Helen Ryan-Atkin
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When the MAT moves in
Implications for legitimacy in terms of governance and local agency
in Inside the English education lab
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Since the introduction of the academies policy and the growth of Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) in England, there has been a shift away from public to private agendas as part of an increasing neoliberal, market-driven education system. Various studies have looked at this in terms of the large-scale implications for the culture of school governance (e.g. Wilkins, 2015), local democratic accountability (e.g. Gunter, 2011) and the impact of a centrally controlled system (e.g. Ball, 2017), but there has been limited exploration about what this means for governors and local governing boards at the local level. This chapter makes an empirical contribution to the existing literature by showing how national policy is being translated within one MAT at different levels of management and governance. It shows how fears about the blurring of boundaries between public/private bodies and practices are transpiring in two main ways. The first main finding from the ethnographic study of one MAT shows how the increased professionalisation of governance appears to be leading to a preference for a trust board which is weighted towards business skills, at the expense of educational expertise. Second, but related to the first, is the marginalisation of local figures, with their insider knowledge, and the implications for localised democratic oversight. The chapter concludes by arguing that there is an urgent need for university teacher educators/researchers with ‘insider’ expertise to work with schools to challenge the growing narrative of business-led education.

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Inside the English education lab

critical qualitative and ethnographic perspectives on the academies experiment


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