Seeks to explain the survival of the Local Education Authority (LEA) as an organizational form despite the significant reform of UK education that created a hostile environment for them.
Adopting a historical perspective and drawing on neo‐institutional sociology, analyses the structuration of the educational field and the survival strategies of three LEAs, from 1988 to the mid‐1990s. The evidence base is some 100 semi‐structured interviews conducted between 1993 and 1997 with local education officers, head teachers and members of Boards of Governors.
The paper shows that LEAs have been able to continually transmute structures and reproduce social systems that secured their continued and major involvement in education. Coping strategies were designed that reduced their own bureaucracy, built partnerships and new patterns of coalitions with schools, and discouraged a broadening of the organizational field.
Although the evidence comes from just three LEAs, survival strategies appear to have been adopted across the country, but there may be regional variations that could be further explored. In addition, parents were not interviewed, and issues of parent power and the nature of relationships between parents and other participants in the organizational field would be fruitful areas for future research.
In practice the system of education remains dominated by the producers of education, although the head teacher has more and the LEA less power than previously.
The historical perspective offers an understanding of institutional context by focusing on changes over time and generates insights on how organizations behave and develop.
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