A study of the barriers to strategic planning faced by governing bodies in selected inner London state secondary schools
The statutory responsibilities of governing bodies have increased greatly since the 1988 Education Reform Act, yet unresolved issues persist concerning how well governing bodies have adjusted to their new role. This thesis focuses on one such issue: the discrepancy between policy and practice regarding the statutory responsibility of governing bodies to 'provide a strategic view'. After reviewing the existing literature and presenting the research design (comprised of five qualitative case studies and a quantitative survey), this thesis poses three questions about the strategic planning processes of inner London state-maintained secondary school governing bodies: First, do governors in these schools perceive their role as strategic. Second, is there an evident absence of strategic planning within these governing bodies. And third, if there is such an absence, then why. The research begins by providing affirmative answers to the first two questions. Evidence demonstrates that it is possible to outline a definition of strategic planning based on governors' own beliefs, and that governors did not believe that this definition of strategic planning was being fulfilled in practice. In relation to the third question, this thesis argues that two sets of 'barriers' impede governing body strategic planning. The research explores these barriers in detail, identifying four main institutional-level barriers to governing body strategic planning (a 'monitoring culture', varying levels of governor involvement, an emphasis on 'tangible' tasks, and extensive delegation to staff) and six main central governmental-level barriers (time constraints, paperwork, legislation and regulation, the current financing system, communication, and trust). Finally, a fourth research question asks whether identifying these 'strategic planning barriers' has any practical policy relevance; 'business involvement in education' is selected as the policy lens through which to examine this proposition. Governors' opinions about business involvement in education are explored, and this research confirms that governors believed strategic planning on this issue was desirable yet absent. The thesis then illustrates that the heuristic application of these barriers provides a robust explanation for the absence of governing body strategic planning on business involvement issues, thereby illustrating the practical policy relevance of these barriers. The thesis concludes by outlining the contributions of this study, offering policy recommendations, and suggesting avenues for further research.