A case study investigation of teachers and parents’ perceptions of the impact of academy status on decisions affecting school governance and management

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  3. A case study Investigation of teachers’ and parents’ perceptions of the impact of academy status on decisions affecting school governance and management?
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  9. 3.       Number of participants (approximately):For this particular study, I will use approximately 10 people.
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  11. Nature of participants (profile/characteristics, e.g. children, primary school children, professionals):
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  13. The participants will be a collection of teachers, other support staff, parents and secondary school students connected to a secondary academy school based in East London. Essentially, the option to participate will be offered to all teachers, support staff, students and parents however, a random sample of approximately 3 teachers including teaching assistance (TA) will be recruited. The student sample will range approximately from3 to 6 students. Only 1parent’swill be recruited to participate in the study.
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  15. 4.       Research (starting date):                            
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  17. Initially, the research will be carried out with permission at the beginning of January 2017, before the start of the second semester of ED6015.
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  19. It will take between 3 to 4 weeks for the completion of interviews, focus groups and information gathering and would be finalised by early March 2017.
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  21. 5.     Aim(s) of the research – summary /abstract
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  23. The aim of this research is to explore teachers’ and parents’ perception of the impact of academy status, affecting school governance and management. Academies have been the core plank of the current British government. This reform is an important incentive of the provision of the education system for individuals in society. The policy was introduced by the Coalition government in 2010, in an attempt to allow schools; primary or secondarywhich are underperforming to become an academy. However, the perceived characterisation of academisation is an interesting concept, which will be investigated in this study. This study will discuss teachers’ view, regarding the perceptions of the decisions based on governance and management on academisation. In addition,it will consider the parentand student’sperceptionson the status of the reputation on academies and how it impacts on student achieves. Essentially, this study will establish from both parents and teachers’ perceptionson whether the governance and management of academy schools is an effectivesystem for current and future students. Lastly, this study will consider my findings based on wider literature, with references to variety of UK and global policies and a few statistical data.
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  25. 6.       Methodology:
  26.           (i.e. quantitative or qualitative research design. If the research is qualitative what approach will be used?)
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  28. For this study, I will be undertaking a qualitative ethnographic approach to collect my data, using teachers and parents. Also I will intend to involve student’s aged between 15 to 16 years in the study. For this study, I will be undertaking a qualitative ethnographic approach to collect my data, using teachers and parents. Also I will intend to involve student’s aged between 15 to 16 years in the study. In order to collect the data, I will be using a few research strategy’s; I will undertake two separate focus groups. Firstly, the focus group will consist of two teachers including TA’s and the second focus group will involve approximately six students, as it will provide several opinions and perspectives about the governance and management of academisation of the school. In addition to a more in-depth investigation, I will conduct two semi-structure interviews. The first interview will involve one teacher and the second interview with one parents’, as it allows to gain detailed and rich information about the participants views and experiences of the impact of academy status of the school.
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  31. 6.1     Methods:
  32.           (Give details about the data collection tools thatwill be used during the course of the research. For example: equipment, a questionnaire, a particular test or tests, an interview schedule, observation schedule, or other stimuli such as visual material)
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  34. In order to carry out the research I will use several data collection tools for an effective investigation. During the course of the research, I will use open-ended questions as a guide for the discussion, in order to encourage a more meaningful answer in regards to the topic.Also I will arrange a convenient location for the focus groups and interviews. The interviews and focus groups will be carried out, but outside of teaching times in order to minimise disturbance, provided I have received permission from the school. All interviews will be recorded on a voice recorder and a mobile phone device to be later transcribed for the data analysis, provided I have received permission from the participants. I will also keep extra equipment such as, notepad, pens and a charger, for the purposes of taking any extra notes down, or the need to charge my electric device.
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  37. 6.2     The sample/participants:
  38.           (Proposed number of participants, method of recruitment, specific characteristics of the sample such as age range, gender and ethnicity – whatever is relevant to your research)
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  40. I will use up to 10 participants, who will all be selected from the same school. Essentially, the student sample will be recruited only on the basis of their age, which will be students aged 15 to 16 years in year 10 or year 11; for the purpose of ethical issues with young children, however no other personal information will be gathered. For the teachers and TA’s, the number of years and experienceof working within the school will be gathered. The parent sample will be recruited on the basis of the child being connected to and attend the school, howeverin regards to all staff and parents there will be no other personal information gathered for the study.
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  42. 6.3      If you are using copyrighted/pre-validated questionnaires, tests or other stimuli that you have not written or made yourself, are these questionnaires and tests suitable for the age group of your participants?                    
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  44. YES
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  47. 6.4      Method of data analysis:
  48.           (How will you analyse your data?, e.g. thematic analysis, grounded theory)
  49. I will analyse my data using the thematic analysis. Also where possible I will be using triangulation and I will try to find a pattern or differences in the data.
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  53. ** Append to the application form copies of any instructional leaflets, letters, questionnaires, consent forms or other documents which will be issued to the participants.
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  55. 7.    Please outline the potential risks and benefits to participant(s) in this research:
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  57. (a)  What is the nature of the risk(s)?
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  59. Staff, students and parents may be reluctant to participate in the research and may not show up to the meeting. Participants may be unwilling to give truthful answers, for fear of victimisation and may not be comfortable to share feelings and thoughts. Staff may answer question in a way that they think it is suitable to respond, rather than an honest opinion. On the other hand, students may be too honest with their opinions to the subject matter and the discussion could potentially derive from the topic. Students may feel a sense of power dynamicand dominance in the meeting. The research maybe a sensitive topic to professionals, parents and students and may bring emotional responses. Also students and parents may not be aware of the governance and management of the academy school.
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  61. (b)  What precautions will be taken to minimise the risks to participant(s)?
  62. I will provide consent forms and inform participants that, if they are uncomfortablethey have the chance to withdraw at any point during the meeting, right until the research has been conducted and has been submitted. All the relevant information will be explained to all participants, in order to ensure thatthey are fully aware of purpose and implications of the meeting. Confidentiality is maintained for all participants, unless there is safeguarding issues that arises, as a result of the research. During the meeting with the students, a teacher will be present for supervision.
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  65. (c) What are the benefits of the research?
  66. This research will investigate the perceived benefits and drawbacks of academy schools. Essentially, this study will be based around voices of staff, parents and students and their experiences of an academy school, which may be beneficial for current and future students, parents, professionals and policy makers.
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  69. 9.       (a)      Will the participants be paid?                                                  YES/NO
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  73.           (b)      If yes, please give the amount:                                       £
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  78.           (c)      If yes, please give full details of the reason for the payment and
  79. how the amount given in 9 (b) above has been calculated
  80.  (i.e. what expenses and time lost is it intended to cover):
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  85. Chapter Two: Literature Review
  86. 2.1 Introduction
  87. This chapter will review literature which is relevant to academy schools and the perceptions of teachers and parents’ on the impact of academy status focusing on how it affects school governance and management. Academy schools’ has been the core of policy of the current British government with reform becoming an important incentive for the provision of the education system for individuals within society. Lepkowska (2010), suggests that the purpose behind state sector education policy in England is to deliver a raised standard of attainment and to present the equality of education to all through fair access to schools, irrespective of the socioeconomic background and geographical location of the pupil. The current policy was introduced in 2010 by the Coalition government to enable underperforming primary and secondary schools to become academies (Bates, 2013). Eyles& Machin (2015), suggest that school reforms have taken place in many countries for instance in Sweden and USA, however the introduction of academy schools in England has been radical and encompassing in terms of reform. Essentially, academies are schools which are independently operated outside of the purview of the Local Education Authorities (LEA) and run by private sectors in contracts with the Secretary of State(Eyles& Machin, 2015). Other models which are similar to academies are free schools, created by recent educational reforms which operate outside of the range of local government. Academies and Free Schools allow school governors to have the freedom to regulate certain aspects of the management of the school (Chitty, 2002). Academisation is the transition of altering and removing the control of LEA’s and to hold the schools accountable to the communities which they serve (Goodwin, 2011). This paper will identify the concept of academisationin England and the changes which have occurred in terms of governance and management within schools who have taken on academy status.
