Strategic incoherence, corporate boo-boos, and oppositional identities in teachers' work, around local school management

Year: 2002

Author: Smyth, John

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

There is a significant struggle going on at the moment in most western countries over the meaning attaching to local school management (LSM). The attempt is to control teaching "at a distance" employing a policy ensemble of devolved school management, set within a context of evolving accountability frameworks and market-driven performance indicators. But what is being created by these ideological policy relays are "oppositional identities" as teachers actively engage in "acts of refusal" (Schultz, 1999, p. 3) as they construct identity narratives for themselves of what it means to be a successful teacher. The central argument of the paper is that educational policies that have taken a turn in this direction are having the rhetorical effect of constructing the teacher as a particular type of person - but this construction is far from unproblematic. Teachers are continually engaged in constructing biographies that are relational, pedagogical and educative - and these are considerably at variance with the wider policy aspirations and images constructed of schools as being entrepreneurial, responsive, competitive, stand-alone, cost-centres. The paper explores what the move to LSM means to teachers in a high school and how LSM works on/through teachers at the level of teachers' subjectivities.