University of Limerick
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The positioning of moral leadership in primary education: perspectives and contextual understandings of school principals in Ireland

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-11-22, 09:18 authored by GERALDINE MOONEY SIMMIEGERALDINE MOONEY SIMMIE, Ciaran Sheehan

In the study reported here, we explore the positioning of moral leadership in primary education through critical scrutiny of a select literature and the contextual understandings and perspectives of a purposive sample of 103 primary school principals in Ireland. The cultural context is unique in Europe given that primary education is a largely state funded system of denominational education with almost 90% of schools under the patronage of the Catholic Church. We draw from a number of theoretical perspectives as a critical feminist heuristic device to broaden the problem beyond any reductionist view of exchange value and to advocate for educational leadership as an emancipatory and transformative practice. Data analysis involved policy analysis of four reform documents and critical scrutiny of an empirical dataset, a regional survey and twelve indepth interviews with school principals. The findings reveal tensions and contradictions between policy documents mandating the uncritical adoption of a model of distributive leadership and the perspectives of school principals advocating for servant leadership. The study has implications beyond Ireland for educational and moral leader-ship in primary education and is presented here as a hypothesis worthy of further research and consideration



International Journal of Leadership in Education



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