  88. 2.2 History of Academy Schools
  89. The introduction of academy schools is one of the most controversial and radical programmes in advanced countries for the reform of schools and education in England (Hanson, 2015). The academisation of schools are of those schools which already exist and inherited the pupils already enrolled in the school. Due to the nature of the takeover, there is the presentation of more autonomy (Hatcher, 2008). Wilson (2011), identifies that the 1988 Education Reform Act has provided for the formation of a quasi-market in state education allowing increased choice in schools and in providing competition between schools permitting opportunities for developing equal access and higher achievements for the pupil. Machin &Vignoles (2005), identifed that as academies, schools were now able to draw down their funding directly from central government. During this time, a fair funding formula was determined by the LEA in terms of pupil led funding (West & Pennell, 1997; Sibietaet al, 2008), where maintained schools had to take account of the background circumstances and quantity of their pupils. West (2014), also identified that school-based education is undergoing significant changes in diversified countries (England, Sweden and the USA).
  90. The Labour Party (1997), adopted a policy of zero tolerance to the issues presented and the identification that many low attaining secondary schools were located in deprived areas, providing education to those in socially and economically disadvantaged areas (Mason, 2015a). The Fresh Start initiative which was introduced by Labour in 1997, which was according to Matthews &Kinchington (2006), modelled on the American schools ‘reconstruction’ which allowed schools to redevelop with new leadership, new staff and a new curriculum. Academies were established in 2000, into the English education system as part of the Blair government in the Learning and Skills Act (Walford, 2014a). The academy programme was originally called City Academies (Race, 2012a), designed to tackle social injustice through targeting children from inner-city areas. Blunket (2010), identified that they were a radical ideas, introduced to break the underperformance cycle and low expectations, replacing failing schools. Eyles& Machin (2015), stated that there was a requirement for improvement within education. Walford (2014b), suggested that some historians accept that many working-class children were unable to avail of education, West (1994), would disagree citing that there is evidence that charity schools provided a reasonable standard of education for the majority of children.
  91. 2.3 Academisation
  92. While the history of academisation is important, the relevance of the schools have become apparent in terms of the numbers of schools which have established the academy status. According to the Academies Act 2010, there are 2,075 secondary schools equating to 63% and 2,440 primary schools equivalent to 15%, of schools in England have taken up academy status. Mansell (2016), cites that the Coalition government paved the way for rapid changes to how schools would be governed through the Academies Act 2010. A manifesto commitment (Gove, 2010), was given to improve the education system in England, granting schools more autonomy, giving teachers greater freedom and to present dynamism into education to raise all standards for all children. Education reform was required, particularly in the governance and management of the schools. Eyleset al (2016c), identifed that England’s educational landscape has changed radically since 2010 with the widespread introduction of the academy school. Gilbert et al (2013), stated that there was a clear mission and the model for academies with the old and failing school closed and a new school was opened in its place. Eyleset al (2016a), suggested that the English educational landscape began to change in 2010 with the new government offering primary schools as well as secondary schools the chance to take full control of their school. However, this offer to primary schools was extremely controversial due to the lack of improvement in pupil performance. Gunter (2010), identifies the key factors associated with academies – autonomy, governance, sponsorship, finance and buildings, admissions, staffing, accountability, and the curriculum. These are crucial to the operations of the academy school thus, there is a necessity that all such schools produce the results required in greater attainment levels for pupils. Stewart (2012), argued that majority of the schools which had been previously under-performing, particularly those in disadvantaged areas have done just as well as those schools which have become academies. Educational reform was an obligation as the do-nothing approach was not an option. Collaboration and hard federation were two options which the government were faced with. The two main types of academies are the converter (independent) academy and the multi-academy chain (Rikowski, 2003). The independent academy sought to converter to academy status as a single school whilethe multi-academy chain is multiple schools converting to academies under one trust (Shimmon, 2016). It has also been identified in studies by Cirin (2014) and Bassett et al (2012), that many of the converter schools were more interested in the financial support when considering the move to academy status. Eyleset al (2016a), stated that there was an assumption that academisation delivered benefits to the school and the students. Eyles& Machin (2015, p.29), argued that, ‘mass academisation seems to be the order of the day in English education’.
  93. 2.4 Changes in Leadership
  94. Changes in leadership were found by Wrigley (2009), as being an important mechanism which brought about the positive effects in the conversion of the early secondary school academies. Leadership within the academies is autonomous, allowing for greater transparency and governance. Stapleton (2007), stated that self-management was part of the Act to allow more autonomy in schools. Chapman (2013), suggested that in the context of English academy schools there is total autonomy due to the ability to operate in areas such as, hiring and pay of teachers, admissions to the school (subject to the national rules), the curriculum (subject to the conditions), and decisions on the length of the school day and term. The importance of changes in school leadership is identified by Gibson and Bisschoff (2014), which have been reported in connection with improved school outcomes. Leadership had been altered, giving the schools the autonomy to manage their own affairs. This has also had repercussions for investment opportunities and the need to establish connections with local businesses. It was an important part of the establishment of the academy schools that a new leadership could be put in place and develop the school accordingly so that the development of the pupil was at the forefront in the ability for higher achievement and performance (Roberts, 2017). The necessity of leadership produces a role for transparency and autonomy in the basis of performance and achievement,as this was the intention for establishing academy schools, and it is appropriate that reforms takes place in order for schools to sustain its performance records (Gurley et al, 2015). Thompson (2014), argued that there is greater responsibility placed on the school as LEA’s can no longer be relied on for finance and accountancy matters as well as the identification that the principal is responsible to the governing body for upholding adequate accounting standards. It is also necessary that there is a range of expertise among the senior teaching staff to uphold autonomy and transparency (Ritchie et al, 2007).
  95. 2.5 Changes in Governance
  96. Governance as a theoretical concept identifies the establishment of polices as well as the continuous monitoring of the appropriate implementation of processes to allow stable practice.School governance (Wilkins, 2016), is particularly important in terms of academy schools, due to the landscape for educational reform under the coalition government. Hatcher (2011), identified the necessity of innovation for governance in academies. The necessity was that education needed to be reformed, particularly through the school governance which has an important function within schools. Higham (2014), argued that governance must be able to present autonomy and transparency within the school setting in terms of performance and achievement. Wilkins (2016), identified that the changes on the academic landscape were to meet the vision of a self-sustaining, self-managing education system where governors and senior leaders within the school could take responsibility for the financial and educational performance of the schools. Dean et al (2007), suggest that many countries provide governance in their school systems through the election of school boards who are responsible for schools within their jurisdiction. West (2015), makes the point that reform in the English school system provides less government involvement with more responsibility within the school. However, it should be noted that there is no guarantee that these reforms will improve performance or democratic accountability but rather they could undermine the notion of accountability due to the interests of those funders and regulatory bodies which may be involved (Wilkins, 2015).
  97. 2.6 Changes in Teaching and Learning
  98. Changes in teaching and learning have also taken place through the conversion to academisation and this is representative of the attainment performance. It is important that turnover of staff is considered but that there is no evidence to suggest that the conversion to academy status has made any changes in to this area (Adams, 2016). The introduction of the academies in England was part of a bigger strategy which would improve choice and diversity in education (Ball, 2008). Innovation was at the forefront of the approaches particularly in terms of governance and teaching (Leo et al,2010). The purpose of academy schools was to be inclusive in a mixed ability school with a national framework based on productivity and performance which are accountable to governmental bodies. A greater emphasis is placed on the moral and professional accountabilities of staff (Moorhead, 2016). There is a need for an improvement continuum which is significant to the teaching and learning environment. It is important that the academy ethos is set as a teaching and learning environment. The systems at the egregious end exercise tight control while good systems only provide what Mourshedet al (2010), identified as loose, central guidelines for teaching and the learning processes. Andrews (2016), suggests that it is necessary to encourage peer-led innovation and creativity within the schools, which should be a core driver for performance within the schools. It is also important that the moral and professional accountabilities of teachers are inline to the pupils they teach (Gilbert, 2012). While the curriculum is set, it is important that academies can remain autonomous so that teachers are able to place the student’s attainment central to the teaching and learning environment. Hanuskek&Woessmann (2011), stated that this has had positive effects on the student outcomes, and the areas which are now under school control are progressive decisions. McNally (2015), identified the positive student outcomes from the first secondary academies. Neale and Satara (2014), argued that positive results may not carry through to those schools who are performing better but that the better performing schools are doing well within the existing structures.
