School autonomy and social justice: the plight of principals and schools

Year: 2021

Author: Keddie, Amanda, Eacott, Scott, Niesche, Richard

Type of paper: Symposium

This paper draws on interview data gathered as part of a broader study exploring the social justice implications of school autonomy reform within Australia’s public education system. We draw attention to the concerns expressed by key education stakeholders across three states, Western Australia, Victoria and New South Wales, about the negative equity implications of school autonomy reform when it is driven by market imperatives. Interviewees expressed their view that school autonomy could be mobilised in positive ways for equity when sufficiently resourced by centralised state and federal authorities and supported at regional levels. However, they also highlighted key problems such resourcing failed to adequately recognise relating to 1) how principals (especially those with a lack of experience) were not adequately supported to manage the responsibilities and pressures of greater school autonomy and accountability and 2) how particular schools (especially small schools and schools in rural, remote and disadvantaged areas), despite the availability of additional centralised support, were struggling with the processes and expectations of this reform to improve student learning. The paper argues for the significance of greater centralised and regional support in these areas.