Establishing an education department in a unitary authority
2014-12-15T10:44:09Z (GMT) by
This was a case study that looked at the way a new education department was set up in the new Peterborough unitary authority between 1996 and 1998. The aim was to investigate the way in which a new LEA was set up and identify the national and local influences that may have been influential in the decision making process. The research design was constructed to take into account that the case study involved an institution which was being set up over a period of two years. It would be chronologically based and a historical methodology would be the basis of research work. Within this framework, participant observation, interviews and documentary research would be the research tools used. This would also have the advantage that this approach made good use of the experience and skills of the researcher. A number of theoretical models were used in this case study. These included the rational actor model, bounded rationality, disjointed incrementalism, organisational process, bureaucratic politics model, Sabatier's political change model and Bachrach and Baratz's pluralist model. This range of models was adopted in the expectation that each had its own particular focus within the decision making process but taken together they could provide an over-lapping view. The new education department was set up at a time when there were concerns over the future economic situation of the UK. There was a national debate concerning what public services were needed and how best to provide them. The previous Conservative Government had reduced the powers of the local authorities and the new Labour government was to encourage local authorities to find the best way of providing services. For the new unitary authority, the challenge was to set up a new LEA which met local needs. However, this was a period of national political change and a new central government was formed in the middle of the setting up process. This was to cause the new LEA to re-plan to take into account expected strategic changes. The education department faced a number of challenges. There was local opposition to the setting up of a unitary authority. The city administration favoured policies which were to run counter to central government expectations. Few experienced education officers were available to the new LEA The main findings of the case study were: Central government was the single greatest influence in the setting up of the education department. Government legislation changed the role, responsibilities and structure of the new department. These changes over-stretched the new LEA, especially as central government did not provide a sufficient level of funding to the LEA. The DfEE was an important influence on the early development of the department. At first, the DfEE did not intervene and there was no guidance available to the new LEA. The city council and education department spent a year preparing to set up a new LEA and then found that it had to make significant changes on the election of a new government 12 months before the unitary authority was to be established. Local social and economic issues were ignored by the DfEE?s focus on national targets. These local problems had a significant affect on student achievement so the LEA never met government targets. The institutional culture of the city council was not supportive of the new LEA. This helped to create a shortage of able and experienced senior education officers. The education department received limited support from the local schools. Many schools had opposed unitary authority status and half of all secondary schools were grant maintained by 1996. In 1998 the education department was facing an overspend of nearly Â£1 million. Senior education officers resigned their posts and within a year the education department had to be re-organised.