  99. 2.7 Impact of Students Attainment
  100. The student be at the centre of the mission and values of the academy and as has already been stated, the main incentive of academy schools was to transform failing, underperforming schools, to achieving schools designed to tackle social injustice (Walford, 2014a; Blunket, 2010; Wilson, 2011). As there was a recognition for the need of the improvement of standards for those children who could be classed as those from deprived areas and not being provided with the same opportunities as other children in more affluent areas. This has been discounted by West (1994), who identifies that most children were given a reasonable standard of education. While there are links to social and economically disadvantaged to poor educational attainment performance, the establishment of academy schools were introduced with a policy of zero tolerance identifying that education should be available to all. Mansell (2016) has suggested that some schools had incentives in the removal of students who were perceived to have less chance of achieving the higher grades, thus this is one of the advantages of accountability in addressing the potential side effects of this. Mansell (2016), identified that there were reports produced from the Sutton Trust, which cited that there was a significant variation in the outcomes for pupils who were deemed to be disadvantaged, while others were able to achieve outstanding outcomes from disadvantaged pupils. Weale (2015), argued that there are low performing groups who are still achieving results, however are not improving. According to Hutchings et al (2015, p. 4), identified that, ‘a majority of the chains still underperform the mainstream average in attainment for their disadvantaged pupils.’ Alliance (2014), argued that no evidence has been produced on the attainment levels with primary level academies. Cirin (2014), identified that two thirds of academies believe that changes which were made have had a positive effect on improved attainment.
  101. 2.8 Conclusion
  102. In concluding this section, it is appropriate to understand the role of the academy school which was set to tackle issues of social injustice and to provide a zero tolerance and the need to improve educational performance as envisaged by the Labour party and the Coalition government. According to Coughlan (2016), studies suggest that the academy model is working and that there has been a positive effect on improved attainment. Wilson (2011), identified that delivering inclusion is also essential in academies particularly for pupils in disadvantaged areas. Asthana and Stewart (2016), cited that almost two thirds of secondary schools and a fifth of primary schools are now part of the academy system. It is evidenced (Eyles& Machin, 2015; Eyles et al, 2016b, 2016c), that academy schools have been about since 2002 and their remit has been radically altered since 2010. Gilbert et al (2013), highlight that literature and evidence indicate that, that improvement for the whole-system cannot be placed on academisation.From the literature it could be suggested that the ethos of academies are constantly changing and reforming which has been a major challenge in the education system in Britain and in society as a whole.
  103. A case study investigation of teachers and parents’ perceptions of the impact of academy status on decisions affecting school governance and management
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  106. Chapter Three: Methodology
  107. This chapter provides a detailed description of the research methods adopted in this study along with the, data collection techniques, and analytical approaches. In addition, it discusses the validity and reliability of the data.
  108. The term “research methodology”refers to a whole range of applied strategies, including developing an image of an empirical world, asking questions about that world, and turning theseinto researchable issues. It also entailsmaking choices about methods and data, the use of theories, and the interpretation of findings (Lindlof and Taylor, 2011). Therefore, methods are only one small part of the methodological endeavour. Across the social sciences and humanities, differences exist regarding the development and recognition of particular methods (Monette et al., 2005).Since the 1930s, quantitative methods have historically assumed a dominant position.Nonetheless,the 1960s saw a shift emerge,with qualitative research methods recently gaining ground (Alasuutari et al., 2008).According toNewman and Benz (1998),quantitative researchbegins with a theory and tests for confirmation of the hypothesis. In other words, the method relies on measuring variables in the social world. Blaikie (2007) argued that quantitative research fails to discover deeper underlying meanings and explanations of, social phenomena.This study did not employ quantitative data,due tothe empirical nature of the method (Bryman, 2016). Therefore, this study was qualitative in nature.
  109. This studyutilizedqualitative methods in natural settings framed withinan interpretive research paradigm in order to investigate teachers’ and parent perceptions of the changes related to the “academisation” of the school.In particular, it examined changes relating to school governance, management, curriculum, and teachers.Qualitative researchis based upon the exploration of lived experiences, behaviours, and emotionsand it also investigates cultural phenomena and social movements (Rahman, 2016). There are benefits of using qualitative research methods.For instance according toDenzin and Lincoln (2002),qualitative research encompasses a wide range of epistemological viewpoints and interpretive techniques of understanding human experiences. Adopting a qualitative research strategywas beneficial to this study.Specifically, the methodology’s interpretive nature permitted a comprehensive representation of both secondary school teachers and parents’ experiences and perceptions of how school governance and management issues are effect by the structure of academy school.
  110. This study adoptedan interpretivist paradigm to frame and structure theresearch. Interpretivists are interested in human beings and human interactions (Klenke, 2016). More specifically, the interpretivist paradigm seeks to understand individuals’ thought processes, their perceptions, and the way in which theyconstruct the symbolic world (Bartlett and Burton, 2009).From a critical epistemological perspective, philosopher John Dewey (2006) argued that experience is the only way of understanding nature and this understanding of nature is what extends and enriches ones’ experience (Wilson, 2006, p. 406). That line of reasoning led me to gather a diverse range of views and meanings from teachers and parents with lived experiences of the school governance and management changes brought about by academisation. The interpretivist paradigm is useful for showing the legitimacy of particular meanings and practices of the social world and thus involve the reflection of social reality and experiences of individuals (Phothongsunan, 2010). Interpretivists view each individual experience as distinctive, due to the specific context in which it occurs (Antwi and Hamza, 2015). The notion, for example, that reality is subjective: it resides in people and is constructed by people who experience it(Creswell, 2017).I therefore endeavoured to understand the subjective world of teachers and parents’ experiences and views of the impact of academisation onschool governance and management. By using an interpretivist approach it was possible to attain a holistic understanding of the topic under study(Ritchie et al., 2003).
  111. The research design adopted in this study was that of a small case study examining teachers and parents. A case study involves a detailed and intensive analysis of the relationship between a phenomenon or problem and a specific group of interest (Hancock and Algozzine, 2011). Since I was interested in the perceptions and meaning that teachers and parents assignedto their experiences regarding the impact of academy status onschool governance and management, it was appropriate to use a case study in order to immerse myself in the phenomenon. There are limitations of case study designs; smaller sample sizes raise the issue of generalisability to the larger population (Thomson, 2011). However, despite theshortcomings,generalizability was not an issuein this study. AsRohlfing (2012, p. 18) stated,if one considers the number of attention as the phenomenon under investigation, rather than the number of participants, then the sample is much larger and valid than it first appears.The purpose of a case study is notin fact, to generalise the findings to other cases or larger populations.Rather, the emphasis is on the cases and their distinctive contexts,with the aim of creating a framework for discussing the issue in question (Gagnon, 2010). This design thereforepermitted me to compare the findings from different cases,and it also highlighted both commonalitiesacross cases and the unique aspects of each case.
  112. The participants were recruited at a secondary academy school located in East London in the borough of Newham. The study examined four participants: three teachers and one parent.An information letter and leaflet was distributed to local contacts, inviting them toparticipate.I was introduced to three teachers and one parent, all of whom expressed an interest in sharing their views.The parent’s had children attending the secondary school.
  113. To get a sense of the kind of people with whom I wanted to speak, with the potential participants of the study,a non-probability purposive sampling techniquewas employed. Purposive sampling is the deliberate choice of a participant due to the qualities he or she possesses (Maykut and Morehouse, 2006). For instance, these may include factors such age or socio-demographic characteristics. Such qualities can also be connected to specific experiences and behaviours (Bryman, 2016). In this instance, they were teachers and parents connected to the same secondary academy school.The participants’ perspectives formed the very core of this research project.Thus,purposive sampling was adopted as opposed to a probability random sampling, which would not have yielded an adequately representative sample (Thompson, 2012).
