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Title: Primary school teachers' experience of policy reform in the second decade of 21st century England
Author: Sturrock, Susan
ISNI:       0000 0004 7427 1102
Awarding Body: University of Brighton
Current Institution: University of Brighton
Date of Award: 2018
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The aim of the research is to understand primary school teachers’ responses to the changing English educational policy context, specifically subsequent to the government’s 2010 White Paper reforms. My research reflects two key questions: 1. How is education policy reform perceived and experienced by primary teachers in England? 2. What are significant influences on, and threats to, primary teachers’ motivations and morale? Internationally, many of the discourses of primary teaching reinforce an interpretation of a profession constituted by dedicated, ‘natural’ teachers working hard to maintain the interests and welfare of the young child. In recent years, the profile, status and political position of primary teachers in England has continued to evolve as the profession has undergone something of a transformation. Overarching reform continues to re-define the aims and purpose of primary education which are framed in increasingly essentialist terms. This qualitative study focuses on 22 primary teachers across three professional life phases, encompassing teaching experience of two to fourteen years. The teachers were employed in the South-East of England across 20 schools and four local education authorities. Data were collected between 2014 and 2015, and teachers were interviewed on two occasions. Central to my research is the aspiration to explain how particular aspects of neo-liberal educational reform reposition primary teachers and the work that they do. Thematic analysis facilitated identification of four categories of findings reflecting teachers’ experiences of accountability, performativity and managerialism, alongside the commitment to ‘make a difference’. The four findings chapters serve to illuminate the duality of what it means to teach as well as be a teacher these days. The findings offer insights into teachers’ encounters with neo-liberal policy reform, the emotional toll and the impact on morale. I suggest that the complex interaction between the discourses of altruism and accountability elicits a profound professional and personal burden on primary teachers. The emergence of the primary practitioner as ‘tactician’ reveals a particular brand of survivalism necessary for a context that acts to pedagogically and philosophically constrain the purpose of primary education, and thus, primary teachers. My exploration of ‘gaming’ necessitates reflection on the moral(e) predicament for primary teachers, and the threats to teachers’ professional motives, aspirations and occupational stamina are considered. I suggest that teachers’ experiences of policy reform in primary education are better understood as situated in, and exacerbated by, an increased culture of ‘miserabilism’ in education that transcends notions of ‘teacher stress’, low morale and reputational decline.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available