Issues of race in Secondary Education: Breaking through the concrete ceiling

Dwain Brandy

Abstract

Black Asian Minority Ethnic (abbreviated to BAME) practitioners are disproportionately under-represented in leadership positions in Secondary schools in England. There is a lack of inclusivity within the literature supporting the Distributed Leadership (DL) theory; power is currently distributed using the literature as a guidance which has implications due to a colorblind approach (Mabokela and Madsen, 2003) that fails to address issues of race and diversity. This study argues that institutionalized barriers within the recruitment process contribute towards the lack of BAME practitioners in leadership positions, examines the barriers for entry and discusses how the DL structure requires a new outlook in order to become inclusive for all practitioners. This paper concludes with the critical analysis of leadership development programs that are used to support BAME practitioners.

Introduction

There is increasing concern that Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) teachers are under-represented in all levels of education in England. Furthermore, they are less likely to be promoted into leadership positions compared to their white counterparts (Johnson & Campbell Stevens, 2013; Coleman, 2010; Bush et al, 2006; Steel, 2015; DfE, 2015b). BAME practitioners appointed in leadership positions in secondary schools are only 3.6%, whilst BAME learner numbers have increased since 2006, 27.9% of learners in secondary schools are now from BAME origins (Johnson & Campbell Stevens, 2013, DfE, 2016c). There is an urgent need to address the diversity of teachers in leadership positions within schools to highlight the changing demographic of the student population (Johnson & Campbell Stevens, 2014). A diverse leadership team represents the expectation of equality for learners and creates positive stereotypes as opposed to the subordinate roles that are often associated to staff from BAME origin as discussed by Lumby (2008: 2,19). The statistics present a major concern; the ratio of BAME leaders to BAME students is disproportionate compared to that of their White counterparts.

This report will critically investigate the systematic barriers in education that prevent BAME teachers from attaining a leadership position in secondary schools. The first section of this assignment identifies barriers that a BAME group faces throughout the recruitment process, focusing on labelling, characteristics and discrimination. It will then go on to critically analyse barriers relating to inclusivity associated to the Distributed Leadership framework. It will then proceed to identify the gaps and areas of disregard when addressing issues of equality for BAME groups. Finally, it will analyse dedicated leadership programmes and the use role modelling used to support BAME practitioners.

Barriers and Limitations

Ethnicity and labelling

 

BAME is the latest terminology used to summarize ethnic groups in England. The main characteristic that people associated to the BAME group have in common, is that they are non-white British within the UK (Lumby and Coleman, 2016; Gillborn, 2008). Aspinal’s (2002) work on collective terminology is complemented by Richardson (2006). The research argues that using the label BAME could present limitations as the term Minority has connotations of inferiority, whilst the majority, being white people, belong to a single dominant group. Whilst the use of Black and Asian does not imply that the two ethnic groups belong to a minority. Ethnic grouping does not cater for the individual needs of different ethnic backgrounds. For example, issues of islamophobia as discussed by (Shah, 2010) is typically directed at Muslims commonly from an Eastern Asian origin may not apply to other ethnic groups within the BAME group. Therefore, issues need to be addressed independently rather than being placed in ‘ethnic groups’ (Corrigan, 2013; Gunter, 2004; Lumby, 2013) as it fails to cater for particular needs of individual ethnic groups.

Conversely, labels can be useful in highlighting areas of discrimination that ordinarily may be missed. If ethnic groups were not differentiated through the use of different labels, it would be more difficult to identify disparities within the education system for different groups of people. Together the studies from Aspinal (2002) and Richardson (2006) provide important insights into the limitations associated to terminology used to label collective ethnic groups. By adopting a more specific labelling system to cater to the needs of individual ethnicities, this might be a possible solution to break the stigma and negativity associated to the existing labels. This is further justified by the diversity of pupil demographics within the school sector in the UK. This view is supported by Lumby and Coleman (2016:108) who draws on the work of Campbell Stevens (2009), who has proposed the new appropriate term, Black and Global Majority (BGM).

Discrimination: Negative vs Positive

Various forms of discrimination (subtle and overt) could negatively impact the progression of BAME teachers going into leadership position as argued by Steel (2015). Studies by Bush et al (2006), Coleman & Campbell Stevens (2010) and Steel (2015) calls our attention to negative discrimination experienced by BAME senior leaders. The practitioners experienced discrimination through racism, negative stereotyping, isolation (Ogunbawo, 2012), low expectations and marginalization into roles relating to ethnicity. Positive discrimination has enabled some BAME practitioners to progress into leadership roles, and have found it advantageous Bush et al (2006). This has been supported by Ofsted Chief, Sir Michael Wilshaw who states in an interview; –

‘If I had two people applying for a job of equal merit and I felt we needed to increase the number of teachers from ethnic minority backgrounds to the staff then I would apply positive discrimination – as long as the two people were of equal merit’ (BBC News, 2015: unpaged)

Cases of positive discrimination are rare compared to the negative discrimination yet has a negative impact on BAME practitioners Ogunbawo (2012). Similarly, Coleman & Campbell Stevens (2010) study with BAME leaders in education concludes that positive discrimination is generally resented as it is counterproductive and has been used to benefit BAME practitioners on an individual basis. A long term solution has been suggested by Lumby, (2016) by schools creating and inclusive ethos that is reflected through training, policies and leadership structures.

