chapter  2
Taking context seriously
Pages 24

In this chapter we want to take context seriously. That contextual dimensions are important in education policy enactment is a truism in government as well as in academic circles. Nevertheless, in much policy making and research the fact that policies are intimately shaped and influenced by school-specific factors which act as constraints, pressures and enablers of policy enactments tends to be neglected. Policies enter different resource environments; schools have particular histories, buildings and infrastructures, staffing profiles, leadership experiences, budgetary situations and teaching and learning challenges (e.g. proportions of children with special educational needs (SEN), English as an additional language (EAL), behavioural difficulties, ‘disabilities’ and social and economic ‘deprivations’) and the demands of context interact. Schools differ in their student intake, school ethos and culture, they engage with local authorities and experience pressures from league tables and judgements made by national bodies such as Ofsted. In outlining a theory of policy enactment we want to take these factors seriously and in this chapter we are offering a typology derived from our data analysis that systematically collates and maps different aspects of context. Under the headings of situated contexts, professional cultures, material and external contexts we will examine the role of context in shaping policy enactments. In this way, we attempt to offer a framework through which to incorporate these contextual concerns into educational policy analysis, not as a comprehensive model, but as a heuristic device to encourage investigation and questioning and to illuminate frequently sidelined aspects of policy enactment.