Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Education


The Purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between governance, decision-making, and particular indicators of school effectiveness: parental involvement, professional development of teachers, planning and budgeting, facilities and resources and student outcomes. The study focused on the Principal, teachers, parents, and students of four high schools in the Wollongong area of NSW. The schools represented different governance arrangements: one government; one independent Catholic; one independent Christian parent-controlled; one Catholic systemic. Each school represented a case study in which was applied mixed-method research utilising quantitative and qualitative approaches including questionnaire, semi-structured interview and document review.

The results indicate similar approaches to and constraints on governance/decisionmaking across the four schools. An apparent relationship between type of governance and school effectiveness was not established. Different governance structures were not shown to have major impact on different school effectiveness indicators.

However, a clear finding was that the Principal is central to the management and direction of decision-making in the school more so than any factors or differences there may be in other aspects of governance. It is not just the structural and hierarchical aspects of the Principal’s role that is important, but how he or she directs and manages school governance.

The centrality of the Principals in these schools, the way they perceived and enacted their roles both generally and in relation to the roles of other stakeholders, and their participation in school decision-making, were thus critical in the governance of their schools.

The findings of this study, as of other studies, were inconclusive on relationships between other structural governance factors and school effectiveness indicators, and suggest that the Principal's impact on such indicators as student outcomes may be significant but indirect. The study findings do, however support other findings on the importance of the Principal's role – their perception of it and the roles of others related to it, their personal and professional capabilities, and the extent to which they lead and involve others collaboratively in school governance and decision-making.

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Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.