Management of rural schools: what agendas are being met by clustering?

Year: 1999

Author: MacGibbon, Lesley, Besley, Susan, Gilmore, Alison

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Increasingly principals of small rural schools have found that they are being overwhelmed by the administrative requirements of managing their schools. In 1997 the Ministry of Education initiated the School Administrative Support Cluster project which focussed on assisting small schools to work together to explore and establish collaborative school administrative procedures.

In 1998 the Ministry contracted facilitators to assist clusters of schools develop proposals that were submitted for contestable funding. A variety of cluster proposals were provided with 'start-up funding' and facilitator support. These projects included a range of technology and personnel initiatives. Projects were expected to be ongoing and self funding once the initial grant had been expended.

During this period the Ministry was carrying out the Education Development Initiative (EDI) of reviewing and rationalising the number of small rural schools. Initially many schools were suspicious that the Schools Administrative Support Cluster project was a precursor to EDI's in their area.

In this paper we explore some of the agendas of those participating in the Schools Administrative Support Cluster project. What makes clustering successful? What are the barriers to clustering? What did schools hope to achieve by participating in this project? How did schools utilise the available resource? What are the outcomes for the schools involved? What are the outcomes for the Ministry? What effect has clustering had on the future of individual schools?

This discussion is based on our research of this project over the past two years. We have surveyed all schools involved in the project, interviewed facilitators, interviewed key Ministry personnel, and completed 20 case studies involving visits to schools and regular contact over a 12 month period.