School Leadership Plan: Personal, Symbolic and Cultural


The development of Australian education depends so much on the leadership within the individual schools. This is the agreement between the various stakeholders in our system of education. It is generally agreed that, and rightly so, that the development of our education cannot be realised if the leadership of the schools is incompetent. This is because it is the leaders who are responsible for articulating the various resources that are at the disposal of the schools and ensure that they are employed well for the school’s development. There is no way that the teachers can perform effectively if they are not guided by a visionary leader. There is no way that the community can support the education system if the school leaders do not consult them.

This paper is a leadership plan for a private school in Western Australia. The writer concentrates on the principalship leadership of the school. He notes the weaknesses and strengths of this leadership, then goes ahead to develop a plan to improve on it.


School Leadership Plan: Personal, Symbolic and Cultural


Recently, there has been debate on the quality of education in Australian schools both in the public and professional domain. There is an agreement among the public and the professionals that there are several factors which determine the quality of education in our schools. The schools been referred to here are both the public and private ran schools. It is agreed that the availability of resources is one of the factors that affect the performance of the school. This is because it is obvious that those schools that are endowed perform better than their not so well off counterparts. Another factor is the competence of the staff, both academic and non-academic staff. If the school administration takes upon them to employ only qualified persons, their performance receives a well deserved boost. The motivation and commitment of the teachers, the students and all the stakeholders also goes a long way in determining the success story of the school. It is not only the students, teachers and the employees of the school that determine its performance and success, but the community around which the school is to be found plays a part. That is the reason why it is very important to incorporate the community members, including the parents of the school, in the running of the institution.

As much as the above factors are of great weight in determining the success of the school, it is no doubt that leadership plays the greatest part. It is the leader who brings together all the above factors and combines them in a manner that ensures that excellence of the school is attained. As such, it is not possible to have a school with bad leadership that is performing very well. A study of Australian schools that are high performers, regardless of the background of the schools, indicates that a common trait runs through them. They all seem to have competent and great leaders with visions.

This plan is aimed at developing leadership in a private school. The school which the plan


School Leadership Plan: Personal, Symbolic and Cultural

focuses on is a private middle level school in Western Australia. This school is called Shepherds Elementary. It is a private school and the proprietor also doubles as the leader or manager of the institution. This plan will critique the current leadership plan and will go ahead to develop a new plan that is going to improve the school. The leadership area that the writer will concentrate on is that of principal.

Objectives of the Study

Throughout the study, the writer of this plan will be guided by one major objective. This is to develop leadership in Shepherds Elementary in Western Australia. This plan will have various components. These are as listed below:


a brief background of Shepherds




a critique of leadership development

in principalship of Shepherds


leadership development in Shepherds’


a comprehensive plan for improving


1. personal leadership

2. community and cultural leadership

3. developmental and symbolic           leadership

4. implementation of the plan

5. monitoring and evaluation of the plan

Shepherds Elementary: A Brief Background

This school is located in Western Australia region. It is run by a private investor, Christopher Bellen, who owns 90 percent of the shares in the school. The other ten percent of the shares is owned by her wife, Alicia Bellen. The two also form part of the four team directors of the school. It is located in a rural setting. But the community around the school, and from where it draws


School Leadership Plan: Personal, Symbolic and Cultural

students and staff, is a middle class society as far as economic endowment is concerned.

Shepherds Elementary was started in 1999. This means that it has been in existence for the past ten years. It started with a population of 121 students. The teachers were ten at the time. This population has grown over the years to stand at 452 for the students. The teachers are thirty six.

When it started, Shepherds Elementary was one of the most prestigious private schools in the region. All the members of Western Australia who valued education took their children to Shepherds Elementary. The performance of the school was excellent, buoyed by competent teachers and committed students. However, this trend started to change sometime around the year 2007. The performance of the school started to decline steadily. The turnover of teachers and other support staff peaked. The lustre of the school started to fade. Parents started getting their children off the school in hordes. The school no longer enjoys the goodwill of the community as it used to do before.