Characteristics

Research confirms characteristics relating to race gender, religion and ethnicity have become barriers for progression for BAME (NASUWT and National College 2009; Steel, 2015; Coleman, 2010). Examples of barriers for progression related to characteristics is documented in the early work of Bass (1990), who outlined characteristics that are advantageous to becoming a successful leader. Social background and physical characteristics are two examples documented within the literature that are desirable attributes in increasing a leader’s chances of success.

Not all characteristics are accessible, resulting in inequality as agued by Di Tomaso and Hooijerg, (1996: 173-4) cited Gunter (2006) who states that native born white males have an advantage over other ethnicities in regards to higher paid jobs and promotions. Females in leadership positions are also disproportionately under-represented when compared to white males as discussed by Lumby and Coleman (2007), Fitzgerald (2003), Grant (2005) and Davidson (1992). However, complications arise for BAME females as further implications arise relating to gender and breaking through the concrete ceiling (Davidson, 1997) as biological characteristics relate to gender, whilst race also contributes to the additional discrimination (Coleman and Campbell Stevens, 2010). Leithwood, (2009) reviews traits and cognitive characteristics that are synonymous to leadership in education, but fail to mention characteristics that affect individuals of BAME origin. This is an example of a neutral race free pattern that is common in published literature focusing on Educational leadership. This fails to address characteristics that could be subjected to discrimination as argued by Lumby (2013). It includes ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and religion; presenting additional barriers for entry before even starting the application stage as discussed by (Coleman & Campbell Stevens, 2010).

Recruitment

Barriers within the recruitment process impact the progression of BAME teachers. Cultural barriers (Steel, 2015), Age (Bush et al, 2006; Coleman, 2010), Gender (Davidson, 1997), Ethnicity (Wilkins & Lall, 2011), Self-Confidence (Johnson & Campbell Stevens, 2013), Isolation and exclusion (Ogunbawo, 2012) are common barriers that prevent BAME practitioners from achieving a leadership position in education, explored by NASUWT and National College (2009). This combined with intersectionality, the focus of multiple characteristics (Lumby and Coleman, 2016), presents a complex picture for BAME practitioners to become appointed into senior roles in education.

During the recruitment process, Intersectionality (Lumby and Coleman, 2016) combined with unconscious bias (Beattie, 2012) is a recipe that could impact BAME applicants through negative discrimination. BAME practitioners are more likely to be stereotyped and profiled during a pre-selection process when applying for a role (Tillman, 2012). In a study by Bertrand and Muller (2004), a thousand resumes with a range of identities with the same credentials were sent out. The resumes contained Caucasian American sounding names and traditional African American names. The study found that White Americans had a 50% advantage of being selected over African Americans.

An example of good practice for encouraging diversity exists at the University of Manchester (University of Manchester, 2016), during the recruitment process they use an Implicit Association Test Beattie (2012), which measures unconscious attitudes to create a fairer employment procedure. A similar system in the secondary education recruitment process would be beneficial to promote quality and diversity. Similarly, the government funded charity, Teach First (2015), has restricted the occurrence of unconscious bias within their own recruitment. Through the ‘Name Blind’ process, a cohort of BAME trainee teachers has increased to 15%. This is evidence that similar ‘nameless’ systems should be considered as policy across the UK workforce as it promotes diversity and reduces discrimination.

Distributed Leadership

Barriers

Previous research has established that literature supporting the Distributed Leadership (DL) Theory has failed to acknowledge potential issues relating to inclusion, such as race, gender or religion, therefore creating barriers within the structure preventing BAME practitioners being appointed into leadership positions (Lumby 2013). Lumby has also argued that content in leading literature concerning DL, has failed to address fundamental issues of race and gender. Instead, the literature has been designed for practitioners with a unified identity, creating a delusional stance of inclusivity that ultimately excludes members of the BAME community (Gunter, 2004; Lumby, 2013; Johnson & Campbell Stevens, 2013).

