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Article
Publication date: 2 September 2014

Stefan Brauckmann and Alexandra Schwarz

Although policy makers strengthen the necessity of “deregulation”, discussions about deregulation vs regulation in Europe still seem to be characterized by a lack of…

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1777

Abstract

Purpose

Although policy makers strengthen the necessity of “deregulation”, discussions about deregulation vs regulation in Europe still seem to be characterized by a lack of sophistication and require a more differentiated picture of specific forms of deregulation. As a consequence, the analysis of new educational governance approaches should consider the local actor's interpretation of new roles and new responsibilities. Relating actions and reactions of school leaders to their formal environment should lead to more contextual patterns of responsiveness. The paper aims to discuss these issues.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors investigate, based on a survey among Cypriot school leaders, whether school autonomy needs deregulation, or regulation towards autonomy, respectively. At the time of research the school system of Cyprus could be characterized as a “centralized” system and hence represented a suitable field of study. Using a factor model followed by a cluster analysis the paper explores the school leaders’ profiles of operative and perceived autonomy in different fields of governance issues and identify different types of leadership.

Findings

The authors find that the autonomy school leaders experience is not necessarily related to a “defined” degree of autonomy which is prescribed by educational law and driven by concepts of new public management. Their “perceived” autonomy is also due to factors which can be located at a rather individual level.

Originality/value

The findings provide insight into principals’ motives to adopt certain styles of leading schools, quite independently from new measures of educational governance. The authors conclude that greater emphasis on systematic support programmes may prepare school principals for gains of autonomy as well as for potential sources of conflict.

Details

International Journal of Educational Management, vol. 28 no. 7
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-354X

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Article
Publication date: 12 September 2016

James Ko, Yin Cheong Cheng and Theodore Tai Hoi Lee

The purpose of this paper is to trace the development of school autonomy and accountability and related multiple changes and impacts in key areas of school education in…

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1150

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to trace the development of school autonomy and accountability and related multiple changes and impacts in key areas of school education in Hong Kong since implementing school-based management (SBM) from 1990s.

Design/methodology/approach

To explore the evolution and the uniqueness of autonomy and accountability in the Hong Kong school system, the paper begins with an historical account, followed by an evaluation of the effects of SBM as shown in policy documents, local research, international reviews and illustrative findings from a case study. The local and international implications of SBM for research and practice are then discussed.

Findings

This paper shows the links between school autonomy and accountability by exploring the potential effects of both of these factors on educational management and student achievement, which are increasingly emphasised in educational policies. The investigation shows that the assumed links and effects are not always consistent or empirically supported. The positive effects that school autonomy has on school governance and management, teachers’ work, school-based curriculums and student learning are all significant when there is also strong leadership, comprehensive continuous professional development and a positive, collaborative school climate. These key elements work alongside school autonomy to facilitate positive change.

Research limitations/implications

School autonomy and accountability should be viewed as necessary, but not sufficient, conditions for school improvement and development. Further characterisation of the processes happening in schools is needed to explore the different realisations of school autonomy and accountability.

Originality/value

This investigation of school autonomy and accountability in Hong Kong provides the international audience with a deeper understanding of the dynamics involved in the development of SBM.

Details

International Journal of Educational Management, vol. 30 no. 7
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-354X

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Article
Publication date: 14 March 2016

Yin Cheong Cheng, James Ko and Theodore Tai Hoi Lee

The purpose of this paper is to develop a framework for reconceptualising research on school autonomy to redress the limitations of traditional research, strengthen the…

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3581

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to develop a framework for reconceptualising research on school autonomy to redress the limitations of traditional research, strengthen the conceptual links between school autonomy and learning outcomes and offer a range of new strategies for studying the interplay of school autonomy, leadership and learning.

Design/methodology/approach

Based on a review of international studies and the findings of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and the Teaching and Learning International Study (TALIS), the conceptual limitations of and gaps in traditional research on school autonomy in relation to leadership and learning are discussed, and their implications for the development of a new framework are outlined.

Findings

The conceptual limitations of traditional research on school autonomy are as follows: internal school autonomy is insufficiently differentiated; too little attention is paid to cultural autonomy and internal structural autonomy at individual and group levels; autonomy is measured only as perceived by principals, with no attention to the perspectives of other key stakeholders; and conceptual links between school autonomy and learning outcomes are missing, leading to inconsistent findings on the effects of school autonomy on student learning. To redress these limitations, a new framework for research is developed. School autonomy is reconceptualised as a combination of functional autonomy, structural autonomy and cultural autonomy. Leadership is also reconceptualised by categorising three types of leadership activity: leadership for functional initiatives, leadership for structural initiatives and leadership for cultural initiatives. This categorisation may help to strengthen conceptions of the relevance of leadership to autonomy and performance in future research.

Research limitations/implications

A typology of research strategies is developed to broaden the possibilities for implementing the reconceptualisation framework. A single-component strategy, a two-component strategy, an interaction strategy and a holistic case-study strategy are presented. Depending on the research purposes and the available resources, one or a combination of these strategies can be used to conceptualise the study of school autonomy, leadership and performance.

