A great reading from John Smyth  – The Socially Just Alternative to the ‘Self-Managing School’: Smyth, J. (2001) Chapter 16. It’s such a strong chapter that discusses and explains how in the 1960’s this expression was used in the form of pupils managing their own learning, an ‘educational theory’ lens.  He goes onto discuss the difference of that notion between then and now. Self-managing schools now have a much broader set of principles which is driven by choice where schools are becoming more characterised by community and collective action. This, he explains is done by a ‘free market’ economy, based on parental choice. It also aims at releasing schooling from government control. Some main points were that:

  • Smyth believes the moves towards devolution and reform of education are not just about power but the ‘intensification of central control’ for schools
  • There is an illusion of a shift in power and control, where schools stand to become more empowered but at a cost where bureaucratic structures are progressively dismantled and a sharply reduced central provision of resources for public education
  • Self-managing schools should not be driven by economic agenda but by educational, social and democratic ideals and run by a free market economy based on free market approach
  • A shift from schools competing individually within and between themselves to a concern for community and collective action informed by education considerations not economics
  • The notion of a “socially critical orientation” having a democratic agenda where decision making and control extend to parents, teachers and students to make improvements by tackling the ‘big issues’ in society
  • He advocates for discursive communities and explains that schools need to be restructured along the lines that decentralized and debureaucratize decision making. (It gives voice to the community which in effect leads to the ‘true interests of the participants’ that informs democratic public discussion
  • Self-managing schools have a commitment to curriculum change which reflects the concerns, life experiences and aspirations of its community involving whole staff and parent groups
  • Schools that develop core values and commit to critical dissonance and collaborative resonance depart markedly from the traditional view of how teaching occurs
  • Changing the metaphor we live by in schools from relying less on external control and more on the commitments, obligations and duties that people feel towards each other and the school
  • Have a core principle that ‘the kids come first’ and are committed to being socially just places that are ‘collective action capable’ by confronting unjust and irrational social structures
  • Can be classified as relational schools, moving away from students or schools competing with each other to one that permeates relationships at all levels
  • Restoring ‘educative leadership’ from styles of having charisma or acting decisively to leadership that assists teachers and parents to uncover meaning in what they do by investing in the capacity to change and improve what they do.
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