School Health Heterarchies: From Local to Global

Year: 2016

Author: Enright, Eimear, Rossi, Tony, McCuaig, Louise, Macdonald, Doune, Hogan, Anna

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The health work undertaken by and for schools is now dependent on a vast array of state and non-state policy actors. Drawing on data from two Australian Research Council Discovery projects that examine teachers’ work and policy in relation to health and globalisation, this paper 1) maps and analyses the participation of these various actors in local and global school health networks, and 2) considers the asymmetrical and diverse power relations at play in relation to different policy objectives. To this end we utilise textual (e.g. interview transcripts, observation notes, website information etc) and visual data (e.g. photographs of health related communication in the school) to map the health heterarchy associated with one Australian State High School. Heterarchy is an organisational hybrid of hierarchy and network, which recognises the diverse horizontal and vertical links that allow different elements of the policy process to align or compete. We recruit Ball’s work on heterarchical governance to analyse the variety of power relations involved in the complex interdependency that is the school health heterarchy. Our findings suggest that many complex and competing sensibilities, values and policy narratives are foregrounded and legitimated within and through the school health heterachy. Furthermore, many health related administrative structures and relationships within the school seem to be in the process of being siloed or rationalised. We argue that the increasing reach and profit seeking behaviour of global multi-nationals including HPE edu-businesses, together with increasing pressure to achieve better efficiencies and outcomes in schools are resulting in the distribution and naturalisation of business sensibilities in the school health context. This means that it is increasingly necessary to consider local rhetorics such as ‘community partnerships’ within the context of corporate global logics of expansion and profit and the global education reform movement.