23 SES 04 D, Local Education Policy
Parallel Paper Session
A central plank of the policy of the Conservative/Liberal Democratic Coalition Government in England elected in May 2010 has been to set in train processes through which schools will be encouraged, and in some cases required, to become independent of local authorities and funded directly by central government. The primary mechanism for this to occur is the conversion of existing schools into ‘academies’ (DfEE, 2010), although arrangements have also been put in place to enable groups, including parents, to set up new schools (known as ‘free schools’). In many ways these developments represent a continuation of a policy trend which can be traced back through the last New Labour Government to the establishment of Local Management of Schools by the Conservatives at the end of the 1980s (Stevenson, 2011). However, the Government’s vision of creating a complete system of ‘independent’ schools is more radical than anything that has gone before and its claims that the policy embodies lessons from the most effective school systems worldwide (Gove 2011) means that understanding its consequences is of considerable relevance in Europe and beyond.
The changes have been explored at the ‘macro’ level of national policy (e.g. Ball 2008, 2009; Gunter and Forrester, 2009) and at the ‘;micro’ level of the institution (e.g. NCSL, 2011), but little work has been done yet at what can be called the ‘meso’ level – that of the locality. Yet the fragmentation implicit in Government policy is likely to mean that the ‘local’ will be fundamentally redefined and that redefinition will be enacted differently in different local circumstances. This paper will draw on data from an exploratory study to consider the following questions:
- What is the impact of Government policy on the structure and governance of the school system viewed from a local geographical perspective?
- How is this impact influenced by local conditions and policies?
- What debates and decisions underpin and inform the changes in structure and governance that take place?
- What are the dynamics of changes of structure and governance over time? What factors influence these dynamics?
The study is underpinned by aspects of the theory of governance which we define, (March and Olsen,1995, quoted in Kjaer, 2004), as ‘the framework within which citizens and officials act and policy occurs and which shape identities and institutions of society’. The governance framework in England is recasting aspects of hierarchy, markets and networks (Rhodes, 1997) into new forms of governance characterised by ‘hybridity’ and ‘heterarchy’ with new kinds of actors, new discourses and narratives and new forms of influence and enactment emerging (Ball, 2008) through the contestation of ‘metagovernmental’ values, norms and principles (Kooiman and Jentoft, 2009) that underpin the system. At local level structural change implies new and emergent governance patterns where the balance may differ in particular local circumstances between hierarchical control (to school chains and central government), market pressures arising from the expression of parental preference, and various forms of community engagement (Simkins, 2003; Newman, 2001).
Ball, S. (2008). "New philanthropy, new networks and new governance in education." Political Studies 56(4): 747-765. Ball, S. (2009). "Academies in context: politics, business and philanthropy and heterarchal governance." Management in Education 23(3): 100-103.Department for Education (2010) The Importance of Teaching: the schools White Paper 2010 Gove, M. (2011) Speech, 4 January. Accessed on 21/1/12 at: http://www.education.gov.uk/inthenews/speeches/a00201425/michael-gove-speech-on-academies Gunter, H. and Forrester, G. (2008). "New Labour and school leadership." British Journal of Educational Studies 56(2): 144-162. Hadfield, M. and Chapm,an, C. (2009) Leading School-based Networks, Sage Hargreaves, D. (2003). Education Epidemic: transforming secondary schools through innovation networks, Demos. Kjaer, J. (2004). Governance. Cambridge, Polity Press. Kooiman, J. and S. Jentoft (2009). "Meta-governance: values, norms and principles, and the making of choices." Public Administration 87(4): 818-836. National College for School leadership (2011) Academies: research into the leadership of sponsored and converting academies. Newman, J. (2001) Modernising Governance, Sage Rhodes, R. (1997). Understanding Governance: policy networks, governance, reflexivity and accountability, Open University Press. Simkins, T. (2003) ‘Reform, accountability and strategic choice in education’, in Preedy, M, Glatter, R.and Wise, C.(eds.) Strategic Leadership and Educational Improvement, The Open University/Paul Chapman Stevenson, H. (2011) ‘Coalition education policy: Thatcherism’s long shadow’, Forum, 53,2, 179-193
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