‘Instructional leadership’ has gained ground as the term which points to leadership of learning processes rather than leadership of managerial processes. ‘Instructional Leadership: leading learning’ was the topic of the recent Principals Upfront dialogue, at which Professor Pam Christie from the University of Cape Town gave the keynote address, locating her presentation in global debates on leadership and in South African realities.
She highlighted how some of the major changes in South Africa’s educational landscape since 1994－including legislation, policies and school governance－have made navigating leadership challenges even more complex. She also explored how leadership approaches and actions must fit the context and needs of any particular school and its environment. This suggests that there is no one definitive approach or style of leadership, as schools require different things at different stages in their own development. Above all, she asserted that leadership in a school is not the preserve of one person: the school leader motivates others to be leaders and draws on aspects of leadership wherever they may occur. A number of factors interact with leadership, including systemic contexts, the school ethos and community influences.
The voices of school principals were represented by two panellists: Ms Venessa Moodley, principal of Actonville Primary School and Mr Colin Northmore, principal of Sacred Heart College. Actonville Primary School serves an impoverished community with a range of socio-economic problems, while Sacred Heart College is an independent school serving a more privileged community. Both principals acknowledged that their own contexts determine their leadership styles to a significant degree. Ms Moodley found that practical concerns arising from the need to improve the learning environment dictated some of her initial actions as a leader. As this improves she can focus more on issues relating to the ethos and learning culture of the school. Mr Northmore felt that, in a well-resourced school such as his, one of his central roles is to enable his teachers to develop their craft in innovative ways.
To read the detailed report on the discussion held, and to access Professor Christie’s presentation, click here.