Talking heads : a critical analysis of the quality assurance relationship between secondary schools and an education authority
This thesis is set within a policy context, which contains inherent tensions and contradictions. These relate to changing systems of governance and control and to a Government driven 'Quality Initiative', which puts pressure on schools and education authorities. The implications of these changes for school improvement are explored by focusing on the relationship between secondary headteachers in Aberdeen and the Education Authority, and by considering concepts and theories drawn from the wider literature on quality and the research literature on accountability, power, organisation theory, school effectiveness and school improvement. Two sets of extended interviews were held with headteachers. The first set was conducted prior to the re-organisation of local government in Scotland in 1996. Second interviews were conducted in 1997. The interviews were recorded and transcribed. Analysis of the first data set, using analysis software, suggested that insufficient account is taken of the organisational context within which school improvement is expected. In a second set of interviews headteachers were therefore asked to comment on a series of vignettes depicting different forms of structural relationships. Emerging concepts were related to relevant concepts and theories in the literature. Extended interviews with the Director of the former Regional Authority, the Director of the new Authority and an Educational Officer with specific responsibilities relating to quality assurance provided insight into the perspectives of those in influential positions within the Authority. The findings question the extent to which control mechanisms are likely to support meaningful improvement, suggest a need for a radical shift in emphasis, and point towards an extended, collaborative and collegiate role for headteachers in formulating Education Authority policy on quality. In the final analysis, underlying managerialist assumptions about the rational nature of change are set against an alternative conception. This supports a process-based definition of quality.