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  • This article was downloaded by: [University of Bath]On: 06 October 2014, At: 20:04Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH,UK

    School Leadership &Management: Formerly SchoolOrganisationPublication details, including instructions for authorsand subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/cslm20

    Introduction--Leadership inUrban and Challenging Contexts:Perspectives from the NationalCollege for School LeadershipKaren Carter & David JacksonPublished online: 25 Aug 2010.

    To cite this article: Karen Carter & David Jackson (2002) Introduction--Leadership inUrban and Challenging Contexts: Perspectives from the National College for SchoolLeadership, School Leadership & Management: Formerly School Organisation, 22:1, 7-13,DOI: 10.1080/13632430220143015

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13632430220143015

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    http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditionshttp://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions

  • School Leadership & Management,Vol. 22, No. 1, pp. 713, 2002

    IntroductionLeadership inUrban and Challenging Contexts:perspectives from the NationalCollege for School LeadershipKaren CARTER & David JACKSONResearch and School Improvement Group, The National College for School Leadership,University of Nottingham, Jubilee Campus, Wollaton Road, Nottingham NG8 1BB, UK

    This Special Feature takes as its major theme the study of leadership and manage-ment in schools in urban and challenging contexts. The collection of three articleswhich follows has emerged from work undertaken by the National College forSchool Leadership (NCSL).

    Leadership, though conceptually elusive is, quite rightly, in fashion. Managedchange, structures, hierarchies and accountabilities still have their place, but the newlanguage is also about, capacity, creativity, teams, organisational redesign, collabora-tion, exibility, networks and transformationand these are in the domain ofleadership. First and foremost, then, the College (NCSL) is about educationalleadership for school leaders and is committed to generating an applied researchagenda that will arise from and support the practice of leadership in schools [1].

    The National College for School Leadership has been created to sup-port and develop Englands 25 000 headteachers, as well as the thousandsof teachers and others with leadership roles and aspirations in our schools.NCSL will work with them to share and shape best practice, contributingdrive, vision and practical leadership experience to the running of theirschools. (NCSL 2001a: 1)

    The articles which make up this Special Feature focus on work undertaken as partof the NCSL research and development programme Successful Leadership inUrban and Challenging Contexts (SLUCC). This programme is one of ve areasof research and development activity upon which the work of the Colleges Researchand School Improvement Group (RSIG) is currently centred. The other fourprogrammes are: Building Capacity for School Development; New Visions forEarly Headship; Networked Learning Communities; and Learning from BestPractice Worldwide. NCSL exists to make a difference through the development ofleadershipand that difference is about school improvement, strengthening anddeepening leadership, building professional learning communities and improving life

    ISSN 1363-2434 print; 1364-2626 online/02/010007-07 2002 Taylor & Francis LtdDOI: 10.1080/13632430220143015

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  • 8 K. Carter & D. Jackson

    chances for children. Drawing knowledge from the best of what is known, generatingpowerful designs, programmes and projects, studying implementation issues, andevaluating the bene ts and gains of new activitiesis what we have set out to do.Our work is, therefore, underpinned by a commitment, not only to knowledgecreation and sharing (the prime functions of research), but also to an actionorientationto the application and utilisation of knowledge [2].

    The National College has the potential to bring real bene ts to schoolleaders and the wider profession. We are in a unique position to collectevidence to inform policy. We intend to make the College a respectedsource of advice to government and policy-makers on leadership issues. Wewill do this by developing our knowledge base and by engaging in dialoguewith the profession. (NCSL 2001b: 1)

    Our work is, therefore, characterised by two core elds of commitment. The rst isto the involvement of the voice of school leaders, relevance for practice and acommitment to enquiry-based leadership. We start from the premise that what isknown about school leadership in action is out there, being lived out daily by theleaders in our schools. The second, is an orientation towards innovation, action andapplied research; to designing interventions, working with schools, studying whatworks well and whyin the belief that through sharing what is known and applyingbest ideas we can further advance both leadership and school improvement under-standings. In addition to the ve programmes of activity outlined above, the work ofRSIG therefore, also embraces ve generic themes that in part, interlace theseresearch and development programmes, but which are also signi cant elds ofcommitment in their own right. They are as follows:

    Developing enquiry-based leadership Linking research and the practice of leadership Exploring new forms of leadership learning Making strategic connections and network links Designing planned interventions for transformational purposes

    In their seminal work on leadership in urban contexts, Improving the Urban HighSchool (1992) Matthew Miles and Karen Seashore Louis include a section on vision,mission and themes, in which they suggest that the most successful practice wascharacterised by multiple strands of activity, which coalesced around a theme or setof themes through the process of enactment. As the strands interlinked, theygradually formed an image of what the school could becomean emergent andcollaborative vision. The strands were activities that helped to focus activity andcreate energy, often part-intuitively and inductively arrived at. The connections, asthey emerged, they liken to interwoven braids, linking and uniting people throughdoingactive and exploratory. They describe how a vision emerges as the strandsbecome more linked, successful and owned by those involved, at all levels. The braids, orthemes, are vehicles to coordinate disparate but connected strands of activityand theyinevitably shift over time (adapted from, Louis & Miles 1992).

    The concept which Louis and Miles describe, has something in common with

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  • Leadership in Urban and Challenging Contexts 9

    the way in which our ve research and development programmes have beendesigned. Each represents a eld of activity and focus chosen for its potentialrelevance to schools and school leaders, its congruence with the national agenda, orits strategic importance to the College. Each has a number of strands, a multifacetedapproach designed to re ect (and respect) the complexity of the themes chosen.Each has both activities covering a spectrum involving enquiry and research, and thestudy of actionthe process knowledge to move beyond just what to do and towardsthe study of how to doand leading the how to do! If successful, as they evolve, theresults will become complementary, creating connections and synergies, which willpush practice forward.

    The individual areas of work on leadership in urban and challenging contextsreported upon in this Special Feature can therefore, be identi ed as being locatedwithin NCSLs programmed research and development activity and underpinned bythe generic commitments described above. As a consequence, the SLUCC pro-gramme has been constructed as a seri

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