This study addressed the variations between key staff and ordinary teachers in perceiving principal leadership practices and school capacities. In a similar study on secondary schools, Walker and Ko (2011) found that in order to ensure better support for student in schools, key staff teachers found their principals' practices on strategic direction and policy environment more important initially, but its significance was superseded by his/her leadership practices on leader and teacher growth and development. In the present study, data collected in primary schools distinguished key staff teachers who held leadership roles in administration or instruction and ordinary teachers who did not have any leadership roles. Their differences in perceptions were expected to impact on the overall support for student in schools.
Regression analyses were performed to test whether the two groups of teachers perceived differently the impacts of principals' leadership practices the support for student in schools, and whether the differential perceptions in the two groups would affect the overall staff perception in schools. The results showed only a minor difference in the perceptions of key staff and ordinary teachers. Both groups found a negative impact of principals' leadership practices related to strategic direction and policy environments, but a positive impact of their staff management and resources management practices on enhancing support for students in the school. The key staff tended to emphasize the importance of staff management more, while ordinary teachers treated both types of leadership practices almost equally important. Overall, the perception of key staff seemed to prevail when the views of both groups were considered.
These findings seem to be less compatible with the emphasis of strategic direction and the role of principals as the goal setter of a school as suggested in transformational leadership theory or strategic leadership theory. Instead, in facing the increasing demands of accountability environments, Hong Kong primary teachers would prefer their principals to assign work to staff in accordance with their capabilities, show appreciation for teachers' outstanding performance, provide timely performance feedback to teachers, handle grievances amongst teachers, and improve the performance appraisal system in the school.
Interestingly, teachers seem to acknowledge the importance of creating a culture of accountability among teachers and a school-based accountability framework grounded on classroom observation, inspection of student homework and assessment for better teaching strategies, but their major concern suggests a strong expectation for fairness and transparency in management.