‘A challenging and stressful job’:
: How female English and Vietnamese headteachers in primary schools experience and manage factors that influence their leadership practice

  • Danh Nguyen

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This study explores and compares the leadership experience of female English and Vietnamese principals in primary schools. The leadership experience is divided into four main themes: factors that influenced their leadership practice, strategies that they used to manage or cope with those factors, the impact of those strategies on their leadership effectiveness, and the extent to which gender and gender identity shaped their leadership direction. Feminist methodology, an interpretive paradigm, and qualitative research methods, particularly, narrative interviews, were adopted to gain detailed and extensive data for this research. Twelve female principals, including six from England and six from Vietnam, were interviewed face-to-face individually. The study shows that the practice of female headteachers in both contexts has been influenced by environmental factors and personal factors. Environmental factors accounted for a greater influence. Seven main strategies were adopted to manage or cope with the factors identified. English headteachers tended to adopt strategies such as being understanding and responsive to changing contexts, developing a shared vision, creating a focused strategic plan, and gaining support from various stakeholders. More Vietnamese headteachers employed strategies such as being approachable to subordinates and having strong emotional intelligence. Gender and gender identity have impacted the leadership direction of female headteachers, but in different ways. Particularly, more Vietnamese participants claimed that being a “female” headteacher impacted their leadership than English participants. Although society’s perceptions of women’s status and gender equality have changed over the years, Vietnamese headteachers still confront significant challenges from culture and social justice. However, as this research only focused on women’s school leadership in England and Vietnam, future research may do studies on both male and female headteachers in multi-cultural contexts to further explore different influential factors and effective strategies, and to explore if they are equally effective and if gender is a factor influencing their leadership experience.
Date of Award7 Sep 2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorMary Dyer (Main Supervisor) & Helen Jones (Co-Supervisor)

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