‘It was just as political as it was pragmatic’: The (in)formal roles and policy work of ‘curriculum leaders’ in a federated education context

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Research Papers in Education


Taylor & Francis


School of Education




Monash University


Lambert, K., & Penney, D. (2022). ‘It was just as political as it was pragmatic’: The (in)formal roles and policy work of ‘curriculum leaders’ in a federated education context. Research Papers in Education. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1080/02671522.2022.2065519


Politics and pragmatics are central and inseparable features of curriculum reform. In a federated system like Australia, many individuals and organisations are invested in reform at the national and jurisdictional level. This paper focuses on the policy work and roles of key actors positioned at the interface of national and state-based curriculum development, and at the juncture of curriculum policy and pedagogic practice. These were individuals formally identified as ‘curriculum leaders’ in the enactment of the Australian Curriculum in Health and Physical Education (ACHPE). The paper centres on data collected from eight (n = 8) curriculum leaders via semi-structured interviews. All were prospectively influential figures in shaping the path of the ACHPE. Our research explored the nature of their enactment work and how they were variously positioned and positioned themselves in relation to key ACHPE discourses. Analysis uses the policy actor/policy work framework as a starting point for deeper, Foucauldian informed analysis which provides insights into the complex nature of curriculum leadership by considering the additional (in)formal work and roles of these high-ranking policy actors. Data and discussion extends understanding of curriculum enactment as a process that spans policy networks and reveals the nuanced nature of curriculum leadership associated with curriculum reform.



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Research Themes

Society and Culture

Priority Areas

Diverse, equitable, informed and productive communities, schools and workplaces