Change and continuity in school practice : a study of the influences affecting secondary school teachers' work, and of the role of local and national policies within them
This thesis examines the impact of local and national education policies on teachers' practice in six secondary schools in two similar, non-contiguous, metropolitan authorities. Ten propositions on the relationship between policy and action were generated from a literature review and related to literature on school organisation and culture. Empirical data to test them were collected between September 1987 and July 1989, during the development of National Curriculum legislation and statutory instruments but prior to its implementation in secondary schools. Extended interviews were conducted with sixty-six teachers, the six Headteachers, and both Chief Inspectors. Detailed interview reports were confirmed as accurate with each interviewee. National influences were found to be important, particularly public examination reforms. This was attributed to their public use as indicators of school effectiveness, and to teachers' own positions resting on their own examination success for legitimacy. Personal professional values led to the LEA and its officers being dismissed as insignificant: factors internal to the school were more important. Chief among these was teachers' relationships with their departmental colleagues, especially how their perception of their needs and obligations as teachers of particular subjects, with particular epistemologies, affected departmental opportunities as management units to influence individual practice and require conformity to external requirements. Relations with senior staff were also important, and how far informal networks of power and influence operated against the formal hierarchies. Lastly, personal professional values stressed classroom experience as the only satisfactory basis for offering direction or guidance to teachers. This view of the teacher as expert emphasised that teachers must ultimately have autonomy to decide how best to handle classroom situations, and not only downgraded LEA staff and teacher education as sources of assistance, but also worked to prevent teachers from acknowledging problems to their colleagues.