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Career Journeys: Leadership, Identity and Gendered Careers of Female Primary School Leaders

Lynch, C. (2021) Career Journeys: Leadership, Identity and Gendered Careers of Female Primary School Leaders. EdD thesis, University of Reading

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To link to this item DOI: 10.48683/1926.00100785


School leadership has previously had a greater lens focussed upon secondary education, rather than primary education. With a critical shortage of primary headteachers, within England, this research aims to gain a deep and rich understanding regarding the career journeys of female Deputy Headteacher’s and Assistant Headteacher’s within primary schools. The dilemma about whether, or not to advance to the next stage and undertake a headship is an issue. Women are not progressing beyond the Deputy Headteacher/Assistant Headteacher role in the numbers required or expected. With the difficulties regarding the recruitment of headteachers, which has been evident over the last two decades, combined with the concerns of engaging with AHT/DHTs to consider Headship, there remains a real issue within the future of primary school leadership. Therefore, this thesis seeks to understand the careers of female AHT/DHTs as they consider their career progression towards headship. The main research question arose from a problem identified during a presentation at a DHT conference (section 1.3): Why are female AHT/DHTs not choosing to apply for headteacher posts? Four open and explorative research questions related to career journeys, leadership, identity, and gendered careers guide the study. This thesis sets out an exploratory and qualitative approach to research using an epistemological approach, in which themes surrounding school leadership, identity and gendered careers are explored, through individual perspectives. Social identity theory is used as a theoretical framework for the study, with a focus upon leadership, identity, and gendered careers. The theoretical focus on social identity theory seeks to examine how individuals perceive and hence position themselves within the educational work environment and the trust they place within their headteacher to support and guide them. Rich narrative interviews with 10 female Deputy Headteacher/Assistant Headteachers working in primary schools in England were undertaken, following Wengraf’s (2001) Biographical Narrative Interpretive Method (BNIM). This specific rich narrative approach seeks to gain a greater understanding of how the women make sense of their career journeys, their professional and family roles and how their career ambitions have been shaped by their gender. The examination and thematic analysis of the concept of leadership, identity and gendered careers amongst women school leaders and identification of emergent themes will use an interpretive stance. The findings of the research uncovered complex barriers and enablers for Deputy Headteachers and Assistant Headteachers becoming headteachers. The study confirms oscillating and complex elements affect the women’s decision to move toward headship, including their dependence on the support of the headteacher, balancing responsibilities, identities in transition/fractured and multiple identities. The findings have implications for primary school leadership and future educational policy and practice. The study concludes with recommendations for further research.

Item Type:Thesis (EdD)
Thesis Supervisor:Jones, K. and Turner, C.
Thesis/Report Department:Institute of Education
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > Institute of Education > Improving Equity and Inclusion through Education
ID Code:100785


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