The dominance of neoliberal policies across education systems means that states do not necessarily see themselves as being the exclusive authority responsible for financing and providing all necessary educational services (Harvey, 2005; Ball & Youdell, 2008). This change is sometimes referred to as a ‘meta social change’ that redraws the traditional boundaries of social categories (Beck, 2000) and, along with decentralisation, requires schools to adapt to multi-contextual environments (for example, cultural, political, social) that shape their provision and status (Hallinger, 2018). Being integral to their communities, schools, in these neoliberal times, need to develop and sustain relationships within a web of diverse external stakeholders (for example, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the business sector, political bodies; see Addi-Raccah, 2006; Hoy & Miskel, 2008), many of which are not formally affiliated with schools but influence the environment in which they operate (Hoy & Miskel, 2008).
Following Honig (2009), I refer to external actors/ stakeholders as nonsystem actors who ‘work with, but [are] distinctly outside public educational systems’ (p 394). This stands in contrast to system actors, who, according to Coburn (2005), ‘constitute state and local governance of schooling, including state departments, county offices, school districts, and schools’. Collaboration with external stakeholders is perceived by researchers and practitioners, such as school principals, as influencing school provision and culture and contributing to school improvement (Keddie, 2015; Keddie et al, 2018; Ni et al, 2018). Building a partnership with diverse external stakeholders is therefore acknowledged as a significant component of successful school leadership today and a key priority emphasised across education policy worldwide (for example, Hargreaves & Harris, 2015; Scott & Halkias, 2016; Simkins et al, 2019). As school collaboration with external stakeholders emerges as a norm for school success and improvement, school principals adopt such practice with the aim of securing their legitimacy (Desai, 2018; Shuffelton, 2020).
One pivotal group of stakeholders within education is parents, as they have an obvious interest in being involved in their children's education. Parents’ investment in their children's education is promoted by policies designed to facilitate partnerships between schools and parents, which has the effect of intensifying parents’ responsibilities towards their children's education (Ball, 2012).