Education and the global knowledge economy

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This research review is divided into three parts. Describing the context in which head teacher professional development is conceived in England and Saudi Arabia, it firstly, provides a short overview about literature concerned with the link between education policy reform and the demands of the global knowledge economy. Secondly, literature regarding recent developments and changes in the roles of head teachers in England and Saudi Arabia are evaluated. For the English context literature dealing with head teachers' role, not only as leading educators but also as manager, in the face of increased autonomy and consequent accountability is considered herein. For Saudi Arabia recent education reform initiatives and the role of head teachers as educational leaders are evaluated. Thirdly, recent advances in educational leadership such as the six National Standards for Headteachers and professional development programmes offered by the National College for Schools and Children's Services are analysed in more detail.

Impact of the global knowledge economy on education policy in England

The global knowledge economy is a much used term in relation to contemporary education policy in England. However, Ball (2008) contents that it is a very elusive and misleading concept, stemming from the idea that knowledge and education can be treated as business products. In this context educational and intellectual innovative products can be exported for high value returns. Set into this climate the policy debate is dominated by a 'human capital' definition and understanding of skill and learning. As Brown (2009) and colleagues argue, global competition is regarded as a competition for skills. Consequently, the higher skilled the workforce, the more competitive is an economy. More than a decade ago, the Department of Education and Skills identified education and life-long learning as the most important tools ensuring Britain's competitive advantage. In the White Paper 'Excellence in Schools' it states that "Britain's economic prosperity and social cohesion both depend on achieving that goal" (DfES, 1997, 9).

Impact of the global knowledge economy on education policy in Saudi Arabia

The Saudi Ministry of Education' approach to education policy is comparable to the UK's understanding of global competition and the importance of skills. According to Ghafour (2009) Prince Faisal bin Abdullah argued that Saudi Arabia needs to strengthen Saudi Arabia's global position by investing in humans and developing their capabilities. In 2009, King Abdullah has allocated SR9 billion for a new general education development project, which, among other things, aims at training and developing the skills of teachers to educate a competitive workforce. In their attempt to modernise their education system, Saudi Arabia, so Ghafour (2007), closely follows developments in education policies in countries as diverse as Malaysia, Japan, China, New Zealand, Finland, France, Britain and the US. Yet, all education reform in Saudi Arabia has to be cognisant of the specific Saudi cultural context and aims at "deepening Islamic values, morals and allegiance to family, society and nation, and appreciating and preserving national achievements" (Ghafour, 2007).

The role and duties of secondary school head teachers in England and Wales

Educational leadership and 'managerialism'

Over the last fifteen years education policy has led to changes in the role of English head teachers. Evaluating the role of head teachers in the 21st century, Burton and Barrett-Baxendale (2009) conclude that this recent plethora of government policies has led to an erosion of the traditional role of head teachers in England. This view is mirrored by the National College for School Leadership and Children's Services (2009). "The past decade has seen big changes in school leadership. There is now more variety in the types of roles that school leaders hold. Many of these roles, particularly that of headteacher, are more demanding than they were" (NCSL, 2009, 26). Yet, the report concludes, school leadership in England is the better than ever and continues to improve. Ball (2008) also detects a considerable devolution of management responsibilities to schools and consequently a change in the role of head teachers. According to Ball (2008), the new school leader is the embodiment of education policy within organisations now required to survey and regulate themselves.

School autonomy

According to the NCLS (2009) "England has the second most devolved school system in the OECD and leaders have had to retain their focus on standards and learning whilst also delivering and collaborating with other services to provide improved outcomes for children and families" (NCLS, 2009, 26). Yet, as far as increasing autonomy for schools are concerned, recent English education policy has been a paradox of simultaneous devolution and centralisation (Glatter, 2002, Ball, 2008) and within the current secondary school environment head teachers are required to deliver a growing number of government agendas (Rutherford, 2004; Weidling and Dimmock, 2006; Burton and Barrett-Baxendale, 2009), which more often than not compete with, instead of complement each other (Bush and Bell, 2009).


As a result of this increase in autonomy, one of the most distinct trends in educational management is the direction of schools, away from being inward-focused, protected and closed institutions, to open, externally focused, accountable and increasingly competitive organisations (Ball, 2008; Glatter, 2009). This measurement model of education is set within an inspection framework (Burton and Brrett-Baxendale, 2009) and head teachers as the leading professionals of schools are increasingly accountable to, not only the board of governors, but external agencies such as Ofsted (Fidler, 2002).

