Education reform in England: quality and equity in the performative school
journal contributionposted on 10.01.2017, 12:01 by Chris Wilkins
This article argues that contradictory forces affect teachers' work in the neo-liberal school system in England, with a diversity of governance models alongside increasingly dominant orthodoxies of what constitutes ‘effective practice and leadership’. School reforms in England have focused on increasing overall attainment and on closing the achievement gap for pupils from ‘disadvantaged communities’; whilst there is evidence that reforms have delivered on the former, evidence is inconclusive on the latter, with some critics arguing that some reforms have increased social inequality. The future for teachers’ professional identity and practices in this landscape is uncertain. Whilst this article broadly concurs with many studies of teacher identity which argue that the ever-extending reach of performative mechanisms has restricted teachers’ opportunities to develop as activist professionals with ‘a moral purpose’, it also argues that the diversified landscape may provide the opportunity for new autonomous spaces. It goes on to suggest that further research is needed into the forms of locally determined values and practices emerging in ‘quasi-privatised’ academies and free schools in England, to explore whether these professional communities will be entirely managerialist/entrepreneurial in character, or whether models of practice underpinned by a concern with social equity and social justice issues may emerge.