Autonomy and Regulation in the School System in England
The chapter examines the school system in England, concentrating on developments since 2010. During this period, a radical refashioning of the school system in England has taken place as large numbers of schools have moved from being the responsibility of local authorities to becoming ‘independent’, though still ‘state-funded’, academies operating in the framework of and accountable to national authorities. The chapter explores the claimed institutional and professional autonomy integral to the idea of a self-improving school-led system influential in the national policy driving this change. Different ways of understanding autonomy are examined through notions of licensed, conditional, regulated, rational and ethical autonomy, contributing to a critical understanding of how the system is developing. The chapter highlights, inter alia, the importance of examining critically the distribution of autonomy across the various actors and institutions in the system. It also highlights the ethics of autonomy. The latter brings to the fore the moral demands entailed in autonomy and the importance and challenges of exercising principled autonomy and critical reflexivity as an integral feature of autonomous practice, especially in the context of pressures in the school system to conform to performative and competitive logics.