The Effective Schools Movement is currently a pervasive influence on education policy-makers and practitioners. Its claim that schools can act independently of local or socio-economic contexts mirrors the instrumental and technical nature of much of school management. The preoccupation with school effects has displaced many of the social issues once widely supported. From the position of practitioners working in the urban context, we argue that the Effective Schools Movement as a regulator in the education market is the antithesis of the empowerment it professes to offer.
We write as two teachers (one school-based and one university-based) who have become enmeshed in the new sets of social relations in education arising from recent government policy-making. This has ensured that Joe, who is headteacher of a large multi-ethnic primary school in an economically disadvantaged neighbourhood, is now responsible for financial management and is subject to the mechanisms of government testing, OFSTED inspections and league tables. Gaby works in a department of education in a university close to Joe's school. She is responsible for placing students in local schools, many of which are deemed as 'failing' by the inspectorate. She faces an increasingly regulatory framework in teacher training such that a national curriculum for teacher training is being proposed-to mirror the National Curriculum for schools. Both have been affected professionally by what seems to be a ritual condemnation of urban education by politicians, policy-makers and the media and are concerned, in particular, about the influence the Effective Schools Movement (ESM) has had on this situation.
In this chapter we examine the impact of school effectiveness discourses on our lives and the lives of our respective institutions. In particular we focus on the relationship of school effectiveness research to policy-making and regulation, social justice and equal opportunities, empowerment and educational values, and the changing roles and perspectives of teachers. We conclude that while school effectiveness research may have something important to offer to teachers and schools, the discourse of regulation and blame which is currently used by its advocates and in government policy, can only detract from any higher order aims or aspirations.