Supervisor, companion or chameleon? The evolution of the QLD principal supervisor through the lens of hierarchy, markets and networks

Year: 2021

Author: Campbell-Allen, Ricky

Type of paper: Individual Paper

Commonly referred to as ‘principal supervisor’ in the USA literature, the position of Assistant Regional Director (ARD) was launched in Queensland in 2011 as part of a suite of systemic reforms that were triggered by the ‘big Queensland panic’. Intensifying system and public pressure on schools for improvement resulted from Queensland’s relatively poor performance on the inaugural 2008 NAPLAN test, and the 2007 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). This paper is theoretically informed by governance theory and its use in education (Greany and Higham, 2018). It explores the influence of the governance environment through the lens of hierarchy, markets and networks on the ARD role conceptualisation and enactment over the past decade in Queensland. The paper outlines some of the initiatives that were implemented concurrently with the ARD role, and whose influence continues to shape interactions between ARDs and principals, recognising that policy is enacted and mediated in each system by local histories, politics and actors (Ball et al., 2012). Accountability mechanisms such as Teaching and Learning Audits (School Reviews) and the school autonomy initiative, Independent Public Schools were re-purposed and re-contested by political, cultural and social forces (Mills et al., 2002). Drawing on insights generated from semi-structured interviews with system leaders and system informants, the paper provides an account of system improvement narratives, coupling changes in the enactment of the ARD role with changes in system leadership. It draws on case study evidence gathered as part of a larger study exploring how ARDs work with principals and in what ways they influence principal practices. The data collection was carried out between June 2019 and April 2020. It includes a survey of ARDs and three case studies of ARDs, from three regions across Queensland, that triangulate the perspectives of principals with ARDs.