Developing as an Educational Leader and Manager


Megan Crawford

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  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
  • Subject Index
  • Dedication

    I would like to dedicate this book to my friend and mentor Marianne Coleman, without whose support this book would never have been finished. Her wise comments were greatly appreciated.


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    I would like to thank my publishers, my family, especially Philip, and my colleagues at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge for their support of this endeavour. I am also grateful to Roy Lilley for granting permission to include his ‘7 Things to Think About’ for NHS leaders. Special thanks to Sonia Ilie for sorting out my formatting and to Peter Barnes for helping me get to grips with that difficult chapter. As this book suggests, people and context are vitally important, not just for leadership in the abstract, but for getting things done.


    This book is woven around the idea of a personal narrative. My own narrative is based, as yours will be, on a unique set of experiences in particular contexts. I have been involved in educational leadership in universities and in primary and secondary schools. If I were to tell you the complete story and engage in autobiography, this would engulf the entire first chapter of this book. Instead, I will concentrate on my own leadership narrative, a concept that I will explain more fully in Chapter 1. The story of how I have moved from working in schools to working in universities relates to how I have come to understand the relationship between theory in practice and educational leadership, which was the motivation to write this book. My story can be seen as the underlying narrative of this book. I started my career as a primary teacher and moved into the higher education sector after eleven years but retained my interest in schools by becoming a governor. In schools, I rapidly (in retrospect too rapidly) moved from being a classroom teacher to a year group leader, to a deputy head teacher. When my children were small, I pragmatically took a part-time administrative post in higher education, having recently finished a Masters degree, in order to spend more time with my family. This moving in and out of jobs reflects what is known about many women's career patterns. I was encouraged by a valued mentor to move into writing and lecturing, and became part of a highly motivated team of people whose experience, warmth and intelligence made me want to continue with this new career, something that I had never planned to do. When I reflect back upon it, the need to stay true to my values as a teacher was at the heart of this move. Whether in primary schools or in university, I have always wanted to teach and discover more about working with others in organisations. Ex colleagues might suggest that ‘nosey’ would be a better description. At the same time, I was keen to keep up with the daily realities in primary schools, so in 1990 I became a school governor, a role which I thought would be short term but has continued up to now. Over 20 years I have had the privilege of being involved in five different schools in England, with age ranges from 4 to 18. A unique part of my leadership narrative is that I have been able to be involved in starting three new schools from the very beginning (Crawford, 2007). All these governing body experiences were diverse: from being asked to chair a school board in severe difficulties, to a tiny village primary, to setting up a large secondary school from a greenfield site. This has enabled me to see the way that theory and practice work together in leadership, and perhaps become more adept at understanding the viewpoints of other governors whose backgrounds are not in education. The role of governors in England is ‘complicated, demanding, and goes on largely unnoticed’ (James et al., 2010: 1), but I have found it particularly useful as an academic to be able to continually reflect on the reality of schools and understand the impact policy changes have in particular contexts. I have also spent parts of my life living in other countries. Eagled-eyed readers will spot references to life in the USA. Within the university sector, I have been privileged to teach leaders and potential leaders from around the world, and have learnt a great deal from those Master's and Doctoral students, not only about context in leadership, but also about their personal commitment to reflective practice (Schön, 1983) and the future of young people in those countries. All these instances make up my narrative and, as I examine it, several threads become apparent to me that concern people, values and a love of teaching. There are, of course, many more, and more of my own story will become apparent as you read on. Reflecting on my career as a narrative allows me to own difficult periods where certain critical events either changed my story entirely or took me in a new direction. My personal journey has caused me to reflect on the interface between research and practice in education, and particularly in educational leadership. In a sense, then, this book aims to bridge some of the gap between what academics write about and what practitioners ‘do’. It draws upon both theory and practice. There is a firm emphasis throughout that the best educational leaders are dynamic and adaptable and are most effective when they draw upon understandings developed from theory. Your own narrative forms a very particular story which, I will argue, you can use to inform lived lives in schools and other educational organisations. My narrative and examples of the stories of others, discussed in this book, are there to help you develop as a leader and manager, by allowing you space to think more clearly about yourself as a leader and manager.

    The Author

    Dr Megan Crawford is a Reader at the University of Cambridge. Her background is in primary schools, where she was a deputy head teacher. She is on the Executive of the British Educational Leadership, Management and Administration Society (BELMAS:, and was its Chair from 2009 to 2011. She has been visiting Professor at a number of international universities.

    Megan is very involved in governing schools, and was the Teaching Awards Governor of the Year, East of England, in 2009/10. She has been a governor of five schools, and is Chair of Governors at Oakgrove School, Milton Keynes. Her research encompasses principal preparation, teacher development, and emotion and leadership. Her previous book Getting to the Heart of Leadership was published by Sage in 2009.

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