  114. Data was gathered through semi-structured interviews with all participants (both the teachers and the parent). A semi-structured interview is a verbal interchange where the facilitator attempts to elicit information from the participants by asking questions(Saunders et al., 2003).The alternative use of structured interviews was dismissed, as a structured approach to interviews was not flexible enoughto permit and askeach individual specific probing questions. Structured interviews require that all participants be asked the same questions in the same order (Alsaawi, 2014). Therefore, semi-structured interviews better complimentedthe scope my topic.
  115. In contrast,focus groups, which were not employed,collect participants’ views during a group interview (Krueger and Casey, 2015). The one-to-one interviews enabled the participants to express their personal experiences, beliefs, and opinions to me (Knox and Burkard, 2008). The use of focus groups was thus rejected; a group of teachers may feel apprehensive to express their honest views, particularly if ones’ thoughts or perceptions oppose the view of another participant (Litosseliti, 2007). Consequently, focus groups are inherently biased and appears less valid (Alshenqeeti, 2014).
  116. There are several advantages of adopting a semi-structured interview. First, I was able to ask questions and follow-up questions as necessary(Cohen and Crabtree, 2006). The use of this method allowed me to collect a range ofviews from teachers and parents and it generated a richer understanding of the nuanced issues relatedto academy schools, school governanceand management, therebystrengthening the credibility of the results. Secondly, semi-structured interviewsallow for the generation of trust and permit respondents to provide honest responses(Clifford et al., 2016). The third advantage is that all participants answered the same questions; this heightened the responses’ comparability and hence, their reliability (Adams and Cox-Anna, 2008).
  117. Beyond the advantages of semi-structured interviews, there are also drawbacks. Getting beyond the expected answers and accumulatein-depth information could in itself be a weakness. The researcher being viewed as an authoritativefigure couldalso be a disadvantage (Gubrium, et al., 2012). However, this was anticipated; I was wary of how my attempts to appear ‘professional’ might impact the speaker’s choice of positioning amongst the identity positions available to them.To avoid the view of the researcher as an authoritative figure, the interviews took a less formal and more conversational tone. I employed a less demanding and more neutralapproach to the interviewsto reduce the likelihood of power dynamics (pertaining to factors such as language, attire, and age) influencing participants. I settled on a style of interviewing that was casual; I wore casual attire and adopted ordinary speech.At the same time, however, I used appropriate language and remained respectful and attentive towards the research participants. I expected that interviewees would struggleto stay focused on the topic. While this was indeed the case,it did not constitute amajor weakness. Interviews are time-consuming and lack objectivity,and thus they alsoentail the risk of bias (Bowen, 2009).In order to avoid researcher bias, I found it usefulto examine in-depth perceptions ofthe interviews to avoid reliance on assumptions.
  118. The semi-structured interviews with all three teachers were conducted in the natural setting of the school in order to enhance the sense of realism. The interview with parentswas conducted in a location chosen by them:  a local public library. During each interview, an interview schedule with explorative and descriptive questions guided the discussions, as indicated in Appendix 8. Each interview was audio-recorded.However, tape-recording the interviews presented a decontextualisaed version, because it did not include the visual aspects of the situations and the social atmosphere that prevailed(Wiles et al., 2005).I maintained field notesto record things such as nuances, body language, gestures, and my own reflections, which yielded relevant information to my study. I was able to draw inferences that could not be obtained by relying exclusively on tape-recorded individual.The interviews were transcribed verbatim, with a copy being sent to the participants to ensure the validity of what had been written.This may help mitigate the Hawthorne effect, since they are able to reflect on what is being said and modify it should they desire. The Hawthorne effect may occur(Wickstrom and Bendix, 2000)when a person’s behaviour adjusts due tosomeone taking an interest in them. During both the data collection and data analysis process,I remained objective. Moreover, this study relied on a thematic approach to data analysis. As Braun and Clarke (2006)have explained, this meant that reoccurring and overriding themes within the dataset were and grouped and identified. A content analysis was carried out on the open-ended responses from the transcripts as well as the analysis from the field notes of the four interviews. This approach allowed common themes to be identified and consistencies/inconsistencies to be explored (Punch, 2009). I then constructed the meaning of the information.
  119. Validity is concerned with two main issues: whether the strategies used for measurement are accurate and whether the findings are an accurate representation of the phenomena they are intended to represent (Grey, 2014). Creswell (2017) suggested that reflecting upon oneself as a researcher couldensure the validity of theresults. Nonetheless, researcher bias could have impacted the research and findings thus I took steps to prevent that from occurring.I created an interview schedule to minimise the chance of leading questions orinterview bias(Brink, 1995).Furthermore, the use of respondent validation confirmed that the participants’ responses were represented correctly (Scott and Morrison, 2005). This decreased any potential researcher bias and ensured that the results were based onrelationships that were evident in the transcriptions. Creswell (2014) argued that this approach strengthensresearchcredibility.
  120. Reliability is concerned with the investigator’s ability to generatestableand repeatable responses and results of another researcher under the same study (Read et al., 2013). However, forqualitative data, reliability is not always possible to achieve, as suchresearch is frequently based on a small population (Baumgarten, 2010).Significantly, interpretivist research is linked to the historical, social, and political context in which it is situated (Ritche and Lewis, 2003).This underlines a possible weakness of the interpretivist paradigm; the data collected is relative to the participants and their current settings.Consequently, it is therefore open to interpretation. Likewise, the generalisability of this research and thefindings and conclusions was limited, due to its small sample size and the setting (Morse, 1997).Nevertheless, according to Cohen et al.,(2011),construct validity ensured the study answered what it set out to explore. The study investigated academisation’seffect onschool governance and management. A literature review and semi-structured interviews encouraged contrasting inquiry.Final conclusions were constructed after integrating the findings from these two approaches. This strengthenedthe validity of this research project.
  121. The research project is without its limitations, such asits small scaleand the limited generalisability of the findings. A much larger project incorporating a wide range of schools across different regions would have offered more generalizable data. A second limitation of this study was the failure to interview secondary school students. Time constraints prohibited the pursuance of this avenue, but a third interview perspective would have enriched the data.
  122.  
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  126. Chapter Four: Ethics
  127. This chapter discusses the ethical considerations that pertained tothis study. Ethics is the field of science studying criteria, norms, and values of human action and conduct, and is an integral partof this research project(Resnik, 2015).More critically, ethics is vital for improving the quality of research. To ensure the right measures were taken with the participants during the process of the research project, it is critical to understand the protocols of ethical considerations. Researchers have an obligatory duty to ensure that one avoids causing harm to participants orcausing harm and risk to participants(Burton and Steane, 2004).Therefore, this research prioritized safeguarding human dignity,promotingequality, and strengthening trust.
  128. Ethical clearance for this research project wasgranted by theresearch ethics committee at the University of East London. The university’s guidelines comply with the ethical policiesthat the British Educational Association (BERA, 2017) has established regarding ethics ineducational research. These guidelineswere closely followed to ensure that the participants were respected and that their safety and privacy was guaranteed. These ethical considerations provided a safeguardduring this studyand they ensured that ___ had examined and evaluated the potential risks(Miller et al., 2012).Ethical considerations provide safeguards in research; in this case making sure that risks of the research had been examined and evaluated.Before conducting the research, the potential benefits and risks were compared. Before conducting the research, the potential benefits of the data collection were weighed against the risks.
  129. Prior to data collection, I obtained informed consent from the participants to ensure that this research was carried out in an ethical manner. I ensured that participation was voluntary by sending the school informationletters and leaflets outlining the research aims and therequirements for prospective participants. Those materials also provided information on confidentiality, anonymity, and participants’right to withdraw. Participants responded by signing the form,as reflected in Appendix 4.
  130. Under all circumstances, the participants’ confidentiality and anonymity was guaranteed. The participants were assured that the information that they provided would be treated as strictlyconfidential. I safeguarded all of the research documents, such as transcriptions, audiotapes, and field notes. I made sure that all of the collected data remained privateand I was the only person to access and use it. Specifically, the data was stored on a password-protected USB stick and it was solely used for the purposes of this research project.In addition, the data will be destroyed upon the completion of this project. Furthermore, I ensured participants’anonymity by using pseudonymsinstead of the participants’ real names during both transcription and the final write up of thisthesis. Hence, the participants’ real names were not linked to the data in an obvious manner. Finally, the intervieweeswere informed that their participation was voluntary and that if they wished to withdraw at any point,then all of the information that they hadprovided would be destroyed, as reflected in Appendix 4.
  131. The risks to participants within this project were minimal. Despite the sensitive nature of the subject area, by focusing on teachersand parents’ perspectives, the participantswere not considered to be vulnerable in the research study (Orb et al., 2001).Ultimately, this research project will benefit a large number of policy makers, institutions, teachers, parents, and students, as the participants provided information about the effect of “academisation”on decisions affecting school governance and management.
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A case study Investigation of teachers’ and parents’ perceptions of the impact of academy status on decisions affecting school governance and management?
 
