From Fragmentation to Multiplexity: Decentralisation, Localism and Support for School Collaboration in England and Wales/Von der Fragmentierung Zur Vielfältigkeit: Dezentralisierung, Regionalisierung Und Unterstützung Für Schulkooperation in England Und Wales

By Jopling, Michael; Hadfield, Mark | Journal for Educational Research Online, January 1, 2015 | Go to article overview

From Fragmentation to Multiplexity: Decentralisation, Localism and Support for School Collaboration in England and Wales/Von der Fragmentierung Zur Vielfältigkeit: Dezentralisierung, Regionalisierung Und Unterstützung Für Schulkooperation in England Und Wales


Jopling, Michael, Hadfield, Mark, Journal for Educational Research Online


l. Introduction

Anyone walking through the educational landscape of the United Kingdom (UK) 20 years ago would have been struck, as they moved between Wales, England, Northern Ireland and Scotland, more by the similarities than the differences in how the different countries operated. Although there were variations relating to history and culture, at that time their education systems all relied on Local Education Authorities (LEAs) to provide the majority of support sendees for schools in a locality. LEAs were responsible for appointing and employing staff, carrying out school inspections and supporting professional development. Over the intervening period, policies promoting decentralisation and localism have had significant impact on public services, including education, in the UK and internationally. Successive UK governments have defined decentralisation and localism in terms of transferring power and responsibility from local government to schools and other "frontline" organisations. However, critics have viewed this as "decentralised centralism" (Karlsen, 2000) and a "new localism" (Corry & Stoker, 2002; Bentley, Bailey, & Shutt, 2010) through which national government control has been increased at the expense of local government. This shift was accompanied by the emergence of a pervasive but often under-defined culture of partnership and collaboration (Glendinning, Powell, & Rummery, 2002; Duggan, 2014). Combined with the devolution of powers to national assemblies in Wales and Northern Ireland and to the Scottish Parliament after 1997, the main form of régionalisation in the UK in recent years, this has resulted in increasingly divergent education systems in the UK, particularly in how support for the development of schools and teachers is organised. The closeness of the outcome of the independence referendum in Scotland in September 2014 suggests that this trend is unlikely to be reversed and may lead to greater régionalisation, particularly in England, but until now decentralisation and localism (however defined) have been more common policy drivers than régionalisation within the UK countries. Each of the countries in the UK has reacted in different ways to global trends as they have restructured their education systems with the aim of improving their schools' performance. For example, there are now significant differences in the level of acceptance, and use, of high stakes aeeountabil- ity strategies, such as school performance tables and inspections, and in the extent to which partnership and collaboration between schools are integrated into systems and supported by traditional middle tier organisations, such as local authorities (LAs - as LEAs were redesignated after merging with children's sendees in 2004) or newer groupings such as academy chains.

This paper draws on evidence from three recent policy initiatives in England and Wales focusing on collaborative reform and views collaboration as both a product of policies supporting decentralisation and localism in education and a means of exploring them. As England in particular has often been a forerunner in adopting such policies, it is hoped that identifying some of the issues and tensions which underlie, and potentially undermine, them will also be relevant to other education systems.

2. Policy background

A key policy trend to which all the UK education systems have had to respond in varying forms and to differing degrees over the past 25 years is increasing autonomy for schools and school leaders. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the 1988 Education Reform Act (ERA) introduced local management of schools, allowing headteachers and their governing bodies to remove themselves from the financial control of LEAs, and introduced grant-maintained schools, decentralised through being funded directly by central government and thus bypassing local authorities, which were the precursors of the more recent academies movement in England. …

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From Fragmentation to Multiplexity: Decentralisation, Localism and Support for School Collaboration in England and Wales/Von der Fragmentierung Zur Vielfältigkeit: Dezentralisierung, Regionalisierung Und Unterstützung Für Schulkooperation in England Und Wales
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