Setting suns and rising stars : succession planning in New Zealand’s deaf education leadership workforce : a national study
Taylor, Saul McKay
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Permanent link to Research Bank record:https://hdl.handle.net/10652/2034
This thesis is the first national study examining succession planning in New Zealand’s Deaf education leadership workforce. The sun is setting on the working tenure of baby-boomer educators, a large proportion of these people have reached school leadership positions. This research examines workforce demographics and the succession mechanisms in place for the rising future leaders of Deaf education in New Zealand. To date this has been an area that has not been investigated within the Aotearoa New Zealand context. A small but growing body of international and New Zealand educational literature indicates mainstream workforces are skewed towards ageing due to a unique demographic turning point as baby-boomers reach retirement age. In the arena of New Zealand Deaf education, workforce ageing presents a special concern. Teaching personnel in this workforce are highly specialised and leaders in this area hold exquisitely contextual knowledge. This thesis is concerned with investigating the need to ensure the quality and quantity of future leadership for Deaf students. If many seasoned leaders and experienced teachers are due to depart in the near term, and there are insufficient succession mechanisms in place, future leadership could be at risk. Three key questions concerning the need for succession planning, were analysed as part of this study. A mixed-methods approach was chosen that involved a quantitative survey of the three Deaf education providers in New Zealand. This was done alongside seven qualitative semi-structured interviews with the senior leaders drawn from across these organisations. Three levels of statistical analysis were applied to the quantitative data to reveal the first national demographic picture of the workforce. Thematic analysis of the qualitative findings revealed the workforce’s motivation to lead and leader’s perceptions of succession planning methods. Methodological triangulation of the findings from the two research tools revealed three main finding areas. Firstly, that an ageing workforce exists, secondly key factors in shaping motivation to lead were identified, and thirdly methods to develop future leaders were pinpointed. The workforce in Deaf education was found to have a more severe skew towards ageing than the mainstream education sector. Amongst a largely static workforce there was found to be a small group of highly motivated individuals who strongly aspired to leadership roles. Formal succession planning mechanisms for this workforce are needed, due to the ageing leadership. In addition to in-role development, pre-role preparatory support was required for aspirants. Specific reluctance and driving factors for leadership were uncovered and the importance of high interpersonal relational skills was emphasised to nurture aspirants and develop a leadership culture. Four recommendations for practice and one recommendation for research are made at the end of this study. The first key recommendation was that investment in leadership preparation and development in Deaf education is worthwhile at both national and organisational level. This stems from the findings that Deaf education personnel have an extremely low rate of attrition out of the profession. Once qualified, most teachers have been found to stay for their entire career. Investment is therefore not wasted. Secondly, there is a need for formal succession mechanisms. Current focus seems to be on volunteerism, self-nomination, development and replacement management. Mechanisms need to include preparation, training and encouragement pathways to identify and nurture future leadership. The third recommendation is based on schools and the Ministry of Education building their own detailed age profiles of personnel. The final practice recommendation is for increased input into building professional self-management skills. Increasingly, aspirants are being deterred from leadership due to reluctance about being able to cope with the impact of stress and workload on their lives. Such on-going professional development for neophyte leaders will assist them to gain the tools to enjoy the challenges of leadership. In terms of a recommendation for future research, gender statistics uncovered in the findings from this study revealed an opportunity for further investigation. A new line of inquiry about gender impact on Deaf students could reveal worthwhile results.