Middle schooling policy and practice in the Western Australian Catholic system

Year: 2008

Author: Toffoli, Amelia, Vidovich, Lesley, O'Donoghue, Tom

Type of paper: Refereed paper

From the 1960s, educational literature has described middle schooling as fundamental reform characterised by structural, organisational, curriculum, pedagogical and assessment changes designed to meet early adolescent needs. Conflict and struggle have also been associated with the development of policy in this domain, as individuals and groups changed their assumptions about students, pedagogy and relationships and challenged resistant, traditional structures and practices that marginalised middle schooling. Recently, therefore, researchers and writers have begun to explore the sociological underpinnings of middle schooling reform. Drawing from the field of 'policy sociology', the research reported in this paper explored the complexity of issues associated with the development of middle schooling policy in Western Australia. More specifically, the research analysed the middle schooling policy process in the Western Australian Catholic Education System, during the 1990s and 2000s. The data were collected from the perspectives of professional stakeholders (system leaders, school leaders and teachers) and documentary sources. This paper draws on research findings to examine tensions and struggles with influences, policy text production, practices and effects, outcomes and political strategies used to enhance social justice in relation to middle schooling. Emergent themes offer insights into the dynamics of the middle schooling policy process in a Catholic education system that does not have a formal prescriptive policy statement for middle schooling. The paper concludes by identifying how the study may have applicability wider than the Western Australian context and the Catholic school context it describes and implications for future research.