The re-organisation of a school system : consultation and policy-making in a local education authority
The contribution of consultation among the policy-makers and with their clients to the development of educational policy for the City of Hull is assessed between 1977 and 1985. In the period under review Humberside moved from a gradualist approach to dealing with falling enrolments, which entailed the retention of transfer to secondary education at 13, to a radical re-appraisal of the school system as a whole and a decision to return to transfer at 11 and the establishment of sixth form colleges. The series of consultations which accompanied the development of that policy, within the context of central government advice, is examined, together with the parallel consultations with the Church of England and among the Roman Catholic community. The principal objectives of the study are to determine the influence of client consultation on the development of policy aims and on the determination of particular policy decisions, in addition to an appraisal of the participants' perceptions of the objectives and the outcomes of the consultations studied. The methodology employed involved a document and literature search, non-participant observation, interviews with a sample of participants, and a questionnaire survey. The series of consultative episodes is subjected to examination against models of local authority decision-making derived from the literature with the purpose of generating hypotheses about the consultative process and decision-making at local education authority level. From the cases reviewed it is concluded that the role of client consultation can be both strategic and tactical, but that it is principally constrained by the political leadership's assessment of its potential role and the focus they provide for it. In the case of Humberside client consultation contributed to a change in the direction of policy in so far as the politicians used its outcomes to assess the extent of change necessary, but, when strategy had been politically determined, its potential for effecting change became tactical and was limited to modifying the application of that strategy. Consultation also made some contribution to greater public understanding of the Authority's policy and to making that policy more acceptable to those affected by it.