The implementation of the revised New Zealand Curriculum: Unpacking the complexities of sustainability, school climate and distributed forms of educational leadership

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Youngs, Howard
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Ngā Upoko Tukutuku (Māori subject headings)
educational leadership
New Zealand National Curriculum
Youngs, H. (2009). The implementation of the revised New Zealand Curriculum: Unpacking the complexities of sustainability, school climate and distributed forms of educational leadership. In P. Jeffrey (Ed.) Proceedings, Changing climates: Education for sustainable futures, AARE 2008 International Education Conference, Brisbane. Available from
The day-to-day practice of educational leadership practice can be extremely complex, demanding and yet rewarding; it is a highly relational activity. At the very heart of changing the climate of a school in relation to professional and student learning is the importance of building relationships of trust and sustaining productive levels of transparency particularly amongst the staff. This paper provides a ‘window’ into the day-to-day activities of staff from two New Zealand secondary schools as they are expected to implement the revised National Curriculum. The Ministry of Education state that the new National Curriculum has been framed in such a way so that schools should not be limited in the way that they offer learning experiences to students; it is a framework rather than a detailed prescribed plan. Therefore schools should have a greater opportunity to make locally based decisions in relation to professional and student learning. An ongoing ethnographic project over twenty months in two urban secondary schools provides the context for the data that informs this paper. Observation is used as the primary means to interpret and understand day-to-day leadership practice in situ. The methodological approach is in contrast to the majority of leadership studies in education, where quantitative analysis and qualitative studies that focus mainly on espoused accounts of practice are commonplace. The data reveal that the day-to-day practice of educational leaders is not as straightforward and prescriptive as often is purported. School climates that emphasise sustainability and distributed forms of leadership can be arenas of both contestability and learning, but only if we are prepared to ‘drill deep’ below the surface of day to day leadership practice that can appear straightforward to research, label and prescribe. The barriers and opportunities for developing school climates of sustainable learning may then be revealed in relation to power relations and organisational learning. How teachers and school leaders in the two schools appear to navigate their way through initiatives and their relationship to school climate is a central focus of this paper.
Australian Association for Research in Education
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Howard Youngs
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