There's many a slip 'tween cup and lip.: A case study of educational policy implementation in a changing context.

Year: 1999

Author: Gardner, Christine, Williamson, John

Type of paper: Refereed paper

Education and schooling increasingly are subject to direct political involvement by Ministers and system level authorities. The perceived political benefits would suggest a continuation, or even an increase, in this trend. The data presented in this paper come from a Tasmanian study of policy making, implementation and evaluation. Data were collected from teachers, principals, school and departmental documents, and from the researcher's participation in the professional development workshops which were conducted for the Key Teachers. The development of the policy, its announced nature, and its subsequent implementation were found to vary, particularly where political and educational agenda conflicted.

Teachers' needs and professionalism should be respected by the policy process. Individuals' readiness, confidence, skills and credibility affect implementation outcomes. In providing supportive leadership, policy makers need increasingly to be aware of sharing their visions with all stakeholders. Ultimately, teachers and students in classrooms will determine the success or otherwise of policy implementation. Dependence on teachers for successful and lasting change must be recognised and valued. This paper first, will demonstrate the limited nature of much recent theorising about and practical implementation of the policy process and second, outline ways of enhancing the likelihood of successful implementation.

During 1993 and 1994 the Tasmanian media were running stories, at times daily, on "inappropriate student behaviour". Comments and opinions, lamenting a fall in standards, were common in the media. Debate concerned the effects of some students' behaviour on safe and positive learning environments in schools. The issue had become "fashionable" (Hogwood & Gunn, 1992:68) and necessitated a political response.

The Minister for Education sought advice from the Tasmanian Education Council TEC), an advisory body to the Minister (TEC, 1994a). In turn, the Council invited submissions from members of the public. The Minister had instigated a process of seeking information from members of school communities and the general public in order to develop the strategy he would eventually announce for addressing the issue of inappropriate student behaviour (Lindblom, 1980; Burch & Wood, 1986).