DPR8: Power and the Academy
The 8th Conference of the Discourse, Power, Resistance Series
6 – 8 April 2009
Manchester Metropolitan University , UK
University of Huddersfield, UK
Autonomy and powerlessness: the gap between policy and practice in English Further Education colleges
The New Labour government placed Further Education (FE) at the centre of delivering its policies on social justice through widening participation in education and on enhancing the vocational skills of the workforce. This has led to increasing scrutiny and control of FE, and consequently a torrent of initiatives that prescribe teachers’ training and practice. Although these initiatives appear to reduce academic autonomy, they may not bring about as much change as the government would like, or there may not be the need for so many initiatives. This paper considers one such, the statutory obligation since September 2007 for teachers in FE colleges to undertake and record thirty hours of CPD each year, and argues that it is based upon impoverished and restricted notions of professionalism. However, research evidence suggests that this policy has had little impact on FE teachers’ practice, although in an act of performativity the thirty hours may be seen to be carried out in full.
Using the CPD initiative as an example, this paper analyses the gap between policy and practice in FE to analyse the restrictions on teachers’ professional and academic freedom. It also questions the government’s ability to affect meaningful change in FE when policy often reaches teachers stripped of any justification and reduced to its financial implication.