How do teachers resist policy they disagree with? An English research project examines troubling compliance: discomforts, oppositions, refusals and resistance in schools

Dean's Lecture Series 2018

What is being demanded of schools in England, and their role in national prosperity and social cohesion, is encoded in a vast and complex litany of policy statements, documents and legislation. Teachers are expected to be familiar with these policies, know how to put them into practice, and are held accountable for doing so. Some of these policies may contradict what some practitioners see as being developmentally appropriate or reflecting ‘best practice’. So what do teachers do when they are confronted by policy work that may cause them disquiet, may trouble their professional identities and, in some cases, their core values?

This public lecture will look at these issues in detail and describe some of the discomforts, oppositions, refusals and resistances that occur in relation to some of the educational reforms and policy imperatives in play. We will connect these empirical instances with an understanding of resistance that embraces subtlety, contingency and contradiction, in order to explore what is sometimes taken as ‘a high level of compliance amongst teachers’ in neoliberal times (Hall and McGinty, 2015, 3). The public lecture will draw on one English research project, ‘Policy enactments in the secondary school: theory and practice’. This project focused on the ‘diverse and complex ways in which sets of education policies were being ’made sense of’, mediated and struggled over and sometimes ignored’ in schools (Ball, et al., 2012, 3) and to look at the ways in which teachers refused some aspects of policy.