Participatory processes through the eyes of a school community : a case study in the ACT

  • Joan Warhurst

    Student thesis: Master's Thesis


    The question posed in this study is whether the participatory philosophy is working in practice in the ACT school system. In particular, at the local level, does the parent community have the power in decision-making that is accorded them in theory? The field study begins by setting out some aspects of bureaucratic theory and contrasting models of participation. It goes on to look at the philosophy underlying the new ACT system of education and its deliberate rejection of the traditional, highly centralized systems of the States in favour of a particular participatory model, participation as decision making. Such a model involves putting decision-making in the hands of those most affected by the decisions. In individual schools this means the parents, the teachers, the students and the community. The bulk of this study is devoted to documenting a case study of a school in conflict with the Schools Authority because it is during conflict that the realities of power in a system are revealed. The crisis in this case revolved around the proposal by the Schools Authority to move an alternative secondary school into a semi-vacant farmer infants building of an inner-city iii primary school. The majority of the parent community at the primary school were against the proposal. After several joint meetings between the Boards of the two schools and the Schools Authority, the Schools Authority decided to go ahead with the move despite the opposition of the primary school community. The final section of this study deals with an analysis of the participatory processes that were enacted at both the school level and the Authority level, in the resolution of the conflict. It would certainly appear that in this particular example both parties to the dispute moved outside the model of participation as decision-making. The Schools Authority appeared to be operating under the rationale of administrative expediency and using a participatory model foreign to the intention of the system, in which no real power was accorded to the parent community. The school, having lost faith in the participatory model as used by the Schools Authority, resorted to familiar bureaucratic lobbying practices. The study concludes that the real system in this case deviated from the participatory model of its founders. It raises the issue of how typical this case study might be of the system as a whole, and what the implications of this would be for the future of the ACT Schools Authority.
    Date of Award1983
    Original languageEnglish

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