Strategizing in a context of conflicting policy drivers - Emerging findings from a study of Head Teachers' perspectives on academy conversion

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Despite Central Government’s policy reversal regarding the blanket academisation of Local Authority schools by 2020, the trajectory towardsconversion continues to gather pace. With 5905 converted academies open as of 1st December 2016, 18% (1062) of this figure again are in theacademy pipeline. Compounding this broad structural reform school leaders face an uncertain landscape of performance benchmarking, particularlyconcerning coasting measures. At a local level, the shifts in viability and scope of Local Authority provision, and the emergence and influence ofdominant service providers and Multi-Academy Trusts, disaggregate the nation-wide picture. Compounding this, demands on head teachers within acontext of marketization are evidenced in the need to deliver across increasingly complex strategic objectives.In a demanding and pressurized environment head teachers must act to ensure both short term success and long term sustainability. Whileguidance on academisation encourages close reflection on strategic alignment and internal capacity building the rapid pace of change, together withuncertainties around timescales, financial support and performance measurement, invoke a scenario for many schools framed by the seeminglybinary decision as to whether to jump or be pushed into academisation. Yet, faced with such substantial diversity in local strategic conditions, andoptions, the decisions facing head teachers are far from binary, and little is known or understood about the drivers of strategic decision makingamongst school head teachers.This paper presents the emerging findings from a study on schools involved in processes associated with academisation. The study explored thecomplex interplay of national and local strategic drivers, and how these are interpreted by head teachers of different schools within a shared countycontext. Contextual and interview data from 20 head teachers of Hertfordshire-based Local Authority schools who have to make decisions aboutacademisation in due course is analysed to provide new insights into the way local government, education service providers, existing Multi AcademyTrusts and parents and students affect their decision making. This also includes the exploration of the way decision making of other local schoolsaffects strategic choices, and the extent to which a snowball effect has impacted on individual trajectories towards academisation. In doing so thepaper offers a contribution to understanding strategizing within government policy frameworks and local education contexts, focusing on strategiccapability, accountability and control.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 5 Sept 2019
EventBritish Educational Research Association Annual Conference 2017 - University of Sussex, Brighton, United Kingdom
Duration: 5 Sept 20177 Sept 2017


ConferenceBritish Educational Research Association Annual Conference 2017
Abbreviated titleBERA Conference 2017
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • academies
  • head teachers
  • strategy
  • decision making
  • education


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