Extreme Headship: A Case Study in Educational Leadership and School Improvement

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Trafford Publishing, 2005 - Education, Secondary - 265 pages
Extreme Headship: A Case Study in Educational Leadership and School Improvement

In 1993 Phil McNulty took over the Headship of Shorefields Community Comprehensive School, the County Secondary School for Toxteth, Liverpool.

The organisation was in the direst of circumstances.

The school had a falling roll, poor exam results, completely dilapidated buildings, financial problems and the worst case of governor abuse of their new powers in the country.

The catchment area included some of the most deprived areas in Western Europe. There was little support from the LEA, opposition from other schools, problems with staff, daily intrusions, nightly break-ins and racially divided warring gangs on the streets.

This book describes how he moved the school from an intake of 45 to 210, from the brink of closure to oversubscription and, on the way, attracted sponsorship, national recognition, huge technological investment and the capability to refurbish or rebuild the entire school.

Phil McNulty has advised Her Majesty's Inspectorate and the Prime Minister as the head of a school succeeding in challenging circumstances.

He has presented the management problem of 'turning around' a failing school to groups of businessmen and women through the national Common Purpose programme.

His case study Extreme Headship is of relevance and importance to all those in leadership and senior management positions inside and outside of education. It is written chronologically to highlight an incremental approach to problem solving. Significant leadership issues are emphasised in the text for ease of reference. A summary of the strategies employed in tackling the key organisational problems is provided at the end of each section.


The book is a vivid description of what it was like to be the head of a "written off" school in the most challenging inner-city surroundings during the ten or so years either side of the millennium. Against the odds, McNulty and his colleagues turned Shore fields from a school with fewer than 50 pupils entering year 7 to one with an intake of more than 200.
- Tim Brighouse, Chief Adviser for the London Schools Challenge

Extreme Headship is being recommended for our MA Educational Leadership and Management Programme.
-- Dr. Len Newton, Associate Professor, Director of Postgraduate Advanced Taught Courses, The University of Nottingham

On reading the text, I found Extreme Headship both informative and useful - and eminently readable. I subsequently recommended it to students on the MA in Educational Leadership programme, to those on Leadership modules within our Master's in Education programme, and to colleagues in the Centre for Educational Leadership at Kelsick on our Ambleside campus, as being one of the core texts on their reading lists.
- Helen Channon, CPD Centre, Faculty of Education, St. Martin's College, Lancaster

I read the book over Christmas and couldn't put it down - really excellent! Consequently we will be recommending it to all out MA Leadership students.
- Robert Smedley, Dean of Faculty of Education, Edge Hill College of Higher Education

I have read Extreme Headship and I will recommend it and add it to the recommended reading list for a number of modules I am responsible for in our MA programme, such as Managing Change, Leadership and Management in Education. It certainly provides a fascinating case study of leadership in action, which students will respond and react to.
- Mike Aiello, Liverpool John Moores University

Anyone considering taking up management, inside or outside of education, should read this book.
- Rodger Lafferty, Chair - South Liverpool Community Crime Prevention Panel

This is the only contemporary, longitudinal, study of headship by a member of the profession. It is essential; reading f

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