Steering from a Distance

Year: 2000


Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper analyses the impact of the 'new public management' (NPM) policy framework on education through the introduction of quasi-contracts, that is school charters on the daily operation of government schools in the state of Victoria, Australia. Based on qualitative and quantitative data gathered from principals in government primary and secondary schools, the paper reports on the impact principals perceive the introduction of school charters has had on competition between schools, community ownership of schools, school management, student learning and accountability. The findings suggest that school charters have had little impact in two key components NPM; that is, increasing competition between schools and increasing community ownership. Principals perceived that the charter had considerable impact on improving school management, specifically developing a shared vision for the school, gaining staff understanding of the vision, targeting funding to key improvement areas, long term planning and enhancing the leadership of the principal. A strong statistical relationship was established between student learning and school participation in a review. This impact on student learning has potential to be an important finding for school systems. The research indicated that the majority of principals in the study considered charters to be a sound basis for internal review and external validation and review. The paper concludes that school charters or similar contractual arrangements may be a viable way of increasing school autonomy and enabling governments to deliver education by 'steering from a distance'.