23 SES 07 B, Globalization, Privatizations and Neo-Liberal Reforms in Education (Part 2)
Paper Session: continued from 23 SES 07 B
This research focuses on the implications of what Hatcher (2006) calls the re-agenting of a school system, and more specifically the accountability mechanisms in place for English academy school sponsors. England has been at the forefront of market-based reforms in Europe, and the academy movement particularly has been held as an example of the blurred lines between public and private education provision (Ball & Junemann 2012). Academies were originally introduced in the year 2000 as a remedy to tackle educational underperformance in urban areas. Since then the scope and the nature of the programme has changed significantly resulting in the rapid growth of the programme, and an educational landscape in which over 3600 primary and secondary schools operate under academy status (DfE, 2014). Characteristic to academies is that they are publicly funded but may be managed by varied types of organisations and individuals including charitable sponsors. Academies are also associated with considerable autonomy regarding curriculum, teaching pay and conditions, and strategic planning.
The expansion of the academies programme has increased the number of sponsors running academies and further increased the number and spread of multi-academy sponsors. Not all academies are tied to sponsorship agreements, however, by January 2014 a total of 1000 academies were in a sponsoring relationship with a charitable sponsor (DfE, 2014). The expansion of chains is one of the distinctive features of the sponsored academy movement, and a development the advocates of the movement have cherished (O’Shaughnaessy, 2012; Gilbert et al, 2013, Adonis, 2012). As such, and more broadly, in the face of increasing privatisation of public education these schools can be viewed as an embodiment of new governance logic. This new way of governance dismantles hierarchical and central ways of governing, enhances the role of data, and blurs the boundaries of public and private sphere (Ozga, 2012).
Due to their autonomous status, concerns have been raised regarding the accountability structures under which the academy sponsors operate (Glatter, 2012). The accountability question of academies contributes to the longer trend of the radically diminishing importance of English local authorities in relation to education and in the wake of managerial techniques (Ball, 2013).
This research set out to examine the implications of such developments at local and national levels, with a specific focus on the ways in which and to whom the academy sponsors are held accountable. Allen and Mintrom (2010) have examined the concept of accountability in educational governance in relation to the concept of responsibility. This provides a helpful lens through which to examine governance in sponsored academies, as questions regarding sponsors’ motives, finances, educational interests and ideals have been widely raised in academic as well as in wider public discourses (Benn, 2012; Ball & Junemann, 2012). Therefore, in this paper the concept of accountability is approached in relation to, firstly, notions of corporate transparency (das Neves & Vaccaro 2013) and secondly moral responsibility (Smith 2012). As such the paper is set out to examine: firstly the extent to which, and to whom academy sponsors are transparent in their decision-making, and their position within the current accountability structures.
Studying the implications of the English reforms may also cast light on market-based reforms more broadly in Europe and beyond. This is because academies may be located in the wider global independent state-funded school movement with Swedish free schools, charter schools in the US and Canada, and Colombian concessions schools (LaRocqua, 2009; Meyland-Smith & Evans, 2009), all of which have gained momentum in the past decades. Therefore, albeit located in the English context, the findings of this research resonate with developments elsewhere in Europe and beyond.
Adonis, A. (2012) Education, education, education, reforming England’s schools. London: Biteback Publishing. Allen, A. & Mintrom, M. (2010) Responsibility and school governance, Educational Policy, 24(3), pp. 439-464. Ball, S. J., 2013. The Education Debate. 2 ed. Bristol: Policy Press. Ball, S. & Junemann, C. (2012) Networks, new governance and education, Bristol: The Policy Press. Benn, M., (2012) School wars: the battle for Britain’s education. Verso, London. das Neves, J., & Vaccaro, A. (2013) Corporate transparency: A perspective from Thomas Aquinas’ summa theologiae, Journal of business ethics, 1-10. DfE [Department for Education] (2014) All open academies Available from: http://www.education.gov.uk/schools/leadership/typesofschools/academies/open/b00208569/open-academies Accessed: 30th January 2014 DfE [Department for Education] (2013) Academies Annual Report. Academic Year: 2011/12. London: HMSO. Gilbert, C., Husbands, C., Wigdortz, B. & Francis, B. (2013) Unleashing greatness, getting the best from an academised system, The report of Academies Commission, RSA. Glatter, R. (2012) Persistant preoccupations: the rise and rise of school autonomy and accountability in England, Educational Management Administration & Leadership 40(5), pp. 559-575. Hatcher, R.(2006) Privatisation and Sponsorship: The re-agenting of the school system in England. Journal of Education Policy, 21(5) pp. 599-619. Hill, R. Dunford, J., Parish, N., Rea, S., & Sandals, L. (2012) The growth of academy chains: implications for leaders and leadership, Nottingham: National College for School Leadership. Available at http://www.thegovernor.org.uk/freedownloads/acadamies/the-growth-of-academy-chains.pdf [Accessed 20 June 2013] LaRocqua (2009) The practice of Public-Private partnerships pp. 71 – 87 in Chakrabarti, R. & Peterson P. (eds.) School choice international: exploring public-private partnerships. The MIT press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, London England. Meyland-Smith, D., & Evans, N. (2009) A guide to school choice reforms. London: Policy Exchange. O’Shaughnaessy, J. (2012) Competition meets collaboration helping: school chains address England’s long tail of educational failure. London: Policy Exchange. Ozga, J. (2012). Knowledge stocks and flows. Data and education governance. In T. Fenwick, & L. Farrell, (Eds.) Knowledge mobilization and educational research: Politics, languages and responsibilities. London: Routledge. Smith, A. M. (2012). Attributability, Answerability, and Accountability: In Defense of a Unified Account. Ethics, 122(3), 575-589.
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