• Academies, managerialism and school teachers’ working lives: a labour process perspective

      Morrell, Sophie E. (2018)
      The English school sector has been transformed over recent decades through wide-ranging education policies. One far-reaching change has been the dramatic rise in academy schools driven by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition (2010-2015) (Stevenson 2016), with 64.7% of secondary state-funded schools now holding academy status (Department for Education 2018). A central issue emerging from this context is the changes to school teachers’ pay and working conditions, given that autonomy over employment terms and conditions transfer from local authorities to operating education trusts under the academy model (see Academies Act 2010). Stevenson (2011) importantly argued that rather than establishing new directions in education policy, recent changes – such as the academy expansion enterprise – solidify the long-standing trajectory of restructuring to public education, underpinned by neoliberal ideologies. Such projects seek to fragment a public service accountable to local authorities, superseding it with a state-subsidised system buttressed by predominantly private investors (Stevenson 2011); pressing schools into competition for students and resources (Connell 2009). Dovetailed in this setting, a significant study by Carter and Stevenson (2012:491), exploring workforce remodelling in teaching, found strong evidence for “an accelerated form of creeping managerialism,” with middle-grade teachers carrying increasing responsibility for the monitoring of colleagues. The combined effects of markets and managerialism, that bolster the grander-scale neoliberal project, have worked in unison to fundamentally recast teachers’ experiences of work (Stevenson and Wood 2013). Currently in its analytical phase, this PhD study, informed by a labour process theoretical (LPT) perspective, set out to explore (1) the various formal and informal structures and processes (control strategies) that impact on school teachers’ work, (2) how teachers experience those control strategies, (3) teachers’ orientations to work and (4) how teachers’ orientations to work interrelate with their experiences of control strategies. Several scholars employ an LPT perspective to facilitate critical studies of teachers’ work (for examples see Carter and Stevenson 2012; Stevenson and Wood 2013). Yet there remains a paucity of research that takes an LPT approach to the in-depth interpretive analysis of teachers’ work. Inspired by a call from Reid (2003) for research that combines LPT with detailed single-site ethnographic accounts, a qualitative ethnography of one academy school in Northern England was conducted over a four-month period. This comprised interviews with 26 teachers, senior managers, HR and trade union representatives; a six-week shadowing period; non-participant observations and document collection. This article focuses on two key issues relating to the impact of academies and widespread managerialism on teachers’ work experiences: working time and teaching preparation. In particular, it highlights the erosion of autonomy previously given to teachers to manage their own time, lessons and resources; with accounts of increased frustration at the rising mechanisation of teaching. The central contribution of this paper, therefore, is the application of LPT to the context of contemporary teachers’ work in England, to gain an in-depth understanding of the impact of academies and widespread managerialism on school teachers’ working lives.