Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Education


Faculty of Education and Arts

First Supervisor

Associate Professor Glenda Campbell-Evans

Second Supervisor

Professor Mark Hackling


The academic performance of students in public basic schools in rural Ghana during the past two decades has declined significantly (Akyeampong, 2007). Government efforts to remedy this have not yielded any sustainable result (Atta-Quayson, 2007). The Saboba District Junior High Schools are among the lowest-performing rural schools. Generally, inadequate funding and resourcing are blamed for poor academic achievement of disadvantaged, rural students. During eight years of teaching in the Saboba District, the Researcher observed that the academic achievement of students in some schools remained high while that of others in the same locality remained low. Further, the Researcher’s experiences suggested that the disadvantaged schools whose students continuously performed well were led by effective principals. The purpose of this research therefore was to identify leadership and management practices, skills and attitudes employed by principals of disadvantaged rural schools in the Saboba locality that create an environment that fosters high standards of student achievement. The research design was based on a set of four case studies of Junior High Schools from the Saboba rural District. Two of these were top-achieving disadvantaged rural schools and two were low-achieving disadvantaged rural schools with ambitions to improve. Qualitative data for each case were obtained through interviews and focus group meetings with principals, teachers, students, parents, local education officers and community leaders. Triangulation of data was established through multiple data collection techniques, and a variety of data sources and types, such as interviews, focus group meetings, direct observation and field notes, and document analysis. After transcribing the audio-recorded data and documenting data records, reading and re-reading of all transcripts and documents was carried out. This helped to identify salient aspects of data and to describe emerging themes and select quotations to illustrate themes. The data were compiled into four case studies. A cross-case analysis, drawing on the key findings, which represented the core emergent idea from a series of narrations of a case, helped to identify seven themes of effective school leadership. These seven themes or elements of effective leadership comprise a series of specific strategies for improving academic standards in disadvantaged schools in the Saboba District. These are: shared school vision, the principal’s positive personal attributes, successful instructional and managerial leadership, thriving collegial leadership, productive school and community partnerships for recruiting resources for the school, innovative physical and human resourcing and emerging positive values. The cross-case analysis demonstrated that the seven elements of effective leadership not only need to be sufficiently present but also interconnected to enhance school effectiveness in disadvantaged rural schools. The study also identified implications for leadership research and for educational practice.


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