|England USA Australia New Zealand Elsewhere|
During the 1980s the power of local educational authorities (LEAs) was greatly reduced with policy making and curriculum decisions being centralised in government. Administrative, staffing and fiscal responsibility was shifted to individual school governing bodies that were to have 50 percent of their membership coming from business, industry, the professions or other relevant fields of employment. These changes were retained by the subsequent Labour government.
The Guardian credits the think tank, the Adam Smith Institute, with coming up with the idea of devolution of school budgets and judging schools on test results.
By 1990 a third of US school districts had adopted some form of school-based management and since then various states have introduced legislation to ensure all schools do so.
Most recently the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce has called for each school to “have complete discretion over the way its funds are spent, the staffing schedule, the organization and management of the school, the school’s schedule and its program, as long as it provided the curriculum and met the testing and other accountability requirements imposed by the state”. Similarly devolution is on the agenda of various city mayors.
Following lobbying by the Business Council of Australia in the 1990s, schools in most states have been given responsibility for reduced finances. Principals have been refashioned as corporate managers and school councils have taken on management responsibilities.
In 2012 the NSW government announced that principals would be given control over 70% of their budget, including choice of teachers.
A highly centralised school system was restructured following the recommendations of an educational taskforce, headed by Brian Picot “a prominent supermarket magnate”, which stressed the need for devolution, efficiency, and better management practices. Regional educational boards were abolished and school administration transferred to decentralised boards of trustees for ‘stand-alone’ schools, which managed centrally allocated budgets and personnel hiring.
European nations were also “subjected to an unceasing flow of reforms” from the end of the 1980s, including deregulation, decentralisation and devolution of schools. The European Roundtable of Industrialists (ERT) had accused European schools systems of being overly centralised and bureaucratically controlled, so that they were difficult for businesses to influence and slow to change.
The European Commission claims that decentralisation of school management in the EU enables schools to be flexible and more likely to form partnerships with business.
International lending and aid agencies are also pushing for devolution in schools in developing nations and student assessment as a means of measuring outcomes of their investments in school education.
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