23 SES 13 D, Managerial Accountability and its Effects on School Education
Devolution of public sector schooling has been a feature of education policy reform across the global North over the past 30 years (Chitty, 2013; Ravitch, 2010; Moos, Krejsler & Kofod, 2008). In Australia, accountability frameworks for schools are ‘tight’ when compared internationally (Moos, Krejsler & Kofod, 2008); this is arguably even more so since the introduction of more recent, state-based devolutionary policies, making Australia an interesting, and perhaps cautionary, case for study. In this paper, we report on data out of a broader comparative study of devolution and the conditions of teachers’ work in Australia and Sweden. The Australian arm of this project has investigated teacher and principal perspectives in New South Wales (NSW) and Western Australia (WA), two states currently experiencing their own, not unrelated, devolutionary reforms. Here, we drill down into the specific case of WA, where the vehicle for such policy has been the Independent Public School (IPS) initiative. This initiative – according to the WA state government – allows selected schools to “assume greater responsibility for their own affairs and have increased flexibility to respond to their communities. They create more diversity in the public school system and help build strong communities that are more able to respond to the needs of students.” (Government of Western Australia, 2016a) The purpose of devolving authority is framed as being to create difference within the public sector, and thus more easily respond to student ‘need’. This therefore represents part of the movement seen amongst a number of countries – including in Europe (Dronkers & Avram, 2015) – to provide choice not only external to, but within, public sector schooling.
While an increasing number of WA schools have taken on the status of an IPS, a significant minority of schools remain ‘traditional’ public schools. Upon conducting interviews for this project in WA, we were struck by the apparent dynamic emerging between newly devolved public schools, and those which remained within the traditional public school system. Here we select interviews from two schools – one IPS, and one non-IPS – in order to answer the following research questions:
- What is the place of IP schools within the current schooling market in WA?
- How might this affect other, non-IP schools within WA?
The objectives of this paper are therefore to explore the role of IP schools within secondary education as a market-based system. We therefore situate our work within literature concerned with the neoliberal turn in education policy as well as how this translates to experiences ‘on the ground’ for school staff (e.g. Ball, 2003; Ball, Maguire & Braun, 2012; Fredriksson, 2009; Parding & Berg-Jansson, 2016). Theoretically, we draw on the concept of ‘residualization’ as a relational process operating within markets in education (e.g. Preston, 1984; Campbell & Sherington, 2013). We also employ ideas related to policy enactment and the ‘doing’ of policy within local specificities (Ball, Maguire & Braun, 2012): as Ball et al. take care to note, “policies are enacted in material conditions, with varying resources, in relation to particular ‘problems’. Policies – new and old – are set against and alongside existing commitments, values and forms of experience.” (Ball et al., 2012, p. 21) Furthermore, as Ball (2015) has also argued, there is an ongoing tension in education policy research between teacher agency and teacher subjection, and recognising that teachers are not merely dominated by policy is important – there is space for resistance (Ball, 2015).
Ball, S. J. (2003). The teacher's soul and the terrors of performativity. Journal of Education Policy 18(2), 215-228, DOI: 10.1080/0268093022000043065 Ball, S. J., Maguire, M., & Braun, A. (2012). How schools do policy: Policy enactments in secondary schools. London & New York: Routledge. Campbell, C., & Sherington, G. (2013). The comprehensive public high school: Historical perspectives. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Chitty, C. (2013). New Labour and secondary education, 1994-2010. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Dronkers, J. & Avram, S. (2015) What can international comparisons teach us about school choice and non-governmental schools in Europe? Comparative Education, 51:1, 118-132, DOI: 10.1080/03050068.2014.935583 Flyvberg, B. (2006). Five misunderstandings about case study research. Qualitative Inquiry 12(2), 219-245. doi: 10.1177/1077800405284363 Fredriksson, A. (2009). On the consequences of the marketisation of public education in Sweden: for-profit charter schools and the emergence of the 'market-oriented teacher'. European Educational Research Journal, 8(2), 299-310. Government of Western Australia. (2016). Independent Public Schools. Retrieved from http://www.education.wa.edu.au/home/detcms/navigation/about-us/programs-and-initiatives/independent-public-schools/?page=2#toc2 Merriam, S. B. (2009). Qualitative research: A guide to design and implementation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Moos, L., Krejsler, J & Kofod, K. K. (2008) Successful principals: telling or selling? On the importance of context for school leadership. International Journal of Leadership in Education, 11:4, 341-352 Parding, K. and Berg-Jansson, A. (2016). Teachers’ working conditions amid Swedish school choice reform: Avenues for further research. Professions and Professionalism, 6(1): 1-16. Preston, B. (1984). Residualization: what's that? The Australian Teacher, 8, 5-6. Ravitch, D. (2010). The death and life of the great American school system. New York: Basic Books.
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