DL has become the normative Leadership model in Education (Preedy, 2016; Spillane, 2006; Gunter et al, 2013). Functional approaches attached to the theory were designed to remove dysfunction (Gunter, 2013), so if problems occur, there is a system implemented to distribute responsibilities through to secondary leaders. This has eased the pressure for Headteachers/Principals (Hartley, 2010). Theoretically, this structure is designed to be inclusive, as the label insinuates, and is at the ‘cutting edge’ of thinking about leadership activity in schools’ (Harris, 2003:125). Ultimately, this is not the case. Lumby argues that theories that fail to address or to remain silent regarding barriers in educational leadership, have a detrimental impact on the progression of equality and inclusion (Lumby, 2013; 2016). Therefore, it has been categorized as barrier research as discussed by Johnson & Campbell Stevens, (2014). Inclusivity is an important factor and needs to be clearly defined as one of the core principals within a leadership framework.

Power and Distribution

The distribution of power is categorised under ‘Functional- Descriptive’ where it is focused on the ‘functioning processes’ of schools as discussed by Gunter (2013:6). With DL, the power remains with the Headteacher or Principal through design Spillane (2006), where leaders could decide individually or collectively on how responsibility could be distributed. Gronn (2002) citing Wenger (2000:429) suggests that a multiple leadership structure allows everyone within an organisation to contribute and progress into a leadership position, which is not always the case. In secondary schools, roles are commonly compartmentalized under the distributed leadership framework, with multiple layers of hierarchy. In many cases, power is distributed through subsumption, a hierarchy where each layer of responsibility has incremented power as discussed by Gronn (2002).

The DL theory used as a framework has major implications. The theory is still undefined therefore it is subject to the leader’s interpretation (Lumby and Coleman, 2016b; Harris, 2016). How leaders implement the DL framework relies on the functional roles stated in leadership literature, which typically focuses on how to perform its functions (Storey, 2004). This paradoxically has caused a hierarchical structure where power could be interpreted as delegation rather than distribution, contradicting the inclusive ethos associated to the framework (Lumby, 2016; Harris, 2003; Harris, 2016; Mifsud, 2015). From a leadership perspective, Coleman & Campbell-Stephens (2010) discusses the challenges of BAME leaders distributing power. Practitioners often face racism when in leadership positions, as staff have been undermined by authority based on ethnicity. This presents issues relating to inequalities and power resulting in barriers to lead (Lumby, 2013). Issues of race or any other barriers relating to BAME have not been addressed in any of the leading publications based on distributed leadership, this will need to be addressed in order to create an inclusive leadership framework.

Removing dysfunction

An increasing amount of scholars (Gronn ,2016; Woods, 2016; Diamond and Spillane 2016), have critiqued the DL framework and propose alternative frameworks for DL. This has started to address inclusion and exclusion relating to the BAME community. Woods (2016) argues that social authority is an alternative method used to increase social interactions to break down the hierarchical framework commonly used when implementing a DL framework. Social authority does not have a principal or head of the organization that holds the majority of the power. Diamond and Spillane (2016) have suggested a new theory based on their research on distributed practice by highlighting implications of leadership and BAME communities. This acknowledges the changing environment in demographics in school education. It also mentions the importance of social interaction and the need for additional research. This is a breakthrough into the emergence of a leadership network that addresses issues of equality. In order to become more inclusive to BAME groups, the literature will be more relevant if it addresses the potential limitations and invest in research to improve entry for BAME groups into leadership positions.

Dismantling the concrete Barriers

Leadership Programs

Government initiatives have been implemented to help increase the number of BAME practitioners in leadership positions (DfE, 2015a). Numbers are increasing as more BAME are joining the teaching profession. New BAME trainee teachers were 14% of the total cohort between 2015 -2016, which was an increase of 2% compared to the previous academic year (DfE, 2015b; 2016b). Despite such increase, there are still not enough teachers joining the profession and a disproportionate amount of BAME trainee teachers underachieve and drop out of Initial Teacher Training (Wilkins, 2011). This is a contributing factor to the under-representation of BAME teachers. Steel (2015) forecasts that an additional 14,429 secondary teachers will need to be appointed to represent the total BAME learners in state funded secondary schools.

According to the charities; The Future Leaders Trust, Teach First and Teaching Leaders, up to 20,000 headteachers and senior leaders are due to retire by the year 2020 (BBC, 2016). This could be significant for schools towards building a diverse workforce in leadership positions in secondary schools in order to better represent the increase of BAME students. Government supported leadership programs such as the Leadership Equality and Diversity Fund, Future Leaders and Teach First have been introduced to increase the number of practitioners including those from BAME background.

