An Analysis Of School Registration Policy In Western Australia: A Case Of Accountability Policies For Non-Government Schools

Year: 2015

Author: Simons, Edward, Vidovich, Lesley

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The aim of this study was to conduct an analysis of rapidly accelerating accountability associated with one-third of Australian schools, namely the non-government sector. The research examined international and national trends in school accountability policies and practices, before focusing more specifically on evolving non-government school registration policy (‘Registration Standards’ policy) in Western Australia (WA).

A ‘policy trajectory framework’ provided the conceptual basis for the research questions about policy influences, texts, practices and longer-term outcomes. Data were collected and analysed from relevant policy documents and semi-structured interviews with key policy actors at three levels of the policy trajectory: macro (Department of Education Services), meso (school reviewers and the Association of Independent Schools WA) and micro (non-government school leaders). A meta analysis across the whole policy trajectory focused on ‘bigger picture’ issues of power and social justice.

The key findings of the thesis in relation to the research questions were as follows. The dominant influences related to the central impact of State legislation, global accountability policy trends and the power of particular policy actors. The production of the policy text over the course of ten years was characterised by changing policy content towards more prescriptive regulatory requirements and a changing policy production process involving less consultation. The policy practices focused on school contexts and the uneven distribution of resources for schools to meet regulatory requirements. Findings relating to policy outcomes specifically raised issues about whether the policy had contributed to the goals of the Melbourne Declaration of 2008 about enhancing quality and equity in Australian education.

This research is both timely and relevant to global, national and local policy developments where accountability has become a meta discourse in education. Drawing on findings in relation to both intended and unintended consequences of registration policies for non-government schools - as a specific case of wider accountability policies - recommendations for future policies and practices are presented.