Date of Award

2013

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Education

Faculty

Education and Arts

First Advisor

Dr Russell Waugh

Second Advisor

Associate Professor Jan Gray

Abstract

In 2004, the Government of Western Australia introduced an inspection-type formal school registration process for Non-Government (Independent) Schools, fulfilling the legislative requirement of a new School Education Act of 1999 (Part 4, Sec.159). This formal school registration process featured twelve criteria that are used to evaluate the quality of education. The government claimed that it would ensure a good education for all students in Western Australian, including those students enrolled in Independent Schools. However, very little is known about this formal school registration process, the twelve criteria used in it, or even if school administrators believe that it has helped make improvements at their schools. This study examined a new formal school registration process and investigated the beliefs of School Administrators at Non-Government (Independent) Schools in Western Australia to the relationship between formal school registration and school improvement. It considered those beliefs according to the government’s twelve criteria of formal school registration: (1) Governance; (2) Financial Viability; (3) Enrolment and Attendance; (4) Number of Students; (5) Time Available for Instruction; (6) Staff; (7) School Infrastructure; (8) Curriculum; (9) Student Learning Outcomes; (10) Levels of Care; (11) Management of Disputes and Complaints; and (12) School Compliance with Written Laws. A questionnaire based on these twelve criteria was designed with five items per criterion, each answered in two perspectives (what was expected and what actually happened), and conceptually ordered from easy to hard, making an effective item sample of 120. All 150 primary and secondary non-government schools were invited to participate between 19th March 2011 and 30th November 2011, but only 110 school administrators answered the questionnaire, and only 60 (approximately 56%) completed all twelve parts of the questionnaire. Fourteen School Administrators agreed to participate in one-on-one interviews. Two unidimensional, linear scales were created using Rasch measurement: (1) School Administrators’ Beliefs That Actual School Improvements Were Due to Formal School Registration (48 items); and (2) School Administrators’ Beliefs That Expected School Improvements Would be Due to Formal School Registration (42 items). Items that were easy and hard were identified from the scales. Twenty-four Guttman scales were created: one for each of the twelve registration criteria by actual improvements (12 scales) and by expected improvements (12 scales). Easy and hard items were identified and they supported the Rasch scale results. The measures were analysed against seven independent variables (gender, school size, school type, school location, qualification, age and seniority). The interview data were analysed by the Miles and Huberman method in which themes or issues were created, and supported by the data. The Rasch scales, the Guttman scales, the correlation analysis and the interview data analysis produced many interesting results that are discussed and explained. School Administrators responded positively, as well as negatively, with beliefs that school improvements were due to the formal school registration process. There were differences in School Administrator beliefs in large and small schools, and in remote and metropolitan schools. The influence of school culture on school improvements due to formal school registration was highlighted by the School Administrators in non-government schools. School Administrators and Policy Officers should take note of these results.

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