|dc.description.abstract||This thesis examines the professional practices of rural school principals in the province of Otago, New Zealand, to describe what it is about their practices that creates and maintains effective rural schools. The underlying question for this research was, The leadership and management of effective, small, rural schools appears to pose unique problems and issues from that in larger rural and urban schools. What makes that difference?
A mixed methods approach was taken, using a survey designed for the study and administered to 63 principals of rural schools in Otago. Observations of six purposively chosen principals representing a large rural school (with a role of 150 or above) and a small rural school (with a role of 60 or below) from each of the three areas of Otago: Coastal (East), South Otago, and Central Otago; and, interviews with the six principals who were observed. The survey was factor analysed and showed strong psychometric properties. It yielded background and demographic information regarding the sample, their perceptions regarding their ideals for their schools as compared to the actual situations in their schools, and their views on developing a local curriculum and the factors that made an effective rural school. The survey informed the following observation schedules and questions for the interviews, which were conducted with 6 principals chosen to represent a cross section of types of rural schools. Main findings from the study were that context mattered – small rural school leadership was shown to be different from that in large rural schools, and that for small rural schools, a local curriculum using the local community and environment for content was essential. The results are discussed in terms of the implications they have for the profession and the future training of rural educationalists, and how the results both relate to the literature, and extend the current knowledge base about rural schools.||