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Paving a 'third way'? A policy trajectory analysis of education action zones

Power, Sally A. R. ORCID:, Whitty, Geoff, Gewirtz, Sharon, Halpin, David and Dickson, Marny 2004. Paving a 'third way'? A policy trajectory analysis of education action zones. Research papers in education 19 (4) , pp. 453-476. 10.1080/0267152042000295474

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Presented at its launch in 1998 as the quintessential 'third way' welfare policy, the English education action zones (EAZ) experiment was one of a number of area-based initiatives in the UK designed to tackle social exclusion in disadvantaged localities. The policy was premised upon the idea that different bodies—public, private, voluntary, and community—should work together to deliver 'joined-up solutions' to 'joined-up problems'. This paper reports on the findings of an ESRC-funded research project1 designed to investigate the origins, operation, and impact of the policy by interrogating the claims of its advocates and the counter-claims of its critics. Overall, the research concluded that neither the hopes nor fears surrounding the policy have been realized. The impact of the policy within zones has been limited and patchy. There have been instances of innovation and positive shifts in parents' perceptions, but these have not been matched by consistent improvements in pupil performance or embedded changes in classroom practice. Nor have zones brought about new and more democratic modes of educational governance. However, initiatives take time to embed, and those working in zones experienced difficulty reconciling the need for innovative strategies to tackle disadvantage with the pressure of short-term targets. Moreover, while the impact of the policy in particular localities has been limited, it may have contributed to a reordering of the politics of education, and, in particular, an erosion of some of the 'old' binaries around which allegiances have traditionally been structured. This paper argues that, as might be expected from a 'third way' policy, the policy has blurred the conventional oppositions of 'left' and 'right', 'government' and 'governed', and 'public' and 'private' sectors. Paradoxically, it has also reinforced new binaries—e.g. between 'wreckers' and 'reformers' and 'standards' and 'structures'—and created new boundaries—between zone and non-zone schools and policy 'insiders' and 'outsiders'.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Area-based initiative ; Education action zones ; Policy trajectory analysis ; Public-private partnerships ; Third way
Publisher: Informa
ISSN: 14701146
Last Modified: 17 Oct 2022 09:23

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