Walking the Tightrope: the role of school leadership in the new climate of New Zealand education

Year: 1992

Author: Alcorn, Noeline

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Massive changes to the administration of New Zealand education were officially implemented on October 1, 1989. Ostensibly these reforms were to increase both efficiency and equity by abolishing layers of local bureaucracy and making each school self-managing, governed by an elected Board of parents. The Department of Education was replaced by a policy oriented Ministry and its inspectorial functions shifted to an independent Review Office charged to measure performance against the terms of school charters, or contracts between Boards of Trustees and the Ministry. The reforms were driven by contradictory impulses: left wing critiques of education based on theories of social reproduction, cultural capital and hegemony, underpinned by Marxist and critical theories; right wing critiques sharpened by a perceived fiscal crisis and led in New Zealand by the Treasury, based on theories of individual choice and a belief that the New Zealand educational system suffered from "provider capture". Ironically, both called for greater equity and community responsiveness though their interpretation of these terms and their methods for achieving them were very different. In addition to these theoretical positions, both heavily influenced by overseas research and analysis, there was a longstanding and deeply entrenched New Zealand view that schooling is not only a right of all citizens but a means of achieving greater equality. A series of reports and enquiries throughout the 1970's and 80's had called for greater community and parental involvement and consultation in educational decision making.