Publications

1.  MacDonald, Keddie, Blackmore, Mahoney, Wilkinson, Gobby,  Niesche, Eacott (Under Review), School autonomy, school accountability and social justice: a policy overview of Australian public education (1970s to present), Journal of Education Policy

This paper provides an overview of the policies of school autonomy and accountability in Australian public education from the 1970s to the present. It tracks the tensions between policy moves to both grant schools greater autonomy and rein in this autonomy with the increasing instatement of external forms of accountability. Utilising Nancy Fraser’s (2013) concepts of dis-embedding and re-embedding markets, we track key policy moments in three Australian states (Victoria, Western Australia and New South Wales) and federally. Aligning dis-embedding processes with policy attempts to free the system from centralised control and re-embedding processes with attempts to rein in these freedoms, we draw attention to the consistent trajectory towards a market agenda. We consider the implications of this trajectory for social justice.

2. Keddie, Blackmore, MacDonald, Wilkinson, Gobby, Niesche, Eacott, Mahony (Under Review), The constitution of school autonomy in Australian public education: Key areas of paradox for social justice, International Journal of Leadership in Education

School autonomy policies have circulated through various modes of educational governance nationally and internationally endorsing the view that more autonomy will improve schools and their systems. When subject to the discourses of marketisation, however, school ‘autonomy’ has been mobilised in ways that generate injustice. These injustices are the focus of this paper. We draw on preliminary findings from a three-year study that is exploring the social justice implications of school autonomy reform across four Australian states. Drawing on interviews with 43 stakeholders, the paper identifies four key areas of paradox for social justice currently confronting public schools and school systems. The language of paradox is drawn on to narrate the oppositional politics between the discourses constituting school autonomy and the pursuit of social justice. Such narration raises important questions for Australian public education. It highlights how these discourses are changing what is meant by the public in public education. Engaging with the language of paradox in thinking about school autonomy reform, we argue, is important given the broader landscape where public schooling is being reconstituted and its tradtional links to social justice and the common good are under threat.

3.  Keddie, MacDonald, Blackmore, Eacott, Gobby, Niesche, Mahoney, Wilkinson (Under Review), School autonomy, marketisation and social justice: The plight of principals and schools, Journal of Educational Administration and History

This paper draws on interview data gathered as part of a broader study exploring the social justice implications of school autonomy reform within Australia’s public education system. We draw attention to the concerns expressed by key education stakeholders across three states, Western Australia, Victoria and New South Wales, about the negative equity implications of school autonomy reform when it is driven by market imperatives. Interviewees expressed their view that school autonomy could be mobilised in positive ways for equity when sufficiently resourced by centralised state and federal authorities and supported at regional levels. However, they also highlighted key problems such resourcing failed to adequately recognise relating to 1) how principals (especially those with a lack of experience) were not adequately supported to manage the responsibilities and pressures of greater school autonomy and accountability and 2) how particular schools (especially small schools and schools in rural, remote and disadvantaged areas), despite the availability of additional centralised support, were struggling with the processes and expectations of this reform to improve student learning. The paper argues for the significance of greater centralised and regional support in these areas.

4.  Eacott, Niesche, Keddie, Blackmore, Wilkinson, Gobby, MacDonald, and Fernandez (In Prep), Autonomy, school leadership and pursuit of equitable outcomes – The LSLD reforms in NSW, Australia

Australian school education is at a critical junction. Large-scale testing indicates a downward trend in performance measures coupled with work intensification, minimal time for instructional leadership, declining quality applicants for positions and enduring inequities based on context. One persuasive solution proposed continually for the last four decades has been the local management of school. It has been argued that school level decision making enables the delivery of context sensitive leadership that can best meet local needs and deliver the kinds of growth / performance in school outcomes that can achieve national goals of equity and excellence. Drawing from a New South Wales subset of a national study on school autonomy and social justice, we argue that the current Local Schools Local Decisions reforms cannot resolve the issues of under-performance as they generate work that takes leaders and educators away from teaching and learning activities. In doing so, they require schools serving the most disadvantaged communities to work even harder.

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