Bespoke leadership development programs have been successful in increasing BAME practitioners in leadership positions. Investing in Diversity was set up specifically for BAME, funded by the London Centre of Leadership. Research was conducted focusing on the success of the ‘Investing in Diversity Program’ where 250 BAME participants were interviewed (Johnson and Campbell-Stephens, 2013). Two thirds of the participants who applied for promotion in leadership positions were successful. Almost all participants mentioned that the program was beneficial in clarifying areas of professional development and opened more opportunities to lead. BAME leadership development schemes are successful in preparing BAME candidates and developing confidence to overcome barriers. Bespoke leadership programs have been effective, due to the personalized approach breaking the legacy of ‘colorblind’ (Mabokela and Madsen, 2003; Johnson & Campbell Stevens, 2010; 2014) leadership programs that have failed to address the barriers that exclude BAME practitioners from achieving a leadership position in education. Topics such as social context, moral purpose and cultural awareness are examples of a personalized approach to help BAME practitioners to overcome barriers to promotion as discussed by Coleman (2010) and Johnson and Campbell-Stephens 2010; 2013). On the contrary this has been viewed as positive discrimination (Ogunbawo, 2012: p161) as some professionals have described BAME bespoke leadership programs as ‘patronizing’ and ‘inappropriate’. Ultimately the Investing in Diversity program has developed an innovative way of addressing areas of diversity and inclusion that would be beneficial to incorporate within major leadership development schemes.

The success of Investing in Diversity scheme emphasizes the relevance of dedicated leadership programs to increase the number of BAME in leadership positions and to help BAME practitioners overcome barriers and limitations as discussed in section 1 and 2. Substantial effort is required by mainstream government funded leadership development schemes to ensure that fairness, equality and diversity is embedded to be inclusive for all future leaders Ogunbawo (2012). This would start to increase the representation of BAME practitioners to reflect the diversity of BAME learners.

Role models

BAME leaders play an important role for BAME teachers to make a transition into leadership positions, breaking through the metaphorical concrete ceiling as discussed by Coleman (2010), Maylor (2009) and (Steel, 2015). The representation of BAME role models in leadership positions reinforces a positive mindset which will challenge cultural stereotypes and improve aspirations, encouraging BAME practitioners to aspire towards leadership positions in education.

Furthermore, there are also negative role models that plague communities that have become normalised for some youths living within inner city communities, commonly associated with a low economic status. (See Video below). This is an extreme example of negative stereotypes and role models; however, it reinforces the importance of positive role models in all levels of education.

Disclaimer: The following video has foul language viewer discretion advised

*Original video credit :Paul Mckenzie 

Interviews of BAME headteachers in studies conducted by Johnson & Campbell Stevens (2013) Bush et al (2006) and Steel (2015) has revealed informal groups and mentoring has been beneficial in the pursuit of leadership positions. Contrary, Lumby (2007:106) draws on the work of Delgado (1991) who argues that ‘role modelling is supporting assimilation to the majority’. This relates to the importance of embracing culture and identity Bush et al (2006), these are important characteristics for BAME role models to promote inclusion and diversity. Overall, BAME role models emulate a visual representation of what could be achieved, which is essential to attract quality BAME practitioners in leadership positions. It is vital for leaders to recognize the importance of a diverse leadership structure to address negative stereotypes of BAME being associated to subordinate roles within schools (Colman, 2010) and become role models for the future generation of learners and aspiring leaders from BAME backgrounds.

Summary

This report has argued the importance of inclusion throughout the recruitment process and has revealed a range of systematic barriers which have contributed to the under-representation of BAME practitioners in leadership positions. Characteristics associated to BAME practitioners add disadvantage due to additional barriers that could fuel discrimination through the recruitment process, unless unconscious biases are addressed throughout.

Structural barriers within leadership frameworks, such as DL, need to be addressed to become more inclusive to inspire the future generation of teachers from BAME backgrounds, as it provides a route into breaking cultural stereotypes as discussed by Maylor (2009) and Steel (2015).

The government has introduced schemes to improve the number of BAME which has contributed to an increase in BAME practitioners through a range of training recruitment incentives. This has contributed towards an increase of BAME numbers, however they will be coming into a system that is still restrictive with race based inequalities (Johnson & Campbell Stevens, 2014) and structural barriers. Leaders are responsible for the education of staff when dealing with issues based on equity and equality, ensuring inclusivity is a part of a schools’ vision as discussed by Beattie (2012) and Lumby and Coleman, (2016). In order to dismantle the long line of subliminal institutionalized racism, a new outlook focusing on equality and fairness will have to be introduced on a national level on how schools are structured and managed (Johnson & Campbell Stevens, 2014).

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Profits before Pupils? Academisation of Secondary Schools

Abstract

The Government continuously lead educational change with the recurring rhetoric of autonomy and accountability. The academisation of English Local Education Authority (LEAs) secondary schools, influenced by neoliberal ideology rooted in education, (Saltman, 2014) is presented as a solution to increase educational outcomes and economic competitiveness (Bhattacharya, 2013).