Originality/value

The new ideas and perspectives associated with the reconceptualisation framework will contribute to future research in this area on an international scale. Future PISA, TALIS and similar studies will also benefit from this reconceptualisation.

Details

International Journal of Educational Management, vol. 30 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-354X

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Article
Publication date: 22 March 2013

Tommaso Agasisti, Giuseppe Catalano and Piergiacomo Sibiano

The purpose of this paper is to examine the difference between formal and real school autonomy in the Italian educational system. The Italian case is characterised by low…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine the difference between formal and real school autonomy in the Italian educational system. The Italian case is characterised by low levels of school autonomy. It is interesting to consider whether heterogeneity of patterns is possible in this context. A description of this heterogeneity is provided through archetypes.

Design/methodology/approach

The methodology is a qualitative survey conducted among school principals. A non‐standardised questionnaire was completed by 35 principals. The collected data were examined in accordance with the framework dimensions (different features of school autonomy) and three archetypes were identified.

Findings

The three archetypes of schools identified are: first, entrepreneurial (the strategies followed and the tools used are broader than those that the law prescribes); second, chaotic (different actors express their opinions but, ultimately, there is no shared decision at the school level); and third, bureaucratic (the school's principal thinks that nothing can be done without legal prescription).

Originality/value

Through a new case (the Italian educational system), this paper contributes to the stream of literature on the disconnect between formal and real school autonomy. This paper can help policy makers to improve understanding of the characteristics and internal heterogeneity of the educational system.

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Article
Publication date: 13 June 2016

Galatia Nicolaidou Solomou and Petros Pashiardis

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…

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1091

Abstract

Purpose

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.

Design/methodology/approach

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.

Findings

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.

Research limitations/implications

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.

Practical implications

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.

Originality/value

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.

Details

International Journal of Educational Management, vol. 30 no. 5
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-354X

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Article
Publication date: 12 September 2016

Paul Newton and Jose da Costa

The purpose of this paper is to report on the policy and practice contexts for school autonomy and twenty-first century learning in Canadian provinces.

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to report on the policy and practice contexts for school autonomy and twenty-first century learning in Canadian provinces.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper reports on an analysis of policies in Canadian provinces (particularly the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan). The authors review policies related to school autonomy and twenty-first century learning initiatives.

Findings

In this paper, the authors argue that autonomy is a complicated and multi-levelled phenomena with a measure of autonomy devolved from the state to local school divisions, and yet other elements of autonomy devolved to the school and to individual teachers. The link between autonomy and twenty-first century learning are unclear as yet. This paper attempts to establish the policy contexts for school autonomy and twenty-first century learning without making claims about a causal relation between the two.

Originality/value

The originality of this paper lies in its description of autonomy beyond the school level. Autonomy, as a construct, is rarely examined as a dynamic process among multiple layers of the educational system.

Details

International Journal of Educational Management, vol. 30 no. 7
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-354X

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Article
Publication date: 7 August 2017

Esther Dominique Klein

Increased school autonomy and accountability have been a common denominator of national reforms in otherwise heterogeneous governance systems in Europe and the USA. The…

Abstract

Purpose

Increased school autonomy and accountability have been a common denominator of national reforms in otherwise heterogeneous governance systems in Europe and the USA. The paper argues that because schools serving disadvantaged communities (SSDCs) often have lower average performance, they are more often sanctioned or under closer scrutiny, but might also receive more additional resources. The purpose of this paper is to therefore analyze whether SSDCs have more or less autonomy than schools with a more advantageous context in four countries with heterogeneous autonomy and accountability policies.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper is based on the data from the Programme for International Student Assessment 2012 school and student questionnaires from Finland, Germany, the UK, and the USA. The choice of countries is based on different governance models described by Glatter et al. (2003). The data are used to identify SSDCs and analyze the reported autonomy in resource allocation and curriculum and assessment. Using regression analyses, patterns are analyzed for each country individually. They are then juxtaposed and compared. Differences are related back to the governance models of the respective countries.

Findings

The results indicate an association between the communities the schools are serving and the autonomy either in the allocation of resources, or the curriculum and assessment. SSDCs appeared to have a little more autonomy than schools with a more advantageous context in Finland, Germany, and the UK, but less autonomy in the USA. The comparison suggests that in the USA, autonomy is rather a reward for schools that have the least amount of need, whereas in the other three countries it could be a result of strategies to improve schools in need. The paper discusses possible explanations in the policies and support structures for SSDCs.

Originality/value

The effects of increased school autonomy and accountability on student achievement have been discussed at length. How different accountability policies affect the autonomy of schools with the highest needs has so far not been studied. The study can be understood as a first step to unravel this association. Following steps should include in-depth investigations of the mechanisms underlying increased or diminished autonomy for SSDCs, and the consequences for school improvement in these schools.