It is this turn of events that formed the impetus of this study. The writer researched on the school, concentrating on the aspects that he thought could have precipitated the turn of events. Many factors were identified as having contributed to the deterioration of the school. They included decreased resources, as the shares that the school had invested in had their prices dropped with the economic crunch. There was also competition from other emerging private schools that were better located and performed marginally better than Shepherds Elementary. These schools were also cheaper. As if this was not enough, the standards of public schools in the region were improved. This meant that as their performance improved, students could now attend them with the surety that they will get relatively better education at a cheaper cost. The current economic crisis was the one that affected the school the greater part. Parents could no longer afford the exorbitant fees charged by the school. They opted for the cheaper public schools. Investments that the school had made in real estate came crumbling down as the prices plummeted. This new development denied the school much needed capital boost.


School Leadership Plan: Personal, Symbolic and Cultural

However, leadership was identified in larger part as the bane of the institution. It reached somewhere and the passion that Bellen was running the school with dissipated all of a sudden. This can be attributed to his advanced age, considering the fact that he is now 87 years old. However, the problem is he does not like the idea of surrendering the reigns of a school that he built from scratch to another person. He has become alienated from the other members of his staff. It is only his wife, who is still a member of the board of directors, who he is in a working relationship with. This has not gone down well with the teachers, and that is the reason why they keep deserting the school. This realisation is what inspired the writer to come up with a leadership plan in order to develop the leadership of the school. It was also realised that it is the principalship of the school that has a problem, and not other sectors of the school’s leadership.

Leadership Development in Shepherds’ Principalship: A Critique

As indicated earlier, Shepherds Elementary is a privately operated school. The owner of the school, Christopher Bellen, also acts as the principal. The school has been in existence for the past ten years, as earlier indicated. There were some specific weaknesses that were identified as far as the principalship of the school is concerned.

There is lack of accountability on the part of the school’s administration. The principal makes all the decisions without consulting other members of the administration. As such, some of the decisions that he makes ends up been unpopular with the stakeholders. The parents and the teachers are not included in the decision making process. The culture of the school has also declined. The students no longer perform the way they used to in the past. The teachers are no longer motivated or committed to their work. These are just of the problems that were identified in the school’s administration.

However, there are some positive elements riding on the management of the school. As earlier indicated, the school is owned and managed by an individual. As such, Bellen runs the school with a lot of passion. Though his staff may be said to be no longer committed to their work, this is not the same for him. He is very much committed to the school. The school also has a long history in the community. There are still some fond memories about the school, and were it not for the lack of performance, the parents could still be sending their children to this school.


School Leadership Plan: Personal, Symbolic and Cultural

The following is the format of the leadership plan that the writer came up in order to develop the principalship of the institution.

Personal Leadership

The importance of managing people in the school cannot be down played. A successful school has a supporting mechanism for the students and the staff of the institution (McKenzie: 2008). This is because people are the vital cog in the running of the institution. There is need to develop relationships amongst the members of the school organisation (Wildy & Wallace: 2005).

As far as Shepherds is concerned, there is need for the principalship to try and create an atmosphere of mutual respect and recognition between the administration and other members of the school. This will be done through involving all the stakeholders in the decision making process. As such, Bellen will have to decline from the urge to discriminate people as far as decision making is concerned just because they are inferior to him (Gurr, Drysdale & Mulford: 2008). To this end, there is need for Bellen to call meetings and this is where decisions will be made and approved.

Cultural and Community Leadership

This facet of the plan points to the fact that it is vital for the principal to understand and be able to rally the support of his students, the staff and the community (Greenfield: 2007). This is as far as achievement of the academic vision of the school is concerned. There is a trait that is displayed by all leaders of successful schools. They enjoy the support of their students, staff and the community within which they operate (Gurr et al: 2008). This they do by having the


School Leadership Plan: Personal, Symbolic and Cultural

ability to deal with these people at all levels.

