26 SES 08 A, Leading and Innovating in Rural, Remote and Municipal Spaces
School autonomy has, in recent years, been positioned as a key driver of increased school and educational performance (OECD, 2011; World Bank, 2014). The introduction of reforms such as free schools, charter schools and independent public schools have all been implemented as strategies for improvement in a number of education systems around the world. However, this has resulted in a significant change in the role of school leaders, particularly school principals. While a number of principals have shown a desire for more autonomy in decision-making, they have often been unprepared for and also struggle with the work intensification, managerialism and accountability measures that have accompanied this changing role, as well as the increased time needed on administrative tasks related to marketing, finance and budgets, allocation of resources and the hiring of staff (see Thomson, 2009). These tasks have also sometimes come at the expense of more educationally focused leadership aims along with issues of equity and social justice. While such forms of managerialism have always historically been a part of education (Eacott, 2015), there is a new, peculiar mix of autonomy discourse at work alongside increased forms of accountability, audit and performativity associated with the principalship.
In this paper, I argue that such discourses privilege the technical and instrumental aspects of principals’ work through particular leadership discourse at the expense of considerations such as the purpose of education, the kind of society we wish to build, a strong public education system and notions of social justice. I draw upon empirical research from Australia to show how school autonomy discourses have created tensions in the subject positioning of school principals. School principals are becoming constrained in their capacity to deliver on issues of equity, inclusion and social justice. These subject positions are theorised through the work of Michel Foucault both in the constraining aspects and also the spaces that simultaneously exist for practices of counter-conduct and parrhesia or speaking out (Foucault, 2001, 2007). The notions that inform this analysis and theorising throughout this paper are specifically Foucault’s ideas of discourse, the subject and governmentality (Foucault, 1991, 2002). In particular, I highlight the importance of the construction of a form of subjectivity that, as a part of these neoliberal rationalities, is important for understanding the shifting nature of the school principal as a particular type of subject, a constructed entrepreneurial subject (Brown, 2015; Dardot & Laval, 2013). To show how these discourses work, I draw upon a range of case studies of school principals in Australia and how their work and subject position is constructed through a range of school autonomy and neoliberal discourses. While the empirical research for this paper comes from the Australian context, these examples will be of interest to scholars in other contexts implementing similar approaches to education policy and reform.
This paper draws upon empirical research from multiple case studies over the last 5 years in the states of New South Wales and Queensland, Australia. Methods deployed to understand how principals understand and engage with school autonomy reforms involved: • Discourse analysis of education policy documents in Australia at both a state and federal level, along with global reports from OECD and World Bank and autonomy reforms in the US, UK, and Sweden. • Case studies in disadvantaged schools in Queensland and New South Wales. Portraiture (Lawrence-Lightfoot, 1983) was used to capture the contexts of these schools and interviews were conducted with a range of school staff including principals, deputy principals, teachers and other administrative staff. Questions were asked about issues related to school leadership, disadvantaged schools, autonomy and social justice.
The significance of this research is to highlight the competing tensions for school principals within school autonomy discourses. I show how there can be a productive side to these shifting subjectivities that might allow practices of resistance and refusal for school principals to influence and implement changes for the purposes that necessarily suit their communities. By acknowledging that the subject is always to be constructed then one can work to rearticulate a new political and principal subjectivity that acts through Foucault’s notion of counter-conduct to forms of neoliberal governmentality. An awareness of subject positioning by school principals is important for them to understand how education policy not just impacts on their role and job but also how their very existence is manifest and constructed. Changing these impacts and influences in the form of speaking out and counter conducts is necessary but also risky. Understanding how principals respond to a variety of mechanisms of government require conceptual tools, of which Foucault’s are appropriate and helpful (Ball & Olmedo, 2013). Ball argues that these alone are necessary but insufficient. However, he does make the case that these are a starting point for a political struggle over what it means to be a principal under school autonomy regimes. If one wants to enact more socially just forms of schooling then this is a key step in understanding the pressure points, the cracks and spaces where principal may be able to exercise forms of counter-conduct in order to facilitate the types of schools and educational opportunities for their students.
Ball, S. J. & Olmedo, A. (2013). Care of the self, resistance and subjectivity under neoliberal governmentalities. Critical Studies in Education, 54 (1), 85-96. Brown, W. (2015). Undoing the demos: Neoliberalism’s stealth revolution. New York: Zone Books. Dardot, P. & Laval, C. (2013). The new way of the world: On neoliberal society. London and New York: Verso Books. Eacott, S. (2015). The principalship, autonomy, and after. Journal of Educational Administration and History, 47(4), 414-431. Foucault, M. (1991). Governmentality. In G. Burchill, C. Gordon and P. Miller (Eds.), The Foucault effect: Studies in governmentality. Chicago, University of Chicago Press. Foucault, M. (2001). Fearless speech, ed. J. Pearson. Los Angeles, Semiotext(e). Foucault, M. (2002a). The subject and power. In J. D. Faubion (Ed.), Essential works of Foucault, 1954-1984, volume 1: Power. London, Penguin Books. Foucault, M. (2007). Security, territory, population: Lectures at the College de France 1977-1978. New York, Picador. Lawrence-Lightfoot, S. (1983). The Good High School: Portraits of Character and Culture. New York: Basic Books. OECD (2011). School autonomy and accountability: Are they related to school performance? Available at: http://www.oecd.org/pisa/pisaproducts/pisainfocus/48910490.pdf (accessed 19 January 2017). Thomson, P. (2009). School leadership: Heads on the block? London: Routledge. World Bank (2014). School autonomy and accountability. Available at: http://saber.worldbank.org/index.cfm?indx=8&tb=4 (accessed 19 January 2017).
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
The programme is updated regularly (each day in the morning)
- Search for keywords and phrases in "Text Search"
- Restrict in which part of the abstracts to search in "Where to search"
- Search for authors and in the respective field.
- For planning your conference attendance you may want to use the conference app, which will be issued some weeks before the conference
- If you are a session chair, best look up your chairing duties in the conference system (Conftool) or the app.