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The illusion of autonomy: an ethnography of teachers’ professional lives in a primary academy in England

Chrostowska, M (2018) The illusion of autonomy: an ethnography of teachers’ professional lives in a primary academy in England. Doctoral thesis, Liverpool John Moores University.

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This thesis reports on an ethnographic research of primary school teachers’ lived experiences of working and teaching in a school that had recently converted from a LA maintained community school to an academy. The aim of this doctoral study is to explore teachers’ work and capture the changing nature of the teacher professionalism in the new educational setting that is a primary academy. Academies are independent schools that are funded by the state but are managed privately. In England, academies built upon the ideas of the City Technology Colleges project developed by the former Conservative Government. They were also modelled on the international independent-state funded schools: charter schools in the Unites States of America and Swedish free schools. The first academies were opened in 2002 under the New Labour Government. At that time, the purpose of the Academies Programme was to address poor performance by creating different types of secondary schools in disadvantaged areas. Since 2010 when the Coalition Government took office, the academies programme expanded greatly encompassing primary schools. Since then, the rhetoric behind the Academies Programme revolves around greater freedom and autonomy for schools. The expansion of the Academies Programme has led to the growth in the number of teachers working in these settings. Yet, studies investigating the experiences of teachers working in academies, in particular those in primary academies, are limited. Therefore, this ethnographic research set out to address the gap in what is currently known about implications of the Academies Programme for teachers’ work and professionalism. In relation to this, teachers’ professional autonomy constitutes a central theme in the analysis presented in this thesis. The fieldwork was conducted over the period of one school year (September 2014-July 2015) in Bricklane Primary Academy (pseudonym) situated in an inner-city location in the North West of England. The data were generated through the use of participant observations, photographs, documentary analysis, informal conversations and ethnographic interviews and focus groups. The research participants included teaching staff and academy senior leaders who work in Bricklane Primary Academy. Frostenson’s (2015) three levels of teachers’ professional autonomy provides a framework for analysis and presentation of the research findings. Drawing upon labour process theory, the main findings of the research indicated that the work of primary academy teachers is greatly constrained by policies at school and at national levels that limit teachers’ professional autonomy. The findings suggest that the Academies Programme has contributed to diminishing the professional autonomy of teachers and thus contradict the policy rhetoric underpinning academies which promulgates greater freedom and autonomy.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: The Academies Programme; teachers; teacher professionalism; professional autonomy; labour process theory; academies
Subjects: L Education > L Education (General)
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1501 Primary Education
Divisions: Education
Date Deposited: 06 Jul 2018 09:18
Last Modified: 21 Dec 2022 11:53
DOI or ID number: 10.24377/LJMU.t.00008914
Supervisors: Frankham, J and Forrester, G
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/8914
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