Strategic Leadership Practice in Free Schools

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Free Schools represent the perpetuation of policy directions often characterised, often unhelpfully, as part of the wider trend in Neo-liberal reforms. Such schools embody heightened local autonomy and the inclusion of an increasingly diverse range of actors in the provision of state-funded education. Within this context, the evolving role of strategic leadership remains a little investigated phenomenon. At the same time Free Schools also serve as the primary mechanism through which entirely new school provision is developed. Analysis at the level of autonomous local provision offers an important insight into processes through which the connexions between policy rationales and local outcomes are manifest. Adopting an interpretivist perspective the paper draws on qualitative survey and multi-stage interview data with strategic leaders of three Free Schools to explore the practice of strategic leadership. This study shows that the social origins of founder members have a strong influence on the development trajectory of Free Schools. It contributes to the development of understanding of strategic leadership practices in Free Schools specifically, and autonomous schools more broadly.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Educational Research Journal
Publication statusSubmitted - 2017


  • Strategic Leadership
  • Free Schools
  • Power
  • Governance


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