O'Brien, James Paul
An analysis of participatory democracy in Scottish School Boards up to 1994.
PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.
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This work is an analysis of the origins and development of modern school boards in Scotland, 1984-1994. Its major conclusion is that there has been disjunction between theories of participation and management and the system on one hand, and between the system and the operation of boards on the other.
Part one provides a rationale for pursuing this study and poses a range of questions which the analysis attempts to answer. The methodology adopted with regard to documentary analysis of the two public consultation exercises of the 1980s, the educational press and other documents is described. The approach to interviewing of key participants and observers of the events is also explained.
The work is placed in a theoretical contexts in Part two where attention is drawn to the underpinning concepts for the establishment and emerging prominence of participative councils. Consideration is given to theories of democracy, particularly representative and participative forms. Indicators of democracy are considered as is the nature of representation and modes of participation which claim to challenge remoteness and tendencies towards centralisation and elitism. The discussion moves from general theoretical analysis to the potential for such insights to apply to schools and school boards. The main types of participatory action are discussed and the efficacy of using the structure of school boards as a means of applying democratic theories is introduced. Democracies invariably generate bureaucracies so the question of schools being bureaucracies is raised and the relationship to the concept of professionalism is explored. Accountability of schools is identified as especially important to school board functioning.
The nature of school management is then assessed and the possible purposes of participative councils reviewed. The trend towards participative management in schools is analysed with a view to its extension to include lay persons on governing bodies or school boards; it is speculated that this might encourage the development of a management partnership involving lay and professional interests which appeared to be one of the government's intentions in 1987 when the proposals for school boards emerged.
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