This assignment argues that the educational change propelled by the Government (academisation), has subjected school leaders to a version of constrained autonomy which has been overshadowed by maximum accountability (DfE, 2010a). This paradoxical combination has resulted in additional pressure and challenges for school leaders which has ultimately resulted in social segregation and school leaders taking extreme measures to adhere to the policy, becoming actors serving a neoliberal society.

This paper investigates the policy rhetoric of ‘increased’ autonomy in relation to academisation. It also examines the impact and implications of increased autonomy and accountability on a macro, meso and micro level (Mcginity, 2015); and issues of social segregation caused by the academisation structure. It concludes by exploring issues relating to accountability and focusing on the impact of the national funding cuts in education and increased pressure through inspections and league tables, which have ultimately led to cases of school leaders taking drastic action to fulfil neoliberal quantifiable outcomes (Saltman, 2014).

Introduction

 

The fear of England trailing behind its global competitors in educational achievements has led to a rapid expansion of academies in the English secondary school system (Francis, 2015). In 2010, the secretary of state for education, Michael Gove, announced that all underachieving secondary schools would be converted into academies. This was stated in the 2010 education reform under the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Coalition Government (DfE 2010a), with the vision of forced academisation of all Local Education Authority (LEA) schools by the year 2022 (DfE, 2016a; 2016b; McInerney, 2016). Academies fit into a neoliberal educational structure, that focuses on a corporate business approaches to achieve educational outcomes (Saltman, 2014).

The 2010 white paper outlines that this process will;

‘Increase freedom and autonomy for all schools, removing unnecessary duties and burdens, and allowing all schools to choose for themselves how best to develop.’ (DfE, 2010a:12)

‘… strengthen the performance measures we use to hold schools accountable.’ (DfE, 2010a:4)

Subsequently, the leaders of academy schools are granted increased autonomy and accountability, with the initial motive of combating underachievement and closing the gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students Gorard (2014) However, there is evidence that school leaders have been restricted to Government regulations therefore autonomy has become ‘contained and constrained’ (Keddie, 2015:6), presenting local actors leading academies in a precarious position. As discussed by Keddie (2015), the combination of increased autotomy and accountability has increased the performance targets, the achievement of which is fundamental for a school’s reputation. Consequently, there has been a rise in social segregation and inequality, as private actors are more likely to select schools and students from a high social economic background to adhere to those neoliberal targets set by the Government. This therefore increases the poverty gap that academy schools were initially designed to resolve (Gorard, 2014; West, 2014). The Academy act (DfE 2010a) was a part of a long-term vision of England competing economically in the global marketplace (Francis, 2015). However, there is of the lack of evidence to support the success of this educational reform (Mcginity. 2015).

The overall aim of this assignment is to critically analyse both the Government, who are leading educational change through academisation, and how these changes impact local actors. Specifically, it will explore issues regarding the increased autonomy and accountability related to academisation. The first section will present a brief history into the Government’s agenda concerning academies and how this has led educational change, along with the associated implications of such changes. It will then investigate issues relating to increased autonomy after the academisation relating to macro, meso and micro positions (Mcginity 2015). It will particularly focus on Sponsored and Converter academies and the relationship of autonomy between private and local actors. Finally, it will analyse the implications associated with the increased accountabilities and pressures set by the Government for any academy school to become sustainable.

 

Educational Change: Academies

Brief History

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Politicians in England are renowned for replicating successful policies and reforms across the world with the aim of achieving similar outcomes (Harris, 2009). Academies are an example of a neoliberal instilled reform, replicated in English education, as a solution to raising attainment and educational outcomes in underperforming schools (Purcell, 2011). The academisation of LEA schools in England has similar characteristics to the privatisation of schools in the USA and Sweden (Francis, 2015; Salokangas, 2014). Charter schools, for example, are a product of a neoliberal logic (Wermke, 2015), and a corporate approach which is focused on competition and privatisation (Saltman, 2014).

The introduction of neoliberal objectives into English Education began in the 1970’s under the Conservative administration lead by Margaret Thatcher (Glatter, 2012). This new approach was a direct response to the high amount of control that LEAs were perceived to have in education. Neoliberal objectives aimed to redistribute control of the budget and give autonomy back to schools (Higham, 2013). In 1988 schools became more autonomous when they were given the power to manage their own budgets and perform the functional tasks associated to operating a school (Higham, 2013). The Conservative party introduced autonomy as a neoliberal policy agenda for improvement, modelled on the success of US charter schools (Bhattacharya, 2013). Subsequently, the privatisation of education was introduced, as businesses began sponsoring schools (Gunter and McGinity, 2014; McGinity, 2015). New school models emerged such as; Local Management Schools, City Technical Collages (Walford, 2014) and Special schools.

