibility and as an activity which can enhance student self-awareness and citizenship (Dugan, 2006)

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Published date: December 2015
Organisations: University of Southampton

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 387140
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/387140
ISBN: 978-1138817326
PURE UUID: c62f8646-406c-4366-ade8-04a79cd5ed82
ORCID for Anthony Kelly: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0003-4664-8585

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Date deposited: 12 Feb 2016 15:04
Last modified: 25 Jul 2020 04:01

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Contributors

Author: Anthony Kelly ORCID iD
Editor: Simon Clarke
Editor: Tom O'Donoghue

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