The mediation of market-related policies for the provision of public second level education : an international comparative study of selected locations in England, Ireland and the USA
This thesis is entitled The Mediation of Market-Related Policies for the Provision of Public Second Level Education: An International Comparative Study of Selected Locations in England, Ireland and the USA. The two key words in this thesis title are 'mediation' and 'comparative'. The focus of this thesis is on the phenomenon of mediation. The market-related policies that are being examined in the light of mediation are choice policies or open enrolment policies for the provision of second level public schooling. However, this is not a thesis about school choice but rather on the factors and stakeholders that affect the mediation of a policy. As the focus is on mediation, and not on policy analysis, this study is therefore, of necessity, a qualitative one. The researcher used semi-structured interviews, combined with documentary evidence, to understand both the contexts and the interactions in which mediation of various kinds takes place. The second notable feature is that this study is a comparative one. The researcher chose three countries where market related policies were being implemented, albeit to different effect. The countries chosen were England, Ireland and the USA (Massachusetts). The comparative dimension enabled the researcher to challenge ethnocentric assumptions about the modus operandi of policy at the grass- roots level. In order to understand the operation of the market, the researcher selected comparable locations in all three countries. As 'markets' are intrinsically local, the researcher examined how policy is mediated at the local level. The three conurbations were selected on the basis of their comparability, none of which are capital cities. Research was conducted in all three locations in three separate phases: pre-pilot to ascertain their suitability; pilot work to prepare the groundwork and then the main study. In all, over sixty interviews were held at local, regional and national levels, although the focus was primarily on the local. Documentary sources were collected simultaneously. The analysis of the data was ongoing during the entire research process and progress was presented at conferences in the host research countries where useful feedback was obtained. The researcher used Bereday's comparative methodology and, by taking a factor approach, insights were gained into the cultures and contexts affecting the mediation of policy. The researcher hopes to add to comparative methodological theory through the use of multiple cross-national studies. The insights gained from the research questions: how, if at all, do the factors and stakeholders identified affect the mediation of policy, confirmed that this was indeed an area worthy of study. The outcomes, displayed in matrices in chapters 8 and 9, show that different combinations of factors affect how policies are mediated by the stakeholders and indirect factors involved in the immediate implementation of open enrolment policy. The cases also yielded idiosyncratic variants based on their particular educational histories and current circumstances. However, similar features were noted in all three countries in relation to enrolment issues. In brief, these were: increased political interaction at the local level; demographic changes on the rolls of high schools; de facto social segregation; differential funding mechanisms relating to enrolment; and different attitudes to public education on the part of interest groups in each location; and the significance of regulated space. This area is ripe for research, and there is a call in the literature for more in-depth analyses on such social interactions at the local level that affect different policy outcomes. It is hoped that this study will contribute to understanding the factors at work, both direct and indirect, which mediate policy in such a way that explain the potentially different outcomes of similar policies.