Last week I gave a presentation to some Australian and English academics in Sydney (see slides below). I wanted to emphasise the dilemmas faced by the sector and how the opportunity to be ‘in the tent’ and negotiate had heightened rather than reduced those dilemmas. I tried to give a fair representation of the different points of view, along with some of my own framing of course. Here are some of the main responses from the audience (in no particular order):
- Clustering of schools is often becoming seen by governments as a better way to push neo-liberal reform along than a focus on individual schools (whether clusters, groups or federations e.g. academies in England).
- Clustering encourages the culture of entrepreneurial superheads that has become so important in leading educational reform in England (Michael Wilshaw as mentioned in one of the slides is a good example).
- The clustering idea tends to function as an expression of various fears, but what is it affirming?
- Policy flows between limit points and it is possible to make too much of autonomy or collaboration, that in practice both always have to exist anyway.
- The IES might be seen by secondary principals as a means of addressing teacher performance issues that are more difficult to get a handle on in secondary schools than in primary schools.
- Dismay about the NZ primary and secondary sectors becoming so divided in response to policy – some Australian states have had this experience too.
- Important to recognise that any large-scale reform like this now typically leads to new opportunities for privatisation, contracting out etc.
- The importance, as always, of national and local contexts and trajectories of reform that mean that governments push on particular bits of policy at different times in different countries, even if the overall direction is similar.
Professor Martin Thrupp’s expertise is in: Social class and education; the impact of managerialism and performativity in schools; school choice and competition; international policy borrowing; contextualised approaches to educational leadership.
For more information on Professor Thrupp’s work and publications, see here.