Mission Impossible?

The mix of relevant central government policies did not make it easy for LEA officials to 
achieve leadership success. Central government ministers of the day were not simply 
pressuring them to reduce the proportion of surplus student places. They were simultaneously 
stripping LEAs through education reforms of most of their authority in respect of schools so 
as to enhance their autonomy at LEA expense (Audit Commission 1989). When managing 
earlier reorganisations, LEA officials had relied on their authority over employment in schools, 
enabling them to control redeployment of displaced staff. This same central government was 
making their leadership task even more intractable by pursuing a contradictory policy of 
encouraging schools to opt out of LEA control and become 'grant maintained' (approximating 
to the 'charter schools' movement in the USA), directly funded from the centre (Fitz et al 
1993). A prime reason for school governing bodies applying to central government for 
permission to opt out was to escape threat of closure or merger under LEA reorganisation 
proposals (australianwritings, 2018) during the initiation stage of reorganisation. So, from the 
perspective of LEA officials, conditions were ripe for leadership failure: they had responsibility 
without concomitant authority, and they risked losing LEA schools to the grant maintained 
sector which would then shore up surplus capacity in the locality. 

The mix of central government policies was a key contextual feature of reorganisation. Some 
policies created, by design, a strong imperative for LEA officials to instigate large scale 
initiatives. Other policies intended to curb their authority over schools, whose instigators did 
not allow for the unusual circumstances of reorganisation, set parameters by default which 
constrained LEA officials' strategies for leadership of the change. These policies contributed to 
the characteristics of reorganisation as a highly complex change to manage. Reorganisation is 
therefore one example of complex educational change which, while unique in its detail, 
arguably exhibits generic characteristics of complexity. It offers provides a starting point for 
considering how the complexity of educational change affects the form of change leadership.