Influence Of Headteacher Leadership Development On Implementation Of Inclusive Education In Public Primary Schools In Kiambu County, Kenya
Effective headteacher leadership is critical to the successful implementation of inclusive education (Waldron, McLeskey & Redd, 2011). The mandate to achieve inclusive schooling implies that headteachers are expected to ensure their schools are both excellent and equitable. This is particularly imperative considering that the overarching principle of inclusive education is that every child counts (Bernard, 2000). Besides, most research on inclusive education in Kenya appears to consistently support effective implementation and sustainability of inclusive schooling (Buhere & Ochieng, 2013; Njoka et al., 2012). Nonetheless, a research gap exists in relation to the leadership development of headteachers in order to transform schools into effective inclusive learning environments. Thus, this research was designed to investigate the influence of headteacher leadership development on the implementation of inclusive education. The research was guided by five questions, which investigated the existing types of leadership development programmes for headteachers, the adequacy of the programmes’ contents, and the effectiveness of their design features in relation to inclusive education implementation. The study also examined the effectiveness of the leadership development programmes in facilitating inclusive education. Finally, the policy and institutional challenges experienced in the implementation process were investigated. The research was conducted in public primary schools in Kiambu County. The target population was 475 headteachers, 7472 class teachers, and 30 Quality Assurance and Standards Officers drawn from the 10 districts and Thika municipality in Kiambu County. Also targeted were 10 KEMI trainers. The final sample constituted 125 headteachers and 240 class teachers randomly selected from 5 districts and Thika municipality. It also included 12 Quality Assurance and Standards Officers and 8 KEMI trainers, who were purposefully sampled. The research utilized a mixed methods approach. The convergent parallel design was adopted, since it provides for collection and analysis of both quantitative and qualitative data in the same phase of study (Creswell & Clark, 2011). Quantitative data was analysed using descriptive statistics and presented in frequency tables, pie charts and bar graphs. Qualitative data was coded according to content, analysed based on emerging themes, and presented in narrative form. The study established that the most common forms of leadership development were short courses such as, conferences, workshops, and seminars. The KEMI modular-based programme was ranked first, with 78% of headteachers in the study deeming the leadership programme the most helpful in facilitating inclusive education. The innovative practices of the KEMI programme included the use of the cohort model, problem-based learning, case studies, and projects. However, specific gaps such as, limited inclusive education focus, non-alignment to leadership standards, lack of mentoring and coaching, and insufficient focus on career stages were identified. Overall, the study established that the existing headteacher leadership development programmes were not based on particular leadership standards or inclusive education philosophy, vision and mission. Also, the programmes were neither ongoing nor career-staged. They seemed to apply the concept of “one-size fits all” and did not utilize job-embedded learning practices, such as mentoring and coaching. Instructively, only six percent of the headteachers deemed the existing leadership programmes to be effective. The majority of headteachers (94%) rated the programmes as either somewhat effective (30%) or not effective (64%) respectively. Likewise, 88% of headteachers did not perceive themselves competent to lead inclusive education implementation. The main conclusion of the study was that the headteacher leadership development programmes were not comprehensive and well-integrated to effectively facilitate implementation of inclusive education. Therefore, the study recommends a coordinated and multi-pronged action plan to spur requisite policy reforms, system alignments, and funding strategies in order reframe headteacher leadership development. Specifically, the Teachers’ Service Commission and Ministry of Education, Science and Technology should collaboratively develop leadership standards for headteachers in order to spur improvements in leadership programmes’ quality and effectiveness. The County Education Board should develop inclusive education indicators to be utilized when designing and implementing school development plans. Moreover, in order to model effective inclusive programmes and practices at least five model inclusive schools should be established in each district through a well-resourced programme implemented by respective District Education Board.