Conflict along the borders: Issues of governance for small schools

Year: 2001

Author: Payne, Lesley

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The issues discussed in this paper arise from a study to investigate governance in small independent schools in Western Australia. Fourteen principals and twelve founding council members were interviewed and the resulting data analysed using QSR NUD*IST software. Critical areas of focus for the study are how school identity is maintained, how the differing expectations of the various constituents are catered for, and how tensions between democratic imperatives, professionalism, competing goals and a sense of community are managed within the school sites. Every organisation has boundaries and its borders are knowingly and unknowingly beset by conflicts on many different fronts. Difficulties around the drawing and defence of boundaries emerged as of particular interest in understanding the stability and durability of independent schools, their management of conflict and their resources of trust. Implications drawn from this research include the need for schools to be more strategic and flexible in their structures, to respect and maintain borders while still allowing information flow across them, and to set clear and visible goals which can be overseen and assessed without resulting in destabilising territorial disputes.