The Myth of School Autonomy: centralisation as the determinant of English educational politics (FORUM 2)
Author: TREVOR FISHER
Following his previous article in this journal on the centralisation of power in English education post the 1988 Education Reform Act (‘The Era of Centralisation’, FORUM, 50, pp. 255-261), the author considers the apparent turn to school autonomy central to the Conservative Educational Revolution. He argues that the power shift to the centre is accelerated by the Revolution, which is destroying democratically elected local authority provision and enhancing the power of the Secretary of State to arbitrary levels. The rhetoric of the all powerful head teacher in control of the school is contradicted by centrally determined priorities, notably EBac, and the power of the media to represent the school to its community by performance tables. This continues the attempt to manipulate schools which New Labour attempted by its Diploma programme, but in the context of a narrow 1950s grammar school curriculum. The autonomy given to schools is essentially operational, notably over admissions and curriculum, but is constrained by league tables and government control of finance and service delivery contracts.