Students at Educational Risk: Dilemmas in policy and practice

Year: 2007

Author: Mosen, Linda, Molloy, Georgiana, Vidovich, Lesley, Chapman, Anne

Type of paper: Refereed paper

Internationally and in Australia, students 'at-risk' of underachieving or failing at school have become a focal point of education reform. Solutions for improving educational standards for students 'at-risk' have shifted from a focus on individual intervention-based programs to more systemic policies and strategies. The research reported in this paper explored the complexity of issues related to policy for students at educational risk in Western Australia. Specifically, it analysed the Education Department of Western Australia's policy Making the Difference: Students at Educational Risk, from its origins and intent through the production of the policy text to the subsequent practices in schools, focusing on the period of 1997 to 2002. This paper draws on the research findings to examine the competing discourses found within the policy; one that typified current global economic ideologies of decentralization accompanied by re-regulation, performativity and accountability; and a second that accented a new remodelled concept of social justice. Consideration is given to: the contradictions and tensions reflected within the policy process, surrounding issues of 'at-risk' between global ideologies and micro site practices associated with 'social justice' and 'economic rationalism'; the construction of 'quality' as 'accountability'; and issues pertaining to the compatibility of 'equity' and 'efficiency'. The paper concludes with recommendations for future directions of research into theory, policy and practice for students 'at-risk'.