26 SES 12 A, The Art of the Deal? Coping with the Idea of More Power and Responsibility at the School Level
Extended autonomy and school choice have led to a diversification of school profiles, which have intensified competition among schools. Next to the "first-order competition" (Gewirtz et al., 1995), i.e. covering student registrations, the selection of ‘suitable’ students as defined by "second-order competition" (ibd.) is important for schools to place themselves on the market. In Germany public primary schools can only implement competition to a limited extent due to legal regulations. However, as Unger (2015) shows there is a competitive situation in which primary schools even use marketing strategies. In contrast, primary private schools are more autonomous and able to apply different selection mechanisms, e.g. specific rules, techniques and case orientation (Krüger, 2015). From the schools’ perspective, admission depends on access-relevant resources, judgement of family traits and preference of ascribed characteristics (Kristen, 2005). The question is now, how school leaders handle this competition. To answer it, 201 principals from Berlin primary schools (41% response rate) were asked as part of the research project "Choice - school choice and socio-cultural matching". Results show that most Berlin primary schools are over-demanded, i.e. schools have more applications than places available. In order to select the most ‘suitable’ students, they look for certain characteristics that match with the school profile best. Correlation analyses show significant relations between profiles and certain admission criteria. For example, schools designated with a ‘language’ profile show correlations with the criteria 'language skills' and ‘international diversity'. To gain deeper insights, semi-structured interviews with 18 school leaders were used to ask more precisely about competition and student selection. The interviews are evaluated with a category system according to qualitative content analysis (Mayring, 2015). Results reveal that besides access-relevant resources such as catchment areas or siblings, school leaders stick to a quota system, e.g. regarding native language, sex and denomination. It also turns out that parents play an important role as school leaders are interested in addressing parents that will participate in school life. In some private schools this point is even specified in the school contract. It can be seen that the development of specific profiles is relevant to stand out on the market. Because of competition, it seems that the parental empowerment of choosing a school is transferred to those managing the admission process. Further results will clarify that in private schools the selection of students is 'obvious', while public schools choose 'subtly' because of legally prescribed catchment areas.
Gewirtz, S., Ball, S.J. & Bowe, R. (1995). Markets, choice and equity in education. Buckingham: Open Univ. Press. Kristen, C. (2005). School choice and ethnic school segregation. Primary school selection in Germany. Münster: Waxmann. Krüger, J. (2015): Auswahl an privaten Grundschulen. Annäherungen an Legitimationspraktiken einer schulischen Elternwahl. In W. Helsper & H. Krüger (Ed.). Auswahl der Bildungsklientel. Studien zur Schul- und Bildungsforschung. Wiesbaden: Springer VS, 119-133. Mayring, P. (2015). Qualitative Inhaltsanalyse. Grundlagen und Techniken. Weinheim: Beltz. Unger, C. (2015). Wettbewerbssteuerung im Primarschulbereich. Wiesbaden: Springer Fachmedien.
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