Although school autonomy has been a matter of great interest during the last decades and several relevant measures have been implemented toward this end, the relation…
Although school autonomy has been a matter of great interest during the last decades and several relevant measures have been implemented toward this end, the relation between school autonomy and school effectiveness has not been examined thoroughly. The purpose of this paper is to explore this relation and to propose an effective school autonomy model for Cyprus, a small European country with a highly centralized educational system. The suggested model indicates which decisions (related to various administrative, financial, academic, pedagogical and human resources matters) must be made at school level, which decisions can be made partly from the school with a higher level of control from the ministry and which decisions have to be made exclusively by a central authority, in order to enhance school effectiveness.
An unusual methodological design is followed, using scenarios to examine hypothetical situations. Cypriot headteachers’ job satisfaction and work-related stress is examined in the case of full autonomy and in the opposite scenario of very limited autonomy. The results from this phase of the study lead to the design of the suggested school autonomy model, which is then tested in terms of effectiveness through a third scenario. The scenarios are given in questionnaires and the sample includes 300 out of a population of 350 primary school headteachers of Cyprus.
The findings of the study suggest that headteachers’ job satisfaction and work-related stress is affected by the level of school autonomy that characterizes an educational system. The most effective scenario for the case of Cyprus does not refer to the existing situation of very limited autonomy, neither to the opposite scenario of full autonomy. The most effective scenario refers to the suggested model of school autonomy where all decisions related to various academic, managerial, financial and human resource matters are taken at school level, except for the decisions related to teaching materials and textbooks, teacher placements, promotions, payroll and dismissals. For these decisions the guidance, support and/or control from the educational authorities have to be enhanced.
In this study school effectiveness is examined through the headteachers’ job satisfaction and stress as the dependent variable, and not through the conventional student achievement variable. A part of the existing literature suggests that these variables affect school effectiveness in an indirect way. Taking into consideration student achievement was not possible for the case of Cyprus, since the only scenario currently existing refers to very limited or no school autonomy. Therefore, it is not possible to compare the academic results of students coming from schools with different levels of autonomy.
The methodological approach of the study can be followed in other contexts as well, in order to design an effective school autonomy model for a different educational system, district or school. Scenarios can also be used to test and make corrections for a suggested educational reform, before this is implemented, in order to avoid waste of time and/or financial resources.
The value of this study first lies in its attempt to design a school autonomy model, based on all the educational decisions and matters that can be affected from a school autonomy reform; this became possible through an extensive literature review. Second the study, does not only support some suggestions based on the results, but also tests the effectiveness of the suggestions before these are implemented, following the unusual methodological approach of scenarios. Moreover, the relation between school autonomy and school effectiveness has not been examined thoroughly in the existing literature and some conflicting opinions exist. The findings of the study can help us gain a better understanding of the above relation.