2.      
 
 
 
3.       Number of participants (approximately):For this particular study, I will use approximately 10 people.
 
Nature of participants (profile/characteristics, e.g. children, primary school children, professionals):
 
The participants will be a collection of teachers, other support staff, parents and secondary school students connected to a secondary academy school based in East London. Essentially, the option to participate will be offered to all teachers, support staff, students and parents however, a random sample of approximately 3 teachers including teaching assistance (TA) will be recruited. The student sample will range approximately from3 to 6 students. Only 1parent’swill be recruited to participate in the study.
 
4.       Research (starting date):                            
 
Initially, the research will be carried out with permission at the beginning of January 2017, before the start of the second semester of ED6015.
to (finishing date):
It will take between 3 to 4 weeks for the completion of interviews, focus groups and information gathering and would be finalised by early March 2017.
 
5.     Aim(s) of the research – summary /abstract
 
The aim of this research is to explore teachers’ and parents’ perception of the impact of academy status, affecting school governance and management. Academies have been the core plank of the current British government. This reform is an important incentive of the provision of the education system for individuals in society. The policy was introduced by the Coalition government in 2010, in an attempt to allow schools; primary or secondarywhich are underperforming to become an academy. However, the perceived characterisation of academisation is an interesting concept, which will be investigated in this study. This study will discuss teachers’ view, regarding the perceptions of the decisions based on governance and management on academisation. In addition,it will consider the parentand student’sperceptionson the status of the reputation on academies and how it impacts on student achieves. Essentially, this study will establish from both parents and teachers’ perceptionson whether the governance and management of academy schools is an effectivesystem for current and future students. Lastly, this study will consider my findings based on wider literature, with references to variety of UK and global policies and a few statistical data.
 
6.       Methodology:
          (i.e. quantitative or qualitative research design. If the research is qualitative what approach will be used?)
 
For this study, I will be undertaking a qualitative ethnographic approach to collect my data, using teachers and parents. Also I will intend to involve student’s aged between 15 to 16 years in the study. For this study, I will be undertaking a qualitative ethnographic approach to collect my data, using teachers and parents. Also I will intend to involve student’s aged between 15 to 16 years in the study. In order to collect the data, I will be using a few research strategy’s; I will undertake two separate focus groups. Firstly, the focus group will consist of two teachers including TA’s and the second focus group will involve approximately six students, as it will provide several opinions and perspectives about the governance and management of academisation of the school. In addition to a more in-depth investigation, I will conduct two semi-structure interviews. The first interview will involve one teacher and the second interview with one parents’, as it allows to gain detailed and rich information about the participants views and experiences of the impact of academy status of the school.
 
 
6.1     Methods:
          (Give details about the data collection tools thatwill be used during the course of the research. For example: equipment, a questionnaire, a particular test or tests, an interview schedule, observation schedule, or other stimuli such as visual material)
 
In order to carry out the research I will use several data collection tools for an effective investigation. During the course of the research, I will use open-ended questions as a guide for the discussion, in order to encourage a more meaningful answer in regards to the topic.Also I will arrange a convenient location for the focus groups and interviews. The interviews and focus groups will be carried out, but outside of teaching times in order to minimise disturbance, provided I have received permission from the school. All interviews will be recorded on a voice recorder and a mobile phone device to be later transcribed for the data analysis, provided I have received permission from the participants. I will also keep extra equipment such as, notepad, pens and a charger, for the purposes of taking any extra notes down, or the need to charge my electric device.
 
 
6.2     The sample/participants:
          (Proposed number of participants, method of recruitment, specific characteristics of the sample such as age range, gender and ethnicity – whatever is relevant to your research)
 
I will use up to 10 participants, who will all be selected from the same school. Essentially, the student sample will be recruited only on the basis of their age, which will be students aged 15 to 16 years in year 10 or year 11; for the purpose of ethical issues with young children, however no other personal information will be gathered. For the teachers and TA’s, the number of years and experienceof working within the school will be gathered. The parent sample will be recruited on the basis of the child being connected to and attend the school, howeverin regards to all staff and parents there will be no other personal information gathered for the study.
 
6.3      If you are using copyrighted/pre-validated questionnaires, tests or other stimuli that you have not written or made yourself, are these questionnaires and tests suitable for the age group of your participants?                    
 
YES
 
 
6.4      Method of data analysis:
          (How will you analyse your data?, e.g. thematic analysis, grounded theory)
I will analyse my data using the thematic analysis. Also where possible I will be using triangulation and I will try to find a pattern or differences in the data.
 
 
 
** Append to the application form copies of any instructional leaflets, letters, questionnaires, consent forms or other documents which will be issued to the participants.
 
7.    Please outline the potential risks and benefits to participant(s) in this research:
 
(a)  What is the nature of the risk(s)?
 
Staff, students and parents may be reluctant to participate in the research and may not show up to the meeting. Participants may be unwilling to give truthful answers, for fear of victimisation and may not be comfortable to share feelings and thoughts. Staff may answer question in a way that they think it is suitable to respond, rather than an honest opinion. On the other hand, students may be too honest with their opinions to the subject matter and the discussion could potentially derive from the topic. Students may feel a sense of power dynamicand dominance in the meeting. The research maybe a sensitive topic to professionals, parents and students and may bring emotional responses. Also students and parents may not be aware of the governance and management of the academy school.
 
(b)  What precautions will be taken to minimise the risks to participant(s)?
I will provide consent forms and inform participants that, if they are uncomfortablethey have the chance to withdraw at any point during the meeting, right until the research has been conducted and has been submitted. All the relevant information will be explained to all participants, in order to ensure thatthey are fully aware of purpose and implications of the meeting. Confidentiality is maintained for all participants, unless there is safeguarding issues that arises, as a result of the research. During the meeting with the students, a teacher will be present for supervision.
 
 
(c) What are the benefits of the research?
This research will investigate the perceived benefits and drawbacks of academy schools. Essentially, this study will be based around voices of staff, parents and students and their experiences of an academy school, which may be beneficial for current and future students, parents, professionals and policy makers.
 
 
9.       (a)      Will the participants be paid?                                                  YES/NO
 
 
 
          (b)      If yes, please give the amount:                                       £
 
 
 
         
          (c)      If yes, please give full details of the reason for the payment and
how the amount given in 9 (b) above has been calculated
 (i.e. what expenses and time lost is it intended to cover):
 
 
 
