Journal of Educational Change

, 10:277 | Cite as

Sustainable leadership in small rural schools: Selected Australian vignettes

  • Simon ClarkeEmail author
  • Elizabeth Stevens


According to Hargreaves and Fink (The seven principles of sustainable leadership, 2003; Sustainable leadership, 2006), sustainable leadership matters, spreads and lasts, and is fundamental to enduring and widespread school improvement. This observation is especially germane to the context of leading small primary schools in rural locations, where challenges encountered by principals in engaging with the complexities of continuous improvement are often accentuated. This article looks at the applicability of certain aspects of sustainable leadership to the circumstances surrounding small rural schools. First, reasons are given for devoting attention to the specific context of leadership in small rural primary schools, especially in Australia. The article then examines the distinctive challenges encountered by principals of small rural schools that appear to compound the difficulties of pursuing sustainable leadership. The next section draws from a Queensland study (Clarke and Stevens, Small schools leadership study. Leading and teaching in small schools: confronting contextual complexity in work practices, 2004) that has generated vignettes depicting the complexity of novice teaching principals’ work in rural environments. Taking cognizance of Hargreaves and Fink’s analysis of sustainable leadership, selections from these vignettes are used to sharpen understandings of ways in which sustainable leadership plays out in this context and the factors that either promote or impede its development.


Context Principal Rural School improvement Small schools Sustainable leadership 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Graduate School of EducationThe University of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia
  2. 2.School of Education and Professional StudiesGriffith UniversityBrisbane, LoganAustralia

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