Details

Journal of Educational Administration, vol. 55 no. 5
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0957-8234

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Article
Publication date: 12 September 2016

Brian John Caldwell

The purpose of this paper is to report four case studies in Australia that respond to the question: “How have schools with a relatively high degree of autonomy used their…

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1119

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to report four case studies in Australia that respond to the question: “How have schools with a relatively high degree of autonomy used their increased authority and responsibility to make decisions that have led in explicit cause-and-effect fashion to higher levels of student achievement”?

Design/methodology/approach

A conventional case study methodology was adopted, framed by a review of evidence in the international literature. The studies were conducted in the Australian Capital Territory, Queensland and Victoria. Senior leaders in systems of public education in these jurisdictions nominated schools which have had a relatively high degree of autonomy for at least two years; have achieved high levels of student achievement, or have shown noteworthy improvement; and are able to explain how the link between autonomy and achievement had been made. The four schools chosen from these nominations represented different types as far as level and location were concerned. Triangulation of sources was a feature of the studies.

Findings

The findings reveal that the schools were able to explain the links and that it was possible to map the cause-and-effect chain. Schools used their autonomy to select staff and allocate funds in their budgets, each being capacities that came with a higher level of autonomy. Leadership was important.

Research limitations/implications

The paper cautions against generalizing the findings.

Originality/value

There is international interest in the extent to which granting public schools a higher level of autonomy than has traditionally been the case in various national settings has had an impact on student achievement. These case studies go part of the way in describing what schools do when they successfully take up a higher level of authority and responsibility as one strategy in efforts to raise levels of achievement.

Details

International Journal of Educational Management, vol. 30 no. 7
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-354X

Keywords

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Article
Publication date: 2 May 2017

Jennie M. Weiner and Sarah L. Woulfin

The purpose of this paper is to gain insights into how a group of novice principals, all in schools that deployed principles of autonomy as mechanisms for improvement…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to gain insights into how a group of novice principals, all in schools that deployed principles of autonomy as mechanisms for improvement, conceptualized what the authors label “controlled autonomy” – a condition in which school leaders are expected to both make site-based decisions and be accountable to district oversight. The study aims to support more effective interactions between school and district leaders around controlled autonomy to increase performance.

Design/methodology/approach

Using schema as a framework to guide the inquiry, this paper uses qualitative methods and interviewing in particular to explore the questions of interest. Seven novice principals were each interviewed three times over the year each interview lasting approximately one hour (n=21). Data were analyzed thematically using both inductive and deductive coding techniques.

Findings

Findings show that principals tended to group potential district supports into four categories: operations, instruction, advocacy, and vision and their perceptions regarding the balance between their and the district’s control over activities in each category was dynamic, varied and dependent on views relating to issues as broad as values alignment to perceptions of bureaucratic efficiency.

Research limitations/implications

Because of the small sample size and methodological approach, it may be inappropriate to generalize the findings across all controlled autonomy contexts. Further research in additional settings is encouraged to support the proposed findings.

Practical implications

This paper has a number of implications for districts and school leaders. Among these is the need for districts to better articulate the parameters of controlled autonomy and for school leaders to receive more and more effective training and support to effectively utilize autonomy as a mechanism for reform.

Originality/value

This work fills a gap in the research regarding on how principals conceptualize controlled autonomy or, more specifically, how they view what school autonomy should look like relative to district control and is this paper’s focus. It also provides insights into practice and potential means to enhance a growing, but so far unevenly implemented and under performing reform initiative (i.e. controlled autonomy).

Details

Journal of Educational Administration, vol. 55 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0957-8234

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Article
Publication date: 12 September 2016

Toby Greany and Joanne Waterhouse

The purpose of this paper is to describe and analyse the development of school autonomy, school leadership and curriculum innovation in England over the past 40 years. It…

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1406

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to describe and analyse the development of school autonomy, school leadership and curriculum innovation in England over the past 40 years. It provides a baseline picture for the wider international study on school autonomy and curriculum innovation.

Design/methodology/approach

An initial literature review was undertaken, including policy document analysis. Interviews and observations were undertaken with participants on a pilot professional programme for school leaders seeking to develop their school curriculum.

Findings

While all schools in England have needed to adapt their curricula to reflect the new National Curriculum introduced from 2014, relatively few schools appear to have used this opportunity to design genuinely innovative curricula that respond to the changing needs of learners in the twenty-first century. This includes the academies and free schools – currently around one in four schools – which are not legally required to follow the National Curriculum. The authors posit that leadership agency by principals and their professional teams is more important than policy/legal freedoms for securing curriculum innovation. Such agency appears to depend on the capacity and confidence of leaders to shape an alternative and innovative curriculum in the face of structural constraints, in particular England’s sharp accountability system, effectively making these leaders “rebels against the system”.

Research limitations/implications

The empirical findings are preliminary and based on a small convenience sample.

Originality/value

Given England’s position as a relatively extreme example of high-autonomy-high-accountability quasi-market school reforms this paper provides valuable insights on school autonomy and curriculum innovation that can inform policy and practice more widely.

Details

International Journal of Educational Management, vol. 30 no. 7
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-354X

Keywords

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