Early P (2014) Exploring the School Leadership Landscape: Changing demands, changing realities London: Bloomsbury

180 pages

£62.15 (hc)  £22.99 (pb)

This latest edited book by Peter Earley is presents those of us who are interested in the development of school leadership policy and practice, with an opportunity to  pause and review progress since the turn of the century. The nine chapters take a largely research-based approach to a variety of aspects of leadership including developments in policy, autonomy and operational models.  Earley has taken the chance to bring together into one place a number of research programmes in the field that together provide for some useful longitudinal observations to be made. It really does examine “the ways in which school leadership and its practice have changed and developed in response to a rapidly changing educational context in England”.

Much of the data collection was funded by the National College and the Department for Education and often with Earley’s direct involvement.  The major studies used in the book were those authored by Earley himself (with others) in 2002 (based at the Institute of Education) and 2012 (IoE and the National Foundation for Educational Research), Stevens et al in 2005 (conducted by MORI) and Price-Waterhouse Cooper   in 2007.  Earley’s involvement presents the reader with a reassurance, especially in terms of the criticisms that are offered about the quality or completeness of the various data sets, and of the validity of comparing one with another.

The book is extremely useful and well timed. The collective memory of the educational world especially that of the policy makers, seems to diminish with every passing year. To provide an opportunity to look back at the recent past, in a reflective manner that is made possible by the data sets providing, in effect, a series of still photographs, allowing for a distanced and informed comparison. It provides a reminder of how things were and an opportunity to reflect on the possible effect of the various changes that have taken place.

It is a most useful book for all students and teachers of school leadership. It ought to be pushed under the noses of all policy makers in this field and held there until the contents have been fully absorbed. Journalists writing in this area would also find that the overviews it provides will present them with a rich context against which to set their current stories.

Bob Burstow

Senior Lecturer in Education Management and School Improvement