 
Chapter Two: Literature Review
2.1 Introduction
This chapter will review literature which is relevant to academy schools and the perceptions of teachers and parents’ on the impact of academy status focusing on how it affects school governance and management. Academy schools’ has been the core of policy of the current British government with reform becoming an important incentive for the provision of the education system for individuals within society. Lepkowska (2010), suggests that the purpose behind state sector education policy in England is to deliver a raised standard of attainment and to present the equality of education to all through fair access to schools, irrespective of the socioeconomic background and geographical location of the pupil. The current policy was introduced in 2010 by the Coalition government to enable underperforming primary and secondary schools to become academies (Bates, 2013). Eyles& Machin (2015), suggest that school reforms have taken place in many countries for instance in Sweden and USA, however the introduction of academy schools in England has been radical and encompassing in terms of reform. Essentially, academies are schools which are independently operated outside of the purview of the Local Education Authorities (LEA) and run by private sectors in contracts with the Secretary of State(Eyles& Machin, 2015). Other models which are similar to academies are free schools, created by recent educational reforms which operate outside of the range of local government. Academies and Free Schools allow school governors to have the freedom to regulate certain aspects of the management of the school (Chitty, 2002). Academisation is the transition of altering and removing the control of LEA’s and to hold the schools accountable to the communities which they serve (Goodwin, 2011). This paper will identify the concept of academisationin England and the changes which have occurred in terms of governance and management within schools who have taken on academy status.
2.2 History of Academy Schools
The introduction of academy schools is one of the most controversial and radical programmes in advanced countries for the reform of schools and education in England (Hanson, 2015). The academisation of schools are of those schools which already exist and inherited the pupils already enrolled in the school. Due to the nature of the takeover, there is the presentation of more autonomy (Hatcher, 2008). Wilson (2011), identifies that the 1988 Education Reform Act has provided for the formation of a quasi-market in state education allowing increased choice in schools and in providing competition between schools permitting opportunities for developing equal access and higher achievements for the pupil. Machin &Vignoles (2005), identifed that as academies, schools were now able to draw down their funding directly from central government. During this time, a fair funding formula was determined by the LEA in terms of pupil led funding (West & Pennell, 1997; Sibietaet al, 2008), where maintained schools had to take account of the background circumstances and quantity of their pupils. West (2014), also identified that school-based education is undergoing significant changes in diversified countries (England, Sweden and the USA).
The Labour Party (1997), adopted a policy of zero tolerance to the issues presented and the identification that many low attaining secondary schools were located in deprived areas, providing education to those in socially and economically disadvantaged areas (Mason, 2015a). The Fresh Start initiative which was introduced by Labour in 1997, which was according to Matthews &Kinchington (2006), modelled on the American schools ‘reconstruction’ which allowed schools to redevelop with new leadership, new staff and a new curriculum. Academies were established in 2000, into the English education system as part of the Blair government in the Learning and Skills Act (Walford, 2014a). The academy programme was originally called City Academies (Race, 2012a), designed to tackle social injustice through targeting children from inner-city areas. Blunket (2010), identified that they were a radical ideas, introduced to break the underperformance cycle and low expectations, replacing failing schools. Eyles& Machin (2015), stated that there was a requirement for improvement within education. Walford (2014b), suggested that some historians accept that many working-class children were unable to avail of education, West (1994), would disagree citing that there is evidence that charity schools provided a reasonable standard of education for the majority of children.
2.3 Academisation
While the history of academisation is important, the relevance of the schools have become apparent in terms of the numbers of schools which have established the academy status. According to the Academies Act 2010, there are 2,075 secondary schools equating to 63% and 2,440 primary schools equivalent to 15%, of schools in England have taken up academy status. Mansell (2016), cites that the Coalition government paved the way for rapid changes to how schools would be governed through the Academies Act 2010. A manifesto commitment (Gove, 2010), was given to improve the education system in England, granting schools more autonomy, giving teachers greater freedom and to present dynamism into education to raise all standards for all children. Education reform was required, particularly in the governance and management of the schools. Eyleset al (2016c), identifed that England’s educational landscape has changed radically since 2010 with the widespread introduction of the academy school. Gilbert et al (2013), stated that there was a clear mission and the model for academies with the old and failing school closed and a new school was opened in its place. Eyleset al (2016a), suggested that the English educational landscape began to change in 2010 with the new government offering primary schools as well as secondary schools the chance to take full control of their school. However, this offer to primary schools was extremely controversial due to the lack of improvement in pupil performance. Gunter (2010), identifies the key factors associated with academies – autonomy, governance, sponsorship, finance and buildings, admissions, staffing, accountability, and the curriculum. These are crucial to the operations of the academy school thus, there is a necessity that all such schools produce the results required in greater attainment levels for pupils. Stewart (2012), argued that majority of the schools which had been previously under-performing, particularly those in disadvantaged areas have done just as well as those schools which have become academies. Educational reform was an obligation as the do-nothing approach was not an option. Collaboration and hard federation were two options which the government were faced with. The two main types of academies are the converter (independent) academy and the multi-academy chain (Rikowski, 2003). The independent academy sought to converter to academy status as a single school whilethe multi-academy chain is multiple schools converting to academies under one trust (Shimmon, 2016). It has also been identified in studies by Cirin (2014) and Bassett et al (2012), that many of the converter schools were more interested in the financial support when considering the move to academy status. Eyleset al (2016a), stated that there was an assumption that academisation delivered benefits to the school and the students. Eyles& Machin (2015, p.29), argued that, ‘mass academisation seems to be the order of the day in English education’.
2.4 Changes in Leadership
Changes in leadership were found by Wrigley (2009), as being an important mechanism which brought about the positive effects in the conversion of the early secondary school academies. Leadership within the academies is autonomous, allowing for greater transparency and governance. Stapleton (2007), stated that self-management was part of the Act to allow more autonomy in schools. Chapman (2013), suggested that in the context of English academy schools there is total autonomy due to the ability to operate in areas such as, hiring and pay of teachers, admissions to the school (subject to the national rules), the curriculum (subject to the conditions), and decisions on the length of the school day and term. The importance of changes in school leadership is identified by Gibson and Bisschoff (2014), which have been reported in connection with improved school outcomes. Leadership had been altered, giving the schools the autonomy to manage their own affairs. This has also had repercussions for investment opportunities and the need to establish connections with local businesses. It was an important part of the establishment of the academy schools that a new leadership could be put in place and develop the school accordingly so that the development of the pupil was at the forefront in the ability for higher achievement and performance (Roberts, 2017). The necessity of leadership produces a role for transparency and autonomy in the basis of performance and achievement,as this was the intention for establishing academy schools, and it is appropriate that reforms takes place in order for schools to sustain its performance records (Gurley et al, 2015). Thompson (2014), argued that there is greater responsibility placed on the school as LEA’s can no longer be relied on for finance and accountancy matters as well as the identification that the principal is responsible to the governing body for upholding adequate accounting standards. It is also necessary that there is a range of expertise among the senior teaching staff to uphold autonomy and transparency (Ritchie et al, 2007).
2.5 Changes in Governance
Governance as a theoretical concept identifies the establishment of polices as well as the continuous monitoring of the appropriate implementation of processes to allow stable practice.School governance (Wilkins, 2016), is particularly important in terms of academy schools, due to the landscape for educational reform under the coalition government. Hatcher (2011), identified the necessity of innovation for governance in academies. The necessity was that education needed to be reformed, particularly through the school governance which has an important function within schools. Higham (2014), argued that governance must be able to present autonomy and transparency within the school setting in terms of performance and achievement. Wilkins (2016), identified that the changes on the academic landscape were to meet the vision of a self-sustaining, self-managing education system where governors and senior leaders within the school could take responsibility for the financial and educational performance of the schools. Dean et al (2007), suggest that many countries provide governance in their school systems through the election of school boards who are responsible for schools within their jurisdiction. West (2015), makes the point that reform in the English school system provides less government involvement with more responsibility within the school. However, it should be noted that there is no guarantee that these reforms will improve performance or democratic accountability but rather they could undermine the notion of accountability due to the interests of those funders and regulatory bodies which may be involved (Wilkins, 2015).
2.6 Changes in Teaching and Learning
Changes in teaching and learning have also taken place through the conversion to academisation and this is representative of the attainment performance. It is important that turnover of staff is considered but that there is no evidence to suggest that the conversion to academy status has made any changes in to this area (Adams, 2016). The introduction of the academies in England was part of a bigger strategy which would improve choice and diversity in education (Ball, 2008). Innovation was at the forefront of the approaches particularly in terms of governance and teaching (Leo et al,2010). The purpose of academy schools was to be inclusive in a mixed ability school with a national framework based on productivity and performance which are accountable to governmental bodies. A greater emphasis is placed on the moral and professional accountabilities of staff (Moorhead, 2016). There is a need for an improvement continuum which is significant to the teaching and learning environment. It is important that the academy ethos is set as a teaching and learning environment. The systems at the egregious end exercise tight control while good systems only provide what Mourshedet al (2010), identified as loose, central guidelines for teaching and the learning processes. Andrews (2016), suggests that it is necessary to encourage peer-led innovation and creativity within the schools, which should be a core driver for performance within the schools. It is also important that the moral and professional accountabilities of teachers are inline to the pupils they teach (Gilbert, 2012). While the curriculum is set, it is important that academies can remain autonomous so that teachers are able to place the student’s attainment central to the teaching and learning environment. Hanuskek&Woessmann (2011), stated that this has had positive effects on the student outcomes, and the areas which are now under school control are progressive decisions. McNally (2015), identified the positive student outcomes from the first secondary academies. Neale and Satara (2014), argued that positive results may not carry through to those schools who are performing better but that the better performing schools are doing well within the existing structures.
2.7 Impact of Students Attainment
The student be at the centre of the mission and values of the academy and as has already been stated, the main incentive of academy schools was to transform failing, underperforming schools, to achieving schools designed to tackle social injustice (Walford, 2014a; Blunket, 2010; Wilson, 2011). As there was a recognition for the need of the improvement of standards for those children who could be classed as those from deprived areas and not being provided with the same opportunities as other children in more affluent areas. This has been discounted by West (1994), who identifies that most children were given a reasonable standard of education. While there are links to social and economically disadvantaged to poor educational attainment performance, the establishment of academy schools were introduced with a policy of zero tolerance identifying that education should be available to all. Mansell (2016) has suggested that some schools had incentives in the removal of students who were perceived to have less chance of achieving the higher grades, thus this is one of the advantages of accountability in addressing the potential side effects of this. Mansell (2016), identified that there were reports produced from the Sutton Trust, which cited that there was a significant variation in the outcomes for pupils who were deemed to be disadvantaged, while others were able to achieve outstanding outcomes from disadvantaged pupils. Weale (2015), argued that there are low performing groups who are still achieving results, however are not improving. According to Hutchings et al (2015, p. 4), identified that, ‘a majority of the chains still underperform the mainstream average in attainment for their disadvantaged pupils.’ Alliance (2014), argued that no evidence has been produced on the attainment levels with primary level academies. Cirin (2014), identified that two thirds of academies believe that changes which were made have had a positive effect on improved attainment.
2.8 Conclusion
In concluding this section, it is appropriate to understand the role of the academy school which was set to tackle issues of social injustice and to provide a zero tolerance and the need to improve educational performance as envisaged by the Labour party and the Coalition government. According to Coughlan (2016), studies suggest that the academy model is working and that there has been a positive effect on improved attainment. Wilson (2011), identified that delivering inclusion is also essential in academies particularly for pupils in disadvantaged areas. Asthana and Stewart (2016), cited that almost two thirds of secondary schools and a fifth of primary schools are now part of the academy system. It is evidenced (Eyles& Machin, 2015; Eyles et al, 2016b, 2016c), that academy schools have been about since 2002 and their remit has been radically altered since 2010. Gilbert et al (2013), highlight that literature and evidence indicate that, that improvement for the whole-system cannot be placed on academisation.From the literature it could be suggested that the ethos of academies are constantly changing and reforming which has been a major challenge in the education system in Britain and in society as a whole.
A case study investigation of teachers and parents’ perceptions of the impact of academy status on decisions affecting school governance and management
 