In 2000, during the following Labour party administration, ‘Mark I’ City academy independent schools were introduced (Courtney, 2015c:808), in the form of a pilot scheme designed to raise achievement within inner city disadvantaged schools. School leaders now possessed greater freedom and increased agency through ‘corporatized autonomy’ (Courtney, 2015c:800) when compared to the constraints of LEA control. Between 2002 –2006, the second phase of academies (Mark II)­ were introduced (Courtney, 2015c). Subsequently, ‘City Academies’ were remediated to ‘academies’ (HM Gov, 2002) where the scheme was implemented outside of the cities (Walford, 2014). Now all schools had the opportunity to convert to academies, shifting the focus away from disadvantaged inner city schools (Woods et al, 2014).  And towards increased accountability (Keddie, 2015) and autonomy McGinity (2015) for all schools. This led to a change in structure and the development of Mark III academies, as outlined in the 2010 Academy Act (DfE, 2010). The Act was passed by a coalition Government with the intention of giving academies increased autonomy by liberating them from the LEAs (Keddie, 2015).

 

Implications

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The academy programme has had mixed success throughout the different phases (Chapman, 2013). Conversely, scholars have reported that academies are an example of a ‘political fault’ West (2014:63), where unrealistic timelines were set to improve failing schools through academisation (Francis, 2015, Glatter, 2012). Consequently, LEA schools were outperforming academies. Data published by the Local Government Association (2017a; 2017b) and the BBC (2017a) report that 91% LEA schools are Ofsted graded ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ compared to just 85% of academies (Chapman, 2013). The Government have made it difficult to scrutinise academies (Gunter et al, 2010), subsequently, they now appeared to apply a bias towards only attributing academy type schools as successful (Gunter and McGinity, 2014; Morris, 2011). This has led to opposition from the Local Government Association, who argue for the Government to remove bureaucratic barriers to enable LEA schools to become an educational improvement partner (BBC, 2017a).

A report from the Academies Commission (2013:35) states that ‘underachievement maps closely on to social inequality’. This is an ongoing issue relating to England’s education system that has not been addressed sufficiently. In 2005, Gorard (2005:376), investigated the pilot scheme city academies programme and argued that educational changes made to address social segregation is superficial and should ‘logically mean an end to the academy itself’. This report emphasises issues of social segregation that are still present in academy schools today Gorard (2014).

 

Autonomy and Accountability

Macro (large-scale; overall). Government

 

As noted in the previous section, freedom and autonomy have been the dominant rhetoric of the Government in leading educational change (Glatter, 2012) and were a key supporting argument to justify the implementation of the Academies Act 2010 (Salokangas, 2014; DfE, 2010a).  Adopting a similar position, Machin (2011) maintains that schools with greater autonomy have an increase in educational outcomes. As schools became more autonomous, there was the expectation that educational outcomes would improve. Subsequently, academies are now in the position to control both their own budgets and daily management (Courtney and Gunter, 2015a).

Paradoxically, despite increased autonomy, school leaders must still conform to Government requirements, through national inspection via the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) and the pressure to perform well against other schools (Higham, 2013:703; Muijis et al, 2008) The Government ultimately defines the aims and purposes of how academies operate, this has been characterized as Criteria power as discussed by Higham (2013) and ‘Control’ by Woods et al (2014:325). This presents a cliché in the form of a ‘controlled decontrol’ scenario (Francis, 2015:438), where local actors function with assumed notions of autonomy. Lewis and Murphy (2008:135 – 6) describe school leaders as being more like ‘branch managers than CEO’s’, and they are described as ‘local managers’ by Courtney (2015a: 396) further suggesting that autonomy is ‘institutionalised’ Bhattacharya (2015:95) therefore constrained by the Government (Glatter, 2012).

 

Meso (middle; intermediate) Academisation

Operational Power

 

Post academisation, school leaders benefit from increased autonomy and additional freedom in approaching the functional tasks of operating an academy. This is a significant change compared to the constraints presented by the preceding LEAs.  Typical functional tasks include, customising the curriculum, agency, pedagogy and new freedoms to act in compliance with the academies financial handbook and recruit an effective team of teachers and leaders to hit the attainment targets set by the Government through educational policy documents (The Academies Commission, 2013; Papanastasiou, 2017; Education Funding Agency, 2016).  This is an example of Operational Power (Higham 2013), discussed by Fidler et al (2007).

The Academies Commission (2013) argues that educational leaders need to be focused on education, training and development for autonomy to be beneficial. It also states that a long and short term improvement plan is necessary to increase educational outcomes. Expanding networks by collaborating with other schools is essential in order to become autonomous.

