23 SES 02 B, Re-designing Education
Parallel Paper Session
The neoliberal restructuring of welfare states, and in particular schools systems, is well established and a global development. The fragmentation of school systems, the introduction of quasi-markets, and the growth of privatisation are a common feature of many national education systems. Such restructuring has played out very differently in the European nations with evidence of it being more aggressive in some countries (most notably England), and less so in others (Stevenson, 2011). Notwithstanding such national differences, there is obvious potential for policies to converge as troika-imposed austerity measures drive a move to greater privatisation.
The ensuing tension between public and private is being played out against a context of deep cuts in public spending. Although these issues emerge in different ways in different national contexts acrossEurope they contain many common experiences and themes.
This paper focuses on the implications of neoliberal restructuring for teachers as workers, and in particular, in their organised form, teachers as trade unionists. Teachers have always been a highly organised occupational group, and this is a common phenomena across Europe (Lawn et al., 1985) . Within traditional welfarist structures, teacher unions have occupied a central role in partnership arrangements with the central and local state often promoting teachers’ professional interests as well as bargaining for improved pay and conditions.
The pivotal role, and privileged position, of teacher unions is directly challenged by neoliberal restructuring. Teachers’ professional power, as expressed through their unions, is seen as both a target of, and obstacle to, education reform policies (Compton and Weiner et al., 2008). The promotion of more marketised forms of schooling is therefore deliberately intended to weaken the power of organised teachers.
This paper seeks to assess how teacher unions in Englandare responding to a specific education policy reform that promotes a more marketised educational system (DfE, 2010). The Coalition government is committed to making all schools ‘Academies’ whereby schools are removed from a system rooted in the structures of local government and established as state-funded, but free standing schools, sometimes managed by private providers (Gunter et al., 2010) . One feature of this fragmentation is that Academy schools are not obliged to work with national agreements and provisions relating to pay and working conditions for teachers and other staff.
This paper analyses how teacher unions are responding to this new environment. Specifically it addresses the following questions:
- How, and to what extent, are current structures for union-employer relations in local authorities being changed by the growth of Academy schools?
- How are teacher unions organising at school level, and what are the challenges that they face?
- To what extent are teacher unions restructuring in ways that might reflect a more decentralised and fragmented bargaining environment?
Although the specific policy driving these changes is one located in England, the issues raised by this study have significant implications in Europe. The mix of privatisation and public spending cuts is being experienced across Europe, and this paper helps understand teachers’ collective responses to these developments. It also helps understand the role of teacher unions currently involved in struggles in Ireland, Greece, Portugal, Italy and France.
Carter, B., Stevenson, H. and Passy, R. (2010) Industrial relations in education: transforming the school workforce London: Routledge Compton, M. and Weiner, L. (eds) (2008) The global assault on teaching, teachers, and their unions: stories for resistance Palgrave, Macmillan. Department for Education (2010) The importance of teaching London: DfE. Gunter, H. (ed) (2010) The state and education policy: the Academies programme, London: Continuum. Lawn, M. (ed) (1985) The politics of teacher unionism: international perspectives London: Croom Helm Stevenson, H. (2011) Coalition education policy: Thatcherism’s long shadow Forum: for promoting 3-19 comprehensive education 53 (2) 179-194
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