The principal at the centre of reform: some lessons from the field
The traditional system of industrial relations in Australia has emphasized arbitrated decisions by central tribunals in order to achieve uniform wage increases without any consideration being given to productivity. Since the late 1980s, there has been a move towards negotiation at the enterprise level. Legislative reforms have occurred at both federal and state levels which present opportunities for individual enterprises to negotiate agreements defining terms and conditions considered to be most appropriate for their circumstances. Therefore, the nature of the work to be undertaken in a particular education system or in a particular school can now be determined by the specific needs of the system or the school. The advent of 'enterprise bargaining', enabling staff to negotiate with management about the conditions of teachers' work at the school site, has significant reverberations for the role of principals, particularly in the independent sector. This paper describes how one principal successfully dealt with the process of enterprise bargaining. In so doing, it attempts to elaborate on new perspectives relating to the nature of the leadership of school principals within changing educational environments as a whole. The literature so far has recognized that educational leadership needs to change, but there is little empirically based scholarship identifying the roles that are demanded for adjusting to new environments. This paper goes some way towards denoting appropriate leadership qualities that serve to facilitate new decision-making processes within a school setting. This concern appears to be particularly germane in the midst of an international trend towards the devolution of educational systems and site based management of schools; an environment of change which is likely to engender new understandings of decision-making jurisdictions and conflict resolution.
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