The invisible middle:

An underutilised enabler for
school reform in Australia

By Ricky Campbell-Allen

Leading Education Series #4


In this paper I argue that a potentially
underutilised enabler in the Australian
context – what might be called the
‘invisible middle tier’ in Australian
schooling systems – has an important
role to play in supporting school reform,
creating coherence and delivering on the
promise of equity. In broad terms, the
middle tier or layer in education systems
can be considered a system of support and
accountability, connecting schools and the
centre, and can include partnerships and

In the paper, I draw on a subset of empirical
data from my PhD research, involving
mixed-method Queensland case studies
(Campbell-Allen, 2023). Throughout this
paper, this is referred to as the Study…..

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4 Chapters

21 Pages

Drawing on her research, the author argues that regional coherence and collective sense-making practices – such as epistemic communities – can be an enabling force for positive system change. She asserts that a more important goal for the system, specifically the middle tier, is one of coherence rather than alignment; outlines how the middle tier has been defined; provides a brief overview of the Queensland context; discusses four conceptualisations of the region and three regional functions; and briefly considers the relationship of knowledge and the middle tier. This paper has relevance for principals, leaders within the middle tier and policymakers across the schooling sectors.

About the author.


Dr Ricky Campbell-Allen is a researcher, facilitator and speaker, with expertise in educational leadership and change. Ricky helps leaders and their teams improve their impact at school, network, organisational and department levels. She has significant leadership experience in education, working across schools, systems and the not-for-profit sector in Australia, Canada and the United States. Ricky is the Director of EdCapital, an education consultancy focused on professional learning, strategic facilitation, policy and research.

Formerly, Ricky was the founding director of an advocacy institute – the Centre for New Public Education (Australia). She has held system leadership positions in a United States
school district and spent seven years as a teacher and middle leader in Australian schools.
Ricky holds a PhD in Educational Leadership from the University of Nottingham, where she investigated how system leaders help principals improve student learning outcomes. Ricky was an R G Menzies Scholar at Harvard University and holds a Master of Education from Harvard and a Bachelor of Visual Arts (Hons) from the University of Sydney.

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Leading Education Series #4

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