Challenge and opportunity: Middle leaders and the implementation of the New Zealand curriculum

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Craggs, Simon
Author ORCID Profiles (clickable)
Master of Educational Leadership and Management
Unitec Institute of Technology
Youngs, Howard
Howse, Jo
Masters Thesis
Ngā Upoko Tukutuku (Māori subject headings)
New Zealand National Curriculum
curriculum development
New Zealand secondary schools
middle level leaders
Craggs, S. (2011). Challenge and opportunity: Middle leaders and the implementation of the New Zealand curriculum. (Unpublished document submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Educational Leadership and Management). Unitec Institute of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand. Retrieved from
The implementation of a new national curriculum is a huge undertaking. The formulation of the revised New Zealand Curriculum in 2007, with its three year implementation period, came near the end of a decade of intensive pedagogical change in New Zealand secondary schools. It is in this context that middle leaders, with their unique position in schools’ hierarchical structures which enable them to have a direct influence on the quality of teaching and learning in classrooms, were tasked with an important role in developing and implementing a school curriculum which reflects the change of national curriculum. This is in the midst of an already crowded workload. This research explores the personal responses of middle leaders to this major curriculum change and identifies both the challenges that they have faced and their responses to them in the course of the implementation process. Finally, the implications for the roles of middle leaders in New Zealand secondary schools are explored. This interpretive study looks to explore middle leaders’ perceptions and espoused views of their practice in curriculum implementation. A pragmatic methodological approach employed both quantitative and qualitative data gathering methods with greater emphasis on the qualitative. Data was gathered from a wide range of secondary schools in the Northland region with interviews conducted in three schools in the area. The research indicates that there exist in secondary schools some significant barriers to effective curriculum implementation and that interpretation and practice amongst middle leaders is highly variable. The response of middle leaders to these challenges is mostly a managerial one rather than leadership. Questions are raised about the preparedness of middle leaders to implement a curriculum which is significantly different to the previous one without significant support and guidance from both government agencies and school leadership.
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