Leadership of ‘messy, tense International Schools’: The potential scope for a fresh, positive lens of inquiry

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The diverse field of ‘International Schooling’ continues to grow at a fast rate, and is expected to double in size over the next decade in terms of schools, staff, students, and fee revenue. At the same time, the literature continues to paint a bleak picture of insecurity and precarity. The area of leadership (Directors, and middle-management Principals) in particular continues to attract a very unappealing picture of operational activity within ‘messy, tense’ school environments. Within this emergent ‘Growth Paradox’, where continuous entry and retention of school leaders is perhaps surprising given the unappealing conditions, there is a need for a fresh lens of inquiry. This paper explores the normal picture painted by literature, since the 1960s, arguing it to be atypical of a ‘Negative Sociology’ lens of inquiry. This paper subsequently proposes a fresh approach based upon a ‘Positive Sociology’ perspective (a form of ‘humanistic sociology’), seeking to investigate how and why school leaders cope and ‘survive’. A potential research agenda, focuses on resilience strategies, is proposed. Ultimately, we need to move further towards a discrete ‘Sociology of International Schooling’ if we are to understand its continuous growth, and a ‘Positive Sociology’ approach is one fresh avenue of inquiry.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)558-570
JournalInternational Journal of Leadership in Education
Issue number4
Early online date14 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2021


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