Leading schools with migrant children in Shanghai: Understanding policies and practices

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Purpose: The purpose of this paper is threefold: to sketch the current policy context that frames the education of migrant children in Shanghai; to explore the work lives of school leaders in the privately owned but government-supported schools; and to understand the socio-cultural and educational factors that shape the leadership practices in these schools. Design/methodology/approach: This paper drew from publicly accessible policy papers and interview data with four principals leading migrant children’s schools in Shanghai. Findings: Migrant children’s schools have received increasing policy recognition and attention. Principals of these schools have strived to adopt various leadership strategies to enhance the quality of education as received by migrant children. However, due to the institutional barriers such as hukou, multiple challenges continue to face migrant children and leaders leading migrant schools. Originality/value: This is one of the first few papers that collected data from principals leading migrant children’s schools. The paper contributes to further understandings about leadership in high-needs school context and about education quality and equity in relation to programme for international student assessment success in Shanghai. Copyright © 2017 Emerald Publishing Limited.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)564-579
JournalInternational Journal of Educational Management
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017


Qian, H., & Walker, A. D. (2017). Leading schools with migrant children in Shanghai: Understanding policies and practices. International Journal of Educational Management, 31(5), 564-579.


  • School leadership
  • High-needs schools
  • Migrant children
  • Shanghai PISA


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