Gender and school: Policy directions, practice and leadership


Wenham, Anne Maria. (2002). Gender and school: Policy directions, practice and leadership [Thesis].
AuthorsWenham, Anne Maria
Qualification nameDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Since the mid 1970s student experience of gender at school has been the focus of intense media scrutiny, academic research and policy development for schools in Australia. This study took as its focus the role of the school principal as a leader for gender equity in schools. It set out to determine the response of 35 Catholic K-6 schools to gender policy directions as contained in gender policy documents published for Australian schools between 1975 and 1997 and to use these findings to determine implications for school leadership for gender equity. The study encompassed three interlinked research phases which contributed to specific learnings about leadership for gender equity. The first research phase entailed a critical analysis of gender policy documents for Australian schools leading to the development of a Policy Analysis Template. Utilisation of the template resulted in a synthesis of gender policy implications which formed the basis for examination of school practice in a sample of K-6 Catholic schools in the next two research phases. The second research phase examined student experience of gender at school using a questionnaire and the third research phase studied teacher and principal experience of gender reform utilising questionnaires. Data analysis methods included content analysis of policy documents, statistical analysis of questionnaire responses to determine particular connections and to identify emerging trends in the data and analysis of the qualitative responses to provide validation and further insights. The research tools developed for this study provide possibilities for future work in gaining insights into policy implementation in schools. The research results confirmed the findings of the implementation literature in terms of leadership.;The response of schools to gender policy directions was strongly influenced by a principal who could not only articulate a vision of gender equity but who also had a commitment to translating this vision into practice. The findings also demonstrated a clear link between a school's commitment to its proclaimed values, formed and shaped by its Catholic ethos and its response to gender equity issues through actual practice. Thus school responses to gender policy directions were seen to be informed and influenced by their articulated vision and mission. Furthermore, results demonstrated that specific gender policy directions had been adopted by schools whereas others had resulted in little or no impact at all. It was beyond the scope of this study to investigate the factors that enabled or inhibited school response to particular gender policy directions although specific gender policy reform priorities were signalled for principal attention. The focus of this study was on the emerging connections and relationships between gender policy directions, student experience of gender at school and teacher and principal experience of gender reform. The recommendations of the study addressed the role of the principal in fostering school commitment to equity practices. The study which utilised a sample of 35 Catholic K-6 schools demonstrated the significant role of the principal in gender reform. The impact of gender policy directions on actual school practice was seen to be dependent on the vision for gender equity and commitment to implement this into practice that the school principal brings to the role of leadership for gender equity.

PublisherAustralian Catholic University
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Research GroupSchool of Educational Leadership
Final version
Publication dates19 Dec 2002
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