National Standards for Headteachers

Despite contrary findings by Policy Exchange (Education, 2007), it has become widely acknowledged wisdom that the head teacher is the most important variable to gain and retain school effectiveness (Darshe and Male, 2001; DfES, 2006; Holligan et al., 2006). However, a clear definition and systematic approach to developing and preparing head teacher for their role has only been available recently. The introduction of the six National Standards for Headteachers (DfES, 2000) and the revised version in 2004, identified six key areas for head teachers in the 21st century and states the standards "provide clear guidance to headteachers and all school stakeholders on the headteachers' role in raising standards and meeting the needs of every child. They recognise the contribution that a headteacher can make to his or her own school and to the wider education system" (Marshall, 2004, 3). Nonetheless, while the standards provide the first authoritative statement about the role of head teachers in England, but Orchard (2002) cautions that to be realistic, these standards have to take the individual professional and his or her specific school environment into consideration. Traditionally, headship preparation would have taken place within a school and a number of studies (Hobson and Sharp, 2005; Early, 2009) still identify contact to and advise from other head teachers as an key element of head teacher professional training and development.

Professional development provision from the National College for Leadership of Schools and Children Services

Other provision

The role and duties of secondary school head teachers in Saudi Arabia

Role of head teachers

Changes in educational leadership

Existing provision for head teacher professional development

Indicative Bibliography

Ball, S. (2008) The Education Debate. Bristol: Policy Press.

Barrett-Baxendale, D. & Burton, D. (2009) 'Twenty-first Century Headteacher: Pedagogue, Visionary Leader or Both?', School Leadership and Management, Vol.29, No. 2., pp.91-107.

Brown, P., Lauder, H. & Ashton, D. (2008) Education, Globalisation and the Knowledge Economy. London: Teaching & Learning Research Programme.

Bush, T. and Bell, L. (2002) 'The Policy Context', in Bush, T. and Bell, L. (eds) The Principles and Practice of Educational Management, London: Sage.

Daresh, J. & Male, T. (2001) 'Pluses and Minuses of British Headteacher Reform: Towards a Vision of Instructional Leadership', Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of University Council for Educational Administration, Cincinnati.

Department for Education and Skills (1997) Excellence in Schools, London: DfES.

Department for Education and Skills (2000) National Standards for Headteachers. London: DfES.

Department for Education and Skills (2004) National Standards for Headteachers (Revised). London: DfES.

Early, P. (2009) 'Work, Learning and Professional Practice: The Role of Leadership Apprenticeships', School Leadership and Management, Vol. 29, No. 3, pp. 308-322.

Education (2007) 'Headteachers Have Limited Effect'. Education, Vol. 265, p.2.

Fidler, B. (2002) 'External Evaluation and Inspection' in Bush, T. and Bell, L. (eds) The Principles and Practice of Educational Management, London: Sage.

Ghafour, A. (2007) 'Saudi Arabia: Education System Undergoing Major Overhaul', Saudi-US Relations Information Service, [available online:]

Ghafour, A. (2009) 'Saudi education passing through 'historic' phase', Ministry of Education Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, [available online:].

Glatter,R. (2002) 'Governance, Autonomy and Accountability in Education' in Bush, T. and Bell, L. (eds.) The Principles and Practice of Educational Management, London: Sage.

Hobson, A. & Sharp, C., (2005), 'Head to Head: A Systematic Review of the Research Evidence on Mentoring New Head Teachers', School Leadership and Management, Vol. 25, No. 1., pp.25-42.

Holligan, c., Menter, I., Hutchings, M. and Walker, M. (2006), 'Becoming a Headteacher: The Perspectives of new Headteachers in Twenty-first Century England', Journal of In-service Education, Vol. 32, No. 1., pp. 103-122.

Male, T. (2001) 'The Professional Induction of Headteachers in England: Findings from the IBPS Project', Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Seatlle.

Marshall, M. (2004) 'New Standards for Headteachers', Education, Vol.155, p.3.

National College for School Leadership and Children Services (2009) School Leadership Today, London: NCSL.

Orchard, J. (2002) 'Will the Real Superhero Please Stand Up? A Critical Review of the National Standards for Head Teachers in England', International Journal of Children's Spirituality, Vol. 7, No.2, pp.159-171.

Weindling, D. & Dimmock, C. (2006) 'Sitting in the 'Hot' Seat: New Headteachers in the UK', Journal of Educational Administration, Vol. 44, No. 4, pp. 326-340.