Doing Social Justice in Schools: Moments of Policy Compliance, Adjustment and Contestation

Year: 2016

Author: Molla, Tebeje, Gale, Trevor, Mills, Carmen, Cross, Russell, Parker, Stephen, Smith, Catherine

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In the context of practice, policies present conditions of possibilities and constraints; and policy enactment rests on ‘creative’ responses of agents. In schools, principals tactically engage in policy translation – they use policies as opportunities to advance what they think is achievable within the limits of the provisions. Drawing on qualitative data generated through in-depth interviews with ten secondary school principals in two Australian cities, the paper analyses how principals of different school contexts responded to equity-related policies. The findings show that, depending on their own personal dispositions and commitments as well as institutional ethos and resources of schools, principals tend to take different positions towards nationally defined equity agendas. Their responses range from keen compliance to strategic compromise and to outright contestation. The paper suggests that doing social justice in schools constitutes context-driven policy translation, and is mediated by personal values of principals who play central roles in the process.