23 SES 11 B, Post-Critical Policy Scholarship? Deliberations around Ontological and Epistemological Politics
This paper considers how the peculiarities of educational governance in England are re-shaping the interactions between research, policy and practice communities. The focus is on how particular knowledge problems are named and what they come to be in practice as the drive to solve them gets underway. In this case the policy problem named was the absence of phonics teaching in the post-16 sector, remedied by the Government’s introduction of a new Functional Skills English curriculum which specified the teaching of phonics to post-16 learners not yet in reach of the GCSE qualification in English – the standard exit exam for school leavers. The knowledge problem emerges in the drive for a solution in a sector with a very different knowledge history and invested in very different conceptions of “learner needs”. The paper will consider both vertical and horizontal spaces that policy-initiated curriculum change produced, and the dilemmas this raised for the different stakeholders involved in taking the project forward, including members of the research community. Outcomes from the interactions between stakeholders included a systematic review of the research evidence on the use of phonics post-16 (Moss et al, 2018) and materials commissioned to support the practitioner community deal with the curriculum change. In many ways these processes raise wider questions about whose knowledge counts, for what, where? The paper explores how these issues are currently being defined socially, structurally and materially in the English context. This in turn sets in train a broader set of questions about the depth of knowledge required to “act differently” and how that can be reconciled with the speed at which knowledge is now expected to circulate (Bernstein, 1997) and the accompanying certainty that it will fit the case. The paper will consider these questions in the light of the scalar politics (MacKinnon, 2010) playing out in English education right now, a system rightly characterised as “an extreme example of high-autonomy-high-accountability quasi-market school reforms” (Greany and Waterhouse, 2016). In so doing the paper contributes to a wider debate intended to reinvigorate critical scholarship (Heimans and Singh, 2018) and re-set an agenda for a sociology of knowledge.
Bernstein, B. (1997) Pedagogy, symbolic control and identity. London: Taylor and Francis Greany, T. and Waterhouse, J. (2016) Rebels against the system: Leadership agency and curriculum innovation in the context of school autonomy and accountability in England, International Journal of Educational Management, 30 (7), 1188-1206. Heimans, S. and Singh, P. (2018) Putting the steam back into critique? ‘Gathering’ for critical–dissensual collaborations in education policy research. Policy Futures in Education, Vol. 16(2) 185–201 MacKinnon, D. (2011) Reconstructing scale: Towards a new scalar politics. Progress in Human Geography 35(1) 21–36. Moss, G., Duncan, S., Harmey, S. And Muñoz- Chereau, B. (2018) Current Practice in Using a System of Phonics with Post-16 Learners. London : Education and Training Foundation. Available from: https://www.et-foundation.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/ETF18002_PHONICS_REPORT_80PP_FINAL_AW.pdf
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