23 SES 07 D, Governing through Networks
There is strong consensus in contexts such as Australia, England, parts of Europe and the US that greater school autonomy will drive up academic standards. While devolution in these contexts is far from new, there is renewed policy commitment to this reform and its capacity to generate more effective public education systems. School autonomy reform grants greater freedom to schools in governance and decision-making around issues of finance, staffing and resourcing. Commitment to this idea is clear at a global policy level where influential organisations such as the OECD and the World Bank have endorsed school autonomy as key to raising student attainment (see World Bank, 2014; OECD, 2011).
In England, such reform (through the ‘academies’ movement) has radically transformed the state education landscape. It has disarticulated state education to reflect a new style of governance. The de-funding and dismantling of the local authority (a democratically elected and state funded body traditionally responsible for governing schools) has shifted responsibility for school governance from a state to a non-state matter. It has opened up state education to a proliferation of new players or stakeholders who are now responsible for schools and schooling from state agencies, quangos and businesses to voluntary organisations, charities, social enterprises and faith groups (Ball & Junemann, 2012).
Only 13% of primary schools have been granted academy status by the Department for Education as opposed to 60% of secondaries. This disparity can be attributed to particular situated, professional, material and external factors of context such size, resourcing and leadership. Academisation, for example, suits large and well-resourced schools with the leadership density to effectively manage the responsibilities of autonomy. Primary schools have not tended to see conversion as of benefit to them economically and managerially and have thus generally preferred to remain attached to the local authority even though its decimation has severely limited support (Hill, 2010). A significant concern for many primary school head teachers is that converting to academy status would undermine their autonomy. This is a legitimate concern given that their small size and limited resources make it untenable for them to convert to stand-alone academy status. This means they must academise as a collective or join an existing network of schools under sponsoring or organisational structures that may delimit their individual freedoms (see Hill, et al. 2012).
It is against this backdrop that this paper presents a study of five local authority English primary schools. The paper examines the concerns the leaders in these schools expressed about school autonomy. These concerns were associated with their vulnerable position as state governed primary schools with increasingly limited support from the local authority. The group did not feel well equipped and supported to cope with and negotiate the policy demands associated with autonomy. The paper considers the contextual (i.e. situated, professional, material and external) factors that contributed to this view. The research is focused on the following questions 1) What concerns do (these particular) primary school leaders express about school autonomy reform? 2) How are matters of context associated with their capacity to effectively manage the demands of autonomy? and 3) What are the implications of these concerns and matters in relation to the school reform movement in England and internationally.
Ball, S. & Junemann, C. (2012). Networks, new governance and education. Bristol: The Policy Press. Braun, A., Ball, S., Maguire, M. and Hoskins, K. (2011) Taking context seriously: towards explaining policy enactments in the secondary school, Discourse: studies in the politics of education, 32(4), 585-596. Hill, R. (2010). Chain Reactions: A Thinkpiece on the Development of Chains of Schools in the English School System. London: National College for Leadership of Schools and Children’s Services. Hill, R., Dunford, J., Parish, N., Rea, S & Sandals, R. (2012). The growth of academy chains: implications for leaders and leadership. Nottingham: National College for School Leadership. Keddie, A. (2014) School collaborations within the contemporary English education system: possibilities and constraints, Cambridge Journal of Education 44(2), 229-244. OECD (2011) School autonomy and accountability: are they related to school performance? http://www.oecd.org/pisa/pisaproducts/pisainfocus/48910490.pdf World Bank (2014) School autonomy and accountability. http://saber.worldbank.org/index.cfm?indx=8&tb=4
00. Central Events (Keynotes, EERA-Panel, EERJ Round Table, Invited Sessions)
Network 1. Continuing Professional Development: Learning for Individuals, Leaders, and Organisations
Network 2. Vocational Education and Training (VETNET)
Network 3. Curriculum Innovation
Network 4. Inclusive Education
Network 5. Children and Youth at Risk and Urban Education
Network 6. Open Learning: Media, Environments and Cultures
Network 7. Social Justice and Intercultural Education
Network 8. Research on Health Education
Network 9. Assessment, Evaluation, Testing and Measurement
Network 10. Teacher Education Research
Network 11. Educational Effectiveness and Quality Assurance
Network 12. LISnet - Library and Information Science Network
Network 13. Philosophy of Education
Network 14. Communities, Families and Schooling in Educational Research
Network 15. Research Partnerships in Education
Network 16. ICT in Education and Training
Network 17. Histories of Education
Network 18. Research in Sport Pedagogy
Network 19. Ethnography
Network 20. Research in Innovative Intercultural Learning Environments
Network 22. Research in Higher Education
Network 23. Policy Studies and Politics of Education
Network 24. Mathematics Education Research
Network 25. Research on Children's Rights in Education
Network 26. Educational Leadership
Network 27. Didactics – Learning and Teaching
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