This book is one version of our research. In writing collectively and collaboratively about a project that we have researched together, argued about, disagreed over and yet have become passionately attached to over the last three years or so, there are many things we could have done differently and there are many things of interest and importance that we have no room to include here. There certainly could have been different points of emphasis in the text, we could have deployed and discussed different data – we have plenty – and we could have used some different analytic devices. For these and other reasons, we do not regard this writing as closed or finished – this is a set of starting points and openings. This is not the book we imagined we might write when we began the research. To quote Michel Foucault, whose writing will appear at many points in this book: what we have to offer is a set of ‘unfinished abutments and lines of dots’ (1996: 275). It is also important to say that our writing has been a process of avoidance and compromise, an exercise of writing around and beyond existing work on policy in schools – sometimes called implementation research. We do not want to reject or obliterate this work in toto but we have become profoundly aware of its limitations and omissions. We want to over-write it, to give it greater texture, fuller scope and more theoretical sophistication and in order to do so we draw on sociological theory to ‘fill out’ the interpretation of ‘policy work’ in schools. This first chapter is where we want to lay out the background to the book and to the empirical school-based project from which it emanates. However, we need to be clear that this is not a straightforward empirical research report. It aims to say some useful things about the everyday world of policy in contemporary English schools but we will not be offering you a chapter on the current policy landscape in England or a blow-by-blow account of the relationships between specific policies and specific practices – although this is what happens to some extent in Chapters 4 and 5. This is a book about how schools ‘do’ policy, specifically about how policies become ‘live’ and get enacted (or not) in schools. We hope it will have a general
relevance and usefulness beyond the specifics of the cases we explore and the data we present and discuss. We are attempting to outline a grounded theory of policy enactments in school, or at least to identify a set of tools and concepts which will provide the elements of such a theory. We also want to present an account of policy enactments in secondary schools that makes sense to practitioners and to people who ‘know’ schools, that feels as if this is how it is in ‘real’ schools, while simultaneously adding to and challenging the existing theorising of this complex process. Having said that, while it may seem like it at times, this is not a book about teaching – in the sense that we are not intending to reduce teaching to policy or schools to teaching and learning. Teaching consists of much more than these aspects we address here – a point we return to in the final chapter – and schools are complex and sometimes incoherent social assemblages. Enough preamble, ‘This introduction is becoming lengthy: let us begin. Not that we know the beginning, but that a time comes when we have to begin – somewhere’ (Sarup 1978: 9). We begin with policy implementation and policy enactment and some of the existing thinking about how schools ‘do policy’ as a basis for our argument for a different kind of understanding.