What are teachers saying about new managerialism?

Pat O’Brien, Barry Down


Since the mid-1970s, successive federal and state governments have redefined the
governance structure of Australian schooling in accordance with the principles of
the market and its corollary new managerialism (Hartley 1997; Marginson 1997;
Robertson 2000; Yeatman 1990). Morley and Rassool (1999, p 61) argue that ‘the
introduction of markets and managers has been a generic transformational device
designed to restructure and reorient public service provision’. According to Yeatman
(1990, p 14), this structural and ideological shift has resulted in a corporate-style
bureaucracy whereby public sector activity is ‘reduced to the effective, efficient and
economic management of human and capital resources’. As the dominant style of
public administration and public service, it seeks to make government efficient by
doing more with less, focusing on outcomes and results and managing change better.
The common elements have involved site-based management, the language of
improvement and budgetary devolution (Morley & Rassool 1999).

Commenting on the British experience, Hoggett (1996, p 12) argues that
three fundamental but interrelated strategies of control have been implemented over
the last decade to drive these reforms. First, competition has been introduced as a
means of coordinating the activities of decentralised units. Second, there has been an
attempt to decentralise operations whilst centralising strategic command. Third,
there has been the extended development of performance management techniques.

Against this backdrop, we set out in this article to examine how six senior
teachers in one secondary school in the northern suburbs of Perth, Western Australia
have experienced and responded to these generic managerial reforms. In doing so,
we are keen to re-insert ‘the missing voices of teachers’ (Smyth 2001, p 149) back
into the reform debate that raged in Western Australian schools in the late 1980s and
simmered throughout the 1990s following the introduction of the mandated Better
schools in Western Australia: a programme for improvement (Ministry of
Education, Western Australia 1987).

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