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Governance, Democracy, and Parental Engagement: The Co-operative Academy Trust Model – An Alternative in Neoliberal Contexts of Education?

HETHERINGTON, Janet (2022) Governance, Democracy, and Parental Engagement: The Co-operative Academy Trust Model – An Alternative in Neoliberal Contexts of Education? Doctoral thesis, Staffordshire University.

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Abstract or description

This thesis presents the research undertaken to explore alternative governance and stakeholder engagement, in the neoliberal context of education. The Co-operative Academies Trust (CAT) is a Multi-Academy Trust sponsored by The Co-op Group. The research involves one case study school within the CAT, and explores significant strategic, structural, organisational, and operational deviations of the CAT in relation to co-operative values, democracy, and stakeholder engagement in decision-making. Furthermore, utilising Bourdieu’s thinking tools, the relational power interactions between parents and leaders of the Academy, in the social field; the bounded polity of the case study Academy, is explored.

This is a qualitative study, grounded in critical theory. Therefore, the research approach is a critical ethno-case study. Documentary analysis was triangulated with semi-structured interviews with the CAT Director, Principal, Chair of Governors and three parent governor representatives. A focus group was conducted with five parents following an observed parent forum meeting.

Findings show the commitment to a Local Governing Body (LGB) demonstrates an alternative in itself. Furthermore, the values-led brand and strategic identity, alongside the placement of senior Co-op Group employees in the LGB, ensure the strategic direction is focused upon co-operative values and community: an ‘ensconced’ form of localism. This contributes to the “lived reality” of co-operative values in community regeneration. Operationally, the realisation of the co-operative value of democracy is subordinated to technologies of rational self-management, and a distrust of non-professionalised stakeholders. There are signs of cultural shift under the New Public Management umbrella, occurring concurrently with parents demanding deliberation and voice in decision-making, whilst also experiencing hysteresis and symbolic violence, in relation to language, agency and a neoliberal doxa in the social field. In conclusion, having the trust and courage to release power in the local context, through a democratic deliberative system, will privilege stakeholder collaboration.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty: School of Life Sciences and Education > Education
Depositing User: Library STORE team
Date Deposited: 16 May 2022 14:19
Last Modified: 24 Feb 2023 14:03

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