 
Chapter Three: Methodology
This chapter provides a detailed description of the research methods adopted in this study along with the, data collection techniques, and analytical approaches. In addition, it discusses the validity and reliability of the data.
The term “research methodology”refers to a whole range of applied strategies, including developing an image of an empirical world, asking questions about that world, and turning theseinto researchable issues. It also entailsmaking choices about methods and data, the use of theories, and the interpretation of findings (Lindlof and Taylor, 2011). Therefore, methods are only one small part of the methodological endeavour. Across the social sciences and humanities, differences exist regarding the development and recognition of particular methods (Monette et al., 2005).Since the 1930s, quantitative methods have historically assumed a dominant position.Nonetheless,the 1960s saw a shift emerge,with qualitative research methods recently gaining ground (Alasuutari et al., 2008).According toNewman and Benz (1998),quantitative researchbegins with a theory and tests for confirmation of the hypothesis. In other words, the method relies on measuring variables in the social world. Blaikie (2007) argued that quantitative research fails to discover deeper underlying meanings and explanations of, social phenomena.This study did not employ quantitative data,due tothe empirical nature of the method (Bryman, 2016). Therefore, this study was qualitative in nature.
This studyutilizedqualitative methods in natural settings framed withinan interpretive research paradigm in order to investigate teachers’ and parent perceptions of the changes related to the “academisation” of the school.In particular, it examined changes relating to school governance, management, curriculum, and teachers.Qualitative researchis based upon the exploration of lived experiences, behaviours, and emotionsand it also investigates cultural phenomena and social movements (Rahman, 2016). There are benefits of using qualitative research methods.For instance according toDenzin and Lincoln (2002),qualitative research encompasses a wide range of epistemological viewpoints and interpretive techniques of understanding human experiences. Adopting a qualitative research strategywas beneficial to this study.Specifically, the methodology’s interpretive nature permitted a comprehensive representation of both secondary school teachers and parents’ experiences and perceptions of how school governance and management issues are effect by the structure of academy school.
This study adoptedan interpretivist paradigm to frame and structure theresearch. Interpretivists are interested in human beings and human interactions (Klenke, 2016). More specifically, the interpretivist paradigm seeks to understand individuals’ thought processes, their perceptions, and the way in which theyconstruct the symbolic world (Bartlett and Burton, 2009).From a critical epistemological perspective, philosopher John Dewey (2006) argued that experience is the only way of understanding nature and this understanding of nature is what extends and enriches ones’ experience (Wilson, 2006, p. 406). That line of reasoning led me to gather a diverse range of views and meanings from teachers and parents with lived experiences of the school governance and management changes brought about by academisation. The interpretivist paradigm is useful for showing the legitimacy of particular meanings and practices of the social world and thus involve the reflection of social reality and experiences of individuals (Phothongsunan, 2010). Interpretivists view each individual experience as distinctive, due to the specific context in which it occurs (Antwi and Hamza, 2015). The notion, for example, that reality is subjective: it resides in people and is constructed by people who experience it(Creswell, 2017).I therefore endeavoured to understand the subjective world of teachers and parents’ experiences and views of the impact of academisation onschool governance and management. By using an interpretivist approach it was possible to attain a holistic understanding of the topic under study(Ritchie et al., 2003).
The research design adopted in this study was that of a small case study examining teachers and parents. A case study involves a detailed and intensive analysis of the relationship between a phenomenon or problem and a specific group of interest (Hancock and Algozzine, 2011). Since I was interested in the perceptions and meaning that teachers and parents assignedto their experiences regarding the impact of academy status onschool governance and management, it was appropriate to use a case study in order to immerse myself in the phenomenon. There are limitations of case study designs; smaller sample sizes raise the issue of generalisability to the larger population (Thomson, 2011). However, despite theshortcomings,generalizability was not an issuein this study. AsRohlfing (2012, p. 18) stated,if one considers the number of attention as the phenomenon under investigation, rather than the number of participants, then the sample is much larger and valid than it first appears.The purpose of a case study is notin fact, to generalise the findings to other cases or larger populations.Rather, the emphasis is on the cases and their distinctive contexts,with the aim of creating a framework for discussing the issue in question (Gagnon, 2010). This design thereforepermitted me to compare the findings from different cases,and it also highlighted both commonalitiesacross cases and the unique aspects of each case.
The participants were recruited at a secondary academy school located in East London in the borough of Newham. The study examined four participants: three teachers and one parent.An information letter and leaflet was distributed to local contacts, inviting them toparticipate.I was introduced to three teachers and one parent, all of whom expressed an interest in sharing their views.The parent’s had children attending the secondary school.
To get a sense of the kind of people with whom I wanted to speak, with the potential participants of the study,a non-probability purposive sampling techniquewas employed. Purposive sampling is the deliberate choice of a participant due to the qualities he or she possesses (Maykut and Morehouse, 2006). For instance, these may include factors such age or socio-demographic characteristics. Such qualities can also be connected to specific experiences and behaviours (Bryman, 2016). In this instance, they were teachers and parents connected to the same secondary academy school.The participants’ perspectives formed the very core of this research project.Thus,purposive sampling was adopted as opposed to a probability random sampling, which would not have yielded an adequately representative sample (Thompson, 2012).
Data was gathered through semi-structured interviews with all participants (both the teachers and the parent). A semi-structured interview is a verbal interchange where the facilitator attempts to elicit information from the participants by asking questions(Saunders et al., 2003).The alternative use of structured interviews was dismissed, as a structured approach to interviews was not flexible enoughto permit and askeach individual specific probing questions. Structured interviews require that all participants be asked the same questions in the same order (Alsaawi, 2014). Therefore, semi-structured interviews better complimentedthe scope my topic.
In contrast,focus groups, which were not employed,collect participants’ views during a group interview (Krueger and Casey, 2015). The one-to-one interviews enabled the participants to express their personal experiences, beliefs, and opinions to me (Knox and Burkard, 2008). The use of focus groups was thus rejected; a group of teachers may feel apprehensive to express their honest views, particularly if ones’ thoughts or perceptions oppose the view of another participant (Litosseliti, 2007). Consequently, focus groups are inherently biased and appears less valid (Alshenqeeti, 2014).
There are several advantages of adopting a semi-structured interview. First, I was able to ask questions and follow-up questions as necessary(Cohen and Crabtree, 2006). The use of this method allowed me to collect a range ofviews from teachers and parents and it generated a richer understanding of the nuanced issues relatedto academy schools, school governanceand management, therebystrengthening the credibility of the results. Secondly, semi-structured interviewsallow for the generation of trust and permit respondents to provide honest responses(Clifford et al., 2016). The third advantage is that all participants answered the same questions; this heightened the responses’ comparability and hence, their reliability (Adams and Cox-Anna, 2008).
Beyond the advantages of semi-structured interviews, there are also drawbacks. Getting beyond the expected answers and accumulatein-depth information could in itself be a weakness. The researcher being viewed as an authoritativefigure couldalso be a disadvantage (Gubrium, et al., 2012). However, this was anticipated; I was wary of how my attempts to appear ‘professional’ might impact the speaker’s choice of positioning amongst the identity positions available to them.To avoid the view of the researcher as an authoritative figure, the interviews took a less formal and more conversational tone. I employed a less demanding and more neutralapproach to the interviewsto reduce the likelihood of power dynamics (pertaining to factors such as language, attire, and age) influencing participants. I settled on a style of interviewing that was casual; I wore casual attire and adopted ordinary speech.At the same time, however, I used appropriate language and remained respectful and attentive towards the research participants. I expected that interviewees would struggleto stay focused on the topic. While this was indeed the case,it did not constitute amajor weakness. Interviews are time-consuming and lack objectivity,and thus they alsoentail the risk of bias (Bowen, 2009).In order to avoid researcher bias, I found it usefulto examine in-depth perceptions ofthe interviews to avoid reliance on assumptions.
The semi-structured interviews with all three teachers were conducted in the natural setting of the school in order to enhance the sense of realism. The interview with parentswas conducted in a location chosen by them:  a local public library. During each interview, an interview schedule with explorative and descriptive questions guided the discussions, as indicated in Appendix 8. Each interview was audio-recorded.However, tape-recording the interviews presented a decontextualisaed version, because it did not include the visual aspects of the situations and the social atmosphere that prevailed(Wiles et al., 2005).I maintained field notesto record things such as nuances, body language, gestures, and my own reflections, which yielded relevant information to my study. I was able to draw inferences that could not be obtained by relying exclusively on tape-recorded individual.The interviews were transcribed verbatim, with a copy being sent to the participants to ensure the validity of what had been written.This may help mitigate the Hawthorne effect, since they are able to reflect on what is being said and modify it should they desire. The Hawthorne effect may occur(Wickstrom and Bendix, 2000)when a person’s behaviour adjusts due tosomeone taking an interest in them. During both the data collection and data analysis process,I remained objective. Moreover, this study relied on a thematic approach to data analysis. As Braun and Clarke (2006)have explained, this meant that reoccurring and overriding themes within the dataset were and grouped and identified. A content analysis was carried out on the open-ended responses from the transcripts as well as the analysis from the field notes of the four interviews. This approach allowed common themes to be identified and consistencies/inconsistencies to be explored (Punch, 2009). I then constructed the meaning of the information.
Validity is concerned with two main issues: whether the strategies used for measurement are accurate and whether the findings are an accurate representation of the phenomena they are intended to represent (Grey, 2014). Creswell (2017) suggested that reflecting upon oneself as a researcher couldensure the validity of theresults. Nonetheless, researcher bias could have impacted the research and findings thus I took steps to prevent that from occurring.I created an interview schedule to minimise the chance of leading questions orinterview bias(Brink, 1995).Furthermore, the use of respondent validation confirmed that the participants’ responses were represented correctly (Scott and Morrison, 2005). This decreased any potential researcher bias and ensured that the results were based onrelationships that were evident in the transcriptions. Creswell (2014) argued that this approach strengthensresearchcredibility.
Reliability is concerned with the investigator’s ability to generatestableand repeatable responses and results of another researcher under the same study (Read et al., 2013). However, forqualitative data, reliability is not always possible to achieve, as suchresearch is frequently based on a small population (Baumgarten, 2010).Significantly, interpretivist research is linked to the historical, social, and political context in which it is situated (Ritche and Lewis, 2003).This underlines a possible weakness of the interpretivist paradigm; the data collected is relative to the participants and their current settings.Consequently, it is therefore open to interpretation. Likewise, the generalisability of this research and thefindings and conclusions was limited, due to its small sample size and the setting (Morse, 1997).Nevertheless, according to Cohen et al.,(2011),construct validity ensured the study answered what it set out to explore. The study investigated academisation’seffect onschool governance and management. A literature review and semi-structured interviews encouraged contrasting inquiry.Final conclusions were constructed after integrating the findings from these two approaches. This strengthenedthe validity of this research project.
The research project is without its limitations, such asits small scaleand the limited generalisability of the findings. A much larger project incorporating a wide range of schools across different regions would have offered more generalizable data. A second limitation of this study was the failure to interview secondary school students. Time constraints prohibited the pursuance of this avenue, but a third interview perspective would have enriched the data.
 