It is also vital for school leaders to investigate all aspects of educational leadership, especially critical and socially critical routes, illustrated by Gunter et al (2013). This is due to the increase of social segregation that negatively impacts learners from a lower social economic background, an inadvertence relating to the increase in autonomy as discussed by McGinity (2015).

 

Academisation

Sponsored Academies

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In England, only schools with academy status are entitled to sponsor underperforming schools that are eligible for intervention (BBC, 2017a; Jacobson,  2017; Gunter and McGinity, 2014). Academy sponsors are funded by the Government with the purpose of ‘leveraging money from state education budget into the private sector’ (Beckett, 2010: xxii).  Therefore, declaration that a LEA school is a failure is essential to the academisation process (Saltman, 2014). Sponsored academies reside in a middle tier of hierarchy, described as ‘the area between the Government and schools’ by Woods et al (2014) illustrated in Gunter and Mcginity, (2014:305) summary of politics conversion process.

Academy sponsors that have multiple schools in their portfolio are known as academy chains. These chains have recently been scrutinised for their focus of expanding in order to increase profit rather than to improve the schools within their portfolio (Bhattacharya, 2013; Academies commission, 2013).  In relation to their governance, academies do have controlled power and autonomy (Keddie, 2015). However, the governed control resides with the central governance of an academy sponsor; this presents complexity to the level of autonomy that is distributed to educational leaders.

Salokangas (2014) established that academy chains are heavily influenced by sponsors through a centralised policy which is distributed by a hierarchal top down structure. Funding and resources are shared between academies within the chain, further constraining the amount of control a school leader maintains. Conversely, Glatter (2012) argues that school leaders should focus solely on educational matters to prevent a role overload associated with autonomy. Justifiably, this could be manipulated as Criteria control (Higham, 2013) by private actors to implement constrained autonomy. However, this could benefit newly appointed school leaders as some may not have the sufficient skills to implement the freedoms and autonomy associated with academy schools (Academies commission, 2013). Papanastasiou (2017) research concludes that policy actors construct boundaries which limit the agency of school leaders. Correspondingly, an example of a limited agency is discussed by Salokangas (2014:380) is the notion of ‘earned autonomy’, where higher performing academies have increased autonomy from the academy sponsor.  Underachieving schools have an increased presence from private actors, resulting in ‘restricted control’. This further magnifies the business like, corporate agenda associated with neoliberalism in education (Gunter, 2010).

 

Academisation

Converter Academies

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Schools that are graded either ‘outstanding’ or ‘good’ via Ofsted, are invited or volunteered by the governing body of a school to become a ‘converter’ academy (Jacobson, 2017; Gunter and McGinity, 2014).  Converting schools were enticed by the freedom associated with the increased autonomy of academy status and initial financial incentives. Abrams (2012) reports that newly converted academy schools were promised a cash incentive of up to half a million pounds per year by the newly formed Coalition Government. This incentive was cut in 2012.

Schools converting into academies have different levels of autonomy dependant on the type of school they were prior to conversion (Machin, 2011). Mcginity’s (2015) single case study of a secondary school undergoing conversion into an academy has confirmed that during the early stages of the academies programme, schools undergoing academisation had more autonomy to manipulate organisational structures in accordance with the 2010 academy act.

Image result for rich vs poorThere are increasing concerns that some converter academies are selecting schools in areas that have a higher social economic status, due to demographic change which could potentially alter the school’s performance. They therefore avoid lower social economic areas such as those which have a high population of social housing, an indicator of poverty (Bhattacharya, 2013; Gorard, 2014; Wermke, 2015; West, 2014; Waldfogel, 2010). Learners from a poor social economic background have lower educational outcomes than those from a more economically privileged background (Lumby, 2016). Thus, avoiding these areas contradicts the sole practical and ideological purpose of academies, namely to close the gap in achievement between average students and those from disadvantaged backgrounds (Purcell, 2011, Francis 2015, Gorard, 2014). This is an unintended consequence of budget cuts, increased autonomy and accountability.

This has become a part of the educational discourse, identified within the written submission text under Ulterior motives and risks of social segregation, where some Converter Academies compete for the best students based on achievement (Francis, 2015:441).  With the increase in autonomy and accountability, school collaboration is a sustainable alternative to combat issues of social segregation in Sponsored and Converter academies (Keddie, 2015; Higham, 2013). Expanding school networks can reduce the pressures related to autonomy from local competition.

