The morphology of change : an exploration of perceptions about changing the age of transfer of pupils from primary to secondary school
The vast majority of studies of educational change are contextualised within the school. This is a new qualitative multi-level study of the interaction of the school with its LEA and government and the current changes to the structure of the education system. A number of LEAs have changed, or have plans to change, the age of transfer at which pupils move fromprimary to secondary school. The eGect is to dismantle three-tier systems, i.e. Grst, middle and secondary schools; and to replace them with a two-tier system of primary and secondary schools. This represents the abolition of middle schools in those LEAs. Principal access for the research was at Chief Education Officer level, with headteachers, governors and parents also targeted. Some pupil interviews were possible. Research data was collected in these interviews and through documentary evidence gathered &omboth study areas, and &om any LEA which had formally considered change. The quality of the data was ensured by encouraging participants to comment upon and check the accuracy of their contributions. Analysis was achieved by the constant comparative method. In 1970, Birley wondered how far age of transfer was a national issue, and how far a matter for local discretion. The evidence of this research would suggest that it has the appearance of a local discretionary matter, but, in reality, enormous pressure is applied through government direct action or its agencies. This study concludes that the relationship between LEA and the government is ambiguous; that LEA planning can be thwarted by cross-cutting aspects of legislation - what may be called "bureaucratic bolt-holes'; that changing the age of transfer &om 12 or 13 back to 11 is demonstrably unnecessary on purely educational grounds; and that the tensions between choice and economy contributed to the decline of the middle school.