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  4. Understandings and formulation of democratic strategy in federated school structures in England

Understandings and formulation of democratic strategy in federated school structures in England

Background

The ideal of a democratic system of education in England has been under threat since the 1988 Education Reform Act introduced school autonomies-financial and curricula freedom whilst also eroding Local Authority involvement in education governance and accountability. The recent White Paper on Education looks to a system in which all schools are autonomous, the education support function of Local Education Authorities is eradicated and all schools enter into groupings or federated structures, whilst removing the obligation for governing boards of these structures to include elected parent governors on their boards (Parliament 2016). The most recent cross-national report points out that systems of accountability in multiple stakeholder multi-school structures present challenges for school leaders, governing boards and their executives across a range of OECD countries (Hooge, 2016).

This project looks to investigate how governing boards in geographically dispersed groups involve stakeholders within strategic decision-making processes. Exploring: a) What mechanisms are used by governing boards to involve parents and communities in strategic planning b) How is this information used by boards to inform group strategy? c) What to do the results of a) and b) imply for the future of democratic governance of education in England and more broadly?

Project aims

The education system in England has undergone rapid and dramatic changes since 2010: Many schools are now part of school groupings - federations or multi-academy Trusts. This places great pressure on governing structures and the three hundred thousand volunteer governors who give their time freely in order to govern English schools.

This project looks at an increasingly important area of their work: strategy making. And examines how school boards make vital decisions about their future and direction of travel.

Our research involves qualitative interviews with board members and headteachers in the North and South of England to investigate:

  • What mechanisms are used by governing boards to involve parents and communities in strategic planning
  • How is this information used by boards to inform group strategy?
  • What to do the results of this imply for the future of democratic governance of education in England and more broadly?
Information for participants

We are interviewing a number of board members, head teachers policy advisers and individuals involved in governor support. As part of this we guarantee both school and individual anonymity as part of our ethical approach to research. We are governed by BERA research guidelines and the project is approved by the Open University Ethics Board.

What’s involved? 

A short chat of no more than half an hour, either face-to-face or by phone. This will be recorded and transcribed and once this is done the original recording will be deleted. All data will be anonymized at the point of transcription.

What will my interview be used for?

The data gathered through interviews and questionnaires will be anonymized and used in our analysis and academic publications. These findings will also be used in order to inform policy papers/training and development.

Research team

Funding Body: 
The Leverhulme Trust

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