 

Micro (Local level)Accountability

High Stakes

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At the time of writing, school leaders now have tighter constrained governed autonomy due to national budget cuts in education. The Government has planned to save 600 million pounds from the education service grant, this has been justified by making schools ‘realise their efficiencies’ (DfE, 2015). Higham’s (2013) research highlights that funding cuts are a common challenge in relation to accountability. Consequently, 53% of single academy trusts in England are not making enough money to cover their annual expenditure (DfE 2016e. BBC news, 2017b).  DfE (2016e) expenditure report states that contingency funds were available to settle the deposit. However, established academies now must become sustainable, ensuring that the deposit is reduced. Further issues have arisen affecting school leaders of academies, as the Government has withdrawn plans of converting all school into academies (BBC, 2017c). Instead, the Government has a new agenda outlined in the Autumn Statement (H M Treasury, 2016) investing £50 million of funding supporting the controversial expansion of grammar schools to support the gifted and the talented students.

The budget cuts in education have resulted in some academies putting in a process of cost saving. Most of the school autonomy in Government policies relates back to finance. An example of this is the manifestation of a procurement plan to manage school funding (DfE, 2016d) which contributes towards a school becoming more efficient and ‘autonomous’. Academies are now pressured to become frugal. This has led to some schools restructuring the curriculum, (leading to the discontinuance of non EBacc subjects), reducing the number of school timetable hours, and in extreme cases, the dismissal of school practitioners (BBC, 2017d. BBC, 2017e).

 

Accountability

Pros and Cons

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As autonomy is increased, the rate of accountability is also escalated (Keddie, 2015; Salokangas, 2014), resulting in new complications and challenges for schools (Keddie, 2015). Saltman (2014) discusses the neoliberal emphasis of educational outcomes in the United States. Consequently, social segregation and the reduction of the curriculum have occurred during the privatisation of public schools into charter schools. A similar narrative has occurred during the academisation process of secondary schools in England. Since the 2010 Academies Act,  educational leaders now have increased accountability through a number of means; rigorous assessment frameworks and inspections (Woods et al, 2014); increased performance management criteria (Salokangas, 2014); increased pupil attainment outcomes to compete with National league tables regulated by inspections via Ofsted (Muijs et al, 2008; Keddie, 2015);  and new performance measures with Progress 8 and Attainment 8 metric grading systems and the associated Government attainment benchmarks. These challenges are now normative for academy type schools, as they are required to adhere to the demands of neoliberal performance outcomes (Lumby, 2016) set by the Government (Purcell, 2011).

The challenges to boost learner numbers are essential for any academy to maintain a viable position. Government funding for existing academies has been reliant on a school census whilst new academies are based on learner number predictions. Schools are funded with an average allocation of 6000 GBP per student (DfE 2016f; DfE 2017a), which is fundamental for a school to become sustainable. With the increase of autonomy, academies have more control of the admissions. As mentioned earlier, some academies have been targeting pupils from a ‘higher class’ to contribute towards their attainment outcomes, consequently discriminating pupils based on ethnicity and social demographics and thus further contributing towards divisions in society (Lumby, 2016; Keddie 2015).

Some schools have gone to extreme lengths to maintain their reputation. The BBC (2017f) have recently reported the outrageous lengths of gross-misconduct through exam malpractice an academy has undertaken to meet the performance measures. It is important for school leaders to adopt a moral standpoint and address areas of social justice and equality throughout the school. It is essential that school leaders are supported by the Government, as school leaders have been discouraged by the increase in workload leading to an increase in resignations.

 

Conclusion

 

As discussed by Earley (2013), change is inevitable to enable England to compete economically with other nations around the world. Therefore, it is important for schools to become autonomous to both survive rapid change and influence the future of education (Earley; 2013; Stoll et al, 2003). However, autonomy that has been associated with academies has been discursive rather than actual, resulting in little impact on educational outcomes (Keddie, 2015; Glatter, 2012). Being presented with a subsidiary version of autonomy contradicts the true purpose of autonomy and has been used in an ‘exceedingly broad fashion’ (Wermke, 2015:2). Consequently, school leaders have been left dependant on the Government, who are still ultimately responsible in leading educational change.

Schools are often left instead with the aftermath of educational change (Harris, 2009). Changes to education need to be substantial and sustainable, not just a ‘fad’ that is implemented through reforms to adhere to a neoliberal regime. If this trend of ‘cycling change for change sake’ continues, it will further justify the claim of Salokangas (2014) that England is a real world educational laboratory.

inted5Saltman (2014) and Chapman et al (2008) argue that future educational reforms need to focus on creating a more inclusive environment and both break free from and challenge the accepted norms and legacy of neoliberal ideals. If this strategy is implemented nationally over time this would become normative and redefine local and national discourses (Purcell, 2011). If not, issues relating to social segregation will continue into the next Government and beyond. There is a need for additional research focusing on the impact of ‘Converter’ academisation of an underperforming socially segregated schools, addressing issues relating to school structuring and learner outcomes.

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