 
 

 
Chapter Four: Ethics
This chapter discusses the ethical considerations that pertained tothis study. Ethics is the field of science studying criteria, norms, and values of human action and conduct, and is an integral partof this research project(Resnik, 2015).More critically, ethics is vital for improving the quality of research. To ensure the right measures were taken with the participants during the process of the research project, it is critical to understand the protocols of ethical considerations. Researchers have an obligatory duty to ensure that one avoids causing harm to participants orcausing harm and risk to participants(Burton and Steane, 2004).Therefore, this research prioritized safeguarding human dignity,promotingequality, and strengthening trust.
Ethical clearance for this research project wasgranted by theresearch ethics committee at the University of East London. The university’s guidelines comply with the ethical policiesthat the British Educational Association (BERA, 2017) has established regarding ethics ineducational research. These guidelineswere closely followed to ensure that the participants were respected and that their safety and privacy was guaranteed. These ethical considerations provided a safeguardduring this studyand they ensured that ___ had examined and evaluated the potential risks(Miller et al., 2012).Ethical considerations provide safeguards in research; in this case making sure that risks of the research had been examined and evaluated.Before conducting the research, the potential benefits and risks were compared. Before conducting the research, the potential benefits of the data collection were weighed against the risks.
Prior to data collection, I obtained informed consent from the participants to ensure that this research was carried out in an ethical manner. I ensured that participation was voluntary by sending the school informationletters and leaflets outlining the research aims and therequirements for prospective participants. Those materials also provided information on confidentiality, anonymity, and participants’right to withdraw. Participants responded by signing the form,as reflected in Appendix 4.
Under all circumstances, the participants’ confidentiality and anonymity was guaranteed. The participants were assured that the information that they provided would be treated as strictlyconfidential. I safeguarded all of the research documents, such as transcriptions, audiotapes, and field notes. I made sure that all of the collected data remained privateand I was the only person to access and use it. Specifically, the data was stored on a password-protected USB stick and it was solely used for the purposes of this research project.In addition, the data will be destroyed upon the completion of this project. Furthermore, I ensured participants’anonymity by using pseudonymsinstead of the participants’ real names during both transcription and the final write up of thisthesis. Hence, the participants’ real names were not linked to the data in an obvious manner. Finally, the intervieweeswere informed that their participation was voluntary and that if they wished to withdraw at any point,then all of the information that they hadprovided would be destroyed, as reflected in Appendix 4.
The risks to participants within this project were minimal. Despite the sensitive nature of the subject area, by focusing on teachersand parents’ perspectives, the participantswere not considered to be vulnerable in the research study (Orb et al., 2001).Ultimately, this research project will benefit a large number of policy makers, institutions, teachers, parents, and students, as the participants provided information about the effect of “academisation”on decisions affecting school governance and management.
References
Academies Act 2010 — UK Parliament (2010) [Online]. Available at: http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2010-11/academieshl.html (Accessed: 20 January 2016).
Adams, A and Cox-Anna L. (2008) Questionnaires, in-depth interviews and focus groups. Research Methods for Human Computer Interaction. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, pp. 17–34.
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