Achieving a Self-Transforming School
The themes in this paper and the question posed in the title were addressed by Professor Brian Caldwell in an Invited Workshop at the 2012 Joint APPA NZPF Trans-Tasman Conference on the theme ‘Leading Learning: Our Primary Purpose’, Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, September 20, 2012. The Paper was republished by CSE (Centre for Strategic Education) in April 2013
The purpose of this workshop is to explore the possibility of moving from the self-managing school to the self-transforming school. This does not mean that schools will operate alone; most will be members of networks, and these networks will be global more than they are local. Most will be part of a system of schools and will draw on ‘the system’ for support in some matters. Transformation under these conditions will occur only if a school has the capacity and determination to achieve it – no amount of externally designed re-structuring, re-staffing, or command-and-control direction will be sufficient. Dramatically different approaches will be required; leadership and governance to reproduce the status quo or to achieve modest improvement will not suffice. The case for change can be made in many mostly Western countries including Australia, England, New Zealand and the United States.
A self-managing school is one to which there has been decentralised a significant amount of authority and responsibility to make decisions on the allocation of resources within a centrally determined framework of goals, policies, curriculum, standards and accountabilities. Resources are defined broadly to include staff, services and infrastructure, each of which will typically entail the allocation of funds to reflect local priorities. A self-managing school has a high level of but not complete autonomy, given the centrally-determined framework. There is a strong body of evidence that a balance of autonomy, accountability and choice contributes to high levels of achievement providing schools have the capacity to be self-managing.