Autonomy for Schools

SEPARATING THE GOOD FROM THE BAD IN MYTHS ABOUT MORE AUTONOMY FOR SCHOOLS

Brian J. Caldwell
It is generally well-known that I have been an advocate of self-managing schools in the public sector for more than three decades and you may well be wondering if I have anything to add in a conference on the theme ‘Looking Forward, Looking Back’. Looking back, the position I reached from 1977 was evidence-based, with a series of research projects commencing with my doctoral work at the University of Alberta in Canada from 1975 to 1977, continuing in Australia for a Project of National Significance funded by the Commonwealth Schools Commission in 1983, enriched by five studies in Victoria on its Schools of the Future initiative, and finally the Principal Autonomy Research Project for the Department of Education, Science and
Training in 2007 (Educational Transformations, 2007). Along the way I conducted hundreds of workshops for thousands of school leaders in many countries that either provided or planned to provide more authority and responsibility for schools. I have served as a consultant on self-managing schools to governments across the spectrum here in Australia and other countries. It goes without saying that I learnt a lot, what works and what doesn’t, things to fight for and things to resist, and I would like to share some of this today in the context of national and state interest in the matter. As the title suggests, my address will deal with myths about school autonomy, four are ‘bad’ myths, and I’ll deal with these first, while four are ‘good’ myths.

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SEPARATING THE GOOD FROM THE BAD IN MYTHS ABOUT MORE AUTONOMY FOR SCHOOLS

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