This plan will ensure that the school’s principal leads the school community and in extension the whole of Western Australia in defining, strengthening and articulating values and beliefs of Shepherds Elementary (Wildy & Wallace: 2005). These are the attributes that will give Shepherds Elementary her unique identity in the society.

The above will be attained by having the principal provide direction to the community. This will be done by him having to open communication channels between him and the other members of the community. This can also be done by conducting meeting with the teachers, whereby he will ensure that he has developed a relationship with the parents. The principal should also be able to manage change in Shepherds Elementary (Greenfield: 2007). This he can do by realising the fact that he has first of all to delegate some of his authority to others. In fact, it is advisable that Bellen resigns his position as the principal of the school, and let someone with fresh ideas manage the changes (Fidlen & Andrews: 2006).

Developmental and Symbolic Leadership in Shepherds Elementary

Researchers have indicated that for Australian schools to succeed, there is a need to plan for the development of the same (Begley: 2009). This means that the principal of the school should be able to translate the vision and aspirations of the school into policy and practice (Hodgkinson: 2009). The vision of Shepherds Elementary is “Taking Higher Learning to the Next Level”. Bellen, or whoever is in charge of running the school, should be able to turn this vision into plans that are practical and realistic.

There is also the need to influence others so that they can support this vision and engage in the realisation and implementation of the same (Murray & Poole: 2008). To this end, the principal needs to collaborate and consult with others as far as running of the institution is concerned.


School Leadership Plan: Personal, Symbolic and Cultural

This is the only way that Bellen will get feedback on the progress and success of the school’s development (Hodgkinson: 2009).

There is also the need to communicate and consult widely to large groups that has a stake in the running of the school. This includes the students and the teachers. The parents should also be communicated to. In order for the school to realise the developmental plans, it is important for the leadership to be able to reach beyond the boundaries of the school and consult and liaise with other members in the wider society (Begley: 2009). For example, Bellen should be able to consult and liaise with the authorities so that he is able to gauge the development of his school as compared to other schools out there. This is the only he will be able to gauge the strength of the competition that he is facing. As such, he should attend meetings of other school leaders and be able to compare notes with them. He should also be able to be in contact with the authorities so that he can determine the legality of the development plans that he is planning to make.


It is important for the school’s administration to take seriously the recommendations of this plan and ensure that it is implemented. Especially Bellen should realise the significance of the changes that are proposed in this plan. Instead of opposing them, he should embrace and make sure that they are implemented.

Shepherds Elementary has a lot going for them. The school has a long history in the community that is found within. There is also a string and wide infrastructure that the school can take advantage of in order to reverse the deteriorating performance it is currently experiencing. But in order to realise this full potential, the leadership of the school has to be changed and developed in a completed new direction. This is because this is the greatest impediment to the school’s development. This is especially the principalship leadership of the school.


School Leadership Plan: Personal, Symbolic and Cultural


Begley, SD 2009, Contemporary leadership in Australian schools, Wagner Educational Resources, Melbourne.

Fidlen, DV & Andrews, UC 2006, Australian educational leadership models, Dwirghty, Durban.

Greenfield, TR 2007, Professional leadership in academics, Dwirghty, Durban.


School Leadership Plan: Personal, Symbolic and Cultural

Gurr, RA, Drysdale, JD & Mulford, HG 2008, Symbolic leadership: A Blueprint for Australian

school leaders,                                                                                                            Willy & John, Sydney.

Hodgkinson, EM 2009, School leadership in the 21st century, Sydney Educational Books, Sydney.

McKenzie, YA 2008, Development of school leadership in Western Australia, Myern Publishers, Toronto.

Murray, BC & Poole, SA 2008, Leadership and school culture, Clearing House Books, Melbourne.

Wildy, FA & Wallace, ZW 2005, School leadership and integrated Governance in Australia,

Con fer Publishers, Western Australia.