The relationship between academic performance, school culture and school leadership in historically disadvantaged African township secondary schools : implications for leadership.
The present government places tremendous faith in academic performance as a crucial tool for transforming the country's society. However, academic performance in the majority of historically disadvantaged schools is poor. What this means is that these schools are hardly in a position to contribute to this hoped for transformation. This is despite the numerous policies generated by the government in an effort to improve the performance. Underpinning this study was a view that this is because the policies do not address issues that are foundational for academic performance. One such issue, as indicated by widespread findings, is school culture, and associated leadership. In response to this view, an examination was in this study conducted on the relationship between academic performance, school culture and school leadership in two historically disadvantaged African township secondary schools (HDATSS). The purpose was to develop better understanding of school cultures that have the potential of enabling good academic performance in HDATSS, and, in the process, develop better understanding of leadership associated with the formation of such school cultures. The examination was conducted by means of ethnography. The advantage of ethnography for this study was that the methodology results in micro/thick descriptions more likely to inform practice than is the case with thin descriptions provided by other methodologies. Findings were that school cultures that are most likely to enable good academic performance in HDATSS are those that are predominantly communal in nature, but also incorporate societal features. Of particular advantage about communality for the schools' academic performance are common, consensual understandings in relation to the schools' academic goals and behavioural norms. Of advantage about the societal incorporation, on the other hand, is societal capacity to compensate for communality's failure to negotiate common understandings in organizations that are as complex, ever-changing and multifaceted as are HDATSS. It was further found that for such school cultures to be enabling for HDATSS they need to creatively supplement historical deprivations and reflect the cultural backgrounds of the schools' populations. A style of leadership that was found to be associated with the formation of such school cultures is that which emerges organically and is therefore diffused, serving and diversified.