26 SES 07 A, Governance and Independent Schools
This paper contributes to the study of the logics of action of schools in competitive arenas (e.g. Maroy and van Zanten 2001 and 2009). In May 2010, a significant policy thrust was set in train in England to encourage, or require, schools to become independent of local authorities and funded directly by central government. The new Government’s vision of a system of ‘independent’ schools is radical although it is a continuation of a policy trend. Much research to date about the consequences of this changing policy framework has looked 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). Our work, in contrast, explores changes at the ‘meso’ level - that of the locality.
Government policy radically to curtail the power of local government in relation to local schools is likely to lead to a reconfiguration of the local context enacted differently in different local circumstances.This study on which this paper draws looked at three contrasting localities to address 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 particular focus of this paper is on head teachers in these areas who hold relatively advantaged positions as they respond to the rapidly changing policy environment and how what they say sheds light on the following questions.
- What choices do they face?
- What factors drive these choices?
- What determines the positions they take up in the changing local field?
- What alliances are they making?
- What kinds of groupings between schools are being formed as a result?
- How can we represent the logics of action of these headteachers and their schools?
- What new local forms of governance are emerging as a result?
We follow Maroy and van Zanten (2001 and 2009) in their conclusion that while a market model offers a way of conceptualizing the regulation of relations it does not offer an adequate explanation of action because, at least in its simple form, it casts participants as rational actors with an equal ability to engage in exchanges. Their analyses of the logics of action of schools in local competitive arenas uses a broadly Bourdeuian concept of capital as possessed by schools to model the relationships between rival institutions and to ground explanations of the way in which they act and position themselves in the local field. We develop this analytical approach by identifying a wider range of relevant forms of symbolic and material resources that our participants and their schools possessed. This provides a basis for understanding the ways in which they are both objectively positioned and how they see themselves in relation to others.
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 Gunter, H. and Forrester, G. (2008). "New Labour and school leadership." British Journal of Educational Studies 56(2): 144-162. Maroy, C. And van Zanten, A. (2001) Regulation and competition among schools in six European localities Sociologie du travail 51S (2009) e67–e79 National College for School Leadership (2011) Academies: research into the leadership of sponsored and converting academies, Nottingham: NCSL Van Zanten, A (2009) Competitive arenas and schools' logics of action: a European comparison. Compare, Volume 39, Number 1, January 2009, pp. 85-98 (14)
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