A Case Study of Positional Student Leadership in Queensland Secondary Schools

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Although schools are organisations with identified leaders with positional power in a recognised bureaucratic structure there has been little attention by authorities to defining clearly the role of School Captain, a significant student leader role, which is common to most secondary schools in Queensland. This position is also sometimes called Head Boy/Girl, or Student President. Students who hold this position have taken part in a selection process and upon appointment have accepted the role and responsibilities of the position determined by the school or more often by the Principal.

These student leaders’ roles vary from school to school. They can be formally recognised within the school community or informally by staff. The responsibilities of student leaders might include representing the school at functions and events, organising student-based activities, helping staff with co-curricular activities and assisting in the maintenance of school routines. Some of the responsibilities associated with the position of School Captain are similar to those undertaken by positional student leaders in tertiary settings. These involve participating and leading student government groups, committee membership, co-curricular activities and public speaking. Such activities provide an opportunity for these students to acquire and practise leadership and learning skills in real-life situations.

This presentation examines the findings from a study using a small sample of six School Captains across three schools, in Queensland, Australia. It explores what these students experienced during their final year of secondary school through the challenging and diverse experiences of positional student leadership. A model will be presented that outlines how the position impacted on who they were, their relationships, and their learning.


Keywords: Positional Student Leadership, Secondary Schools
Stream: Curriculum and Pedagogy; Student Learning, Learner Experiences, Learner Diversity
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Dr. Regan Neumann

Executive Principal, Education Queensland (Queensland Government)
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Regan has recently completed doctoral studies on the impact of positional leadership on secondary School Captains. Throughout his principalship he has explored whole school approaches to student leadership and the role of students in the organisational and strategic framework of a secondary school. His current research interest is in understanding adolescent leadership for civic engagement in secondary schools and community groups.

Ref: L09P0633