Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Education


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Supervisor

Dr Bruce Hayes

Second Supervisor

Dr Mike Harvey

Third Supervisor

Dr Norm Hyde


The release of Better Schools in Western Australia: A Programme for Improvement (1987), in line with other public sector agency reforms; contained a prescription for the restructuring of the Education Department of Western Australia from 11 bureaucratic to a corporate management system of school administration. These changes were intended to render the education system, and especially schools more flexible, responsive and accountable. Among the proposals for educational restructuring was a new opportunity for community participation through ''school based decision making groups." Contemporaneously, the education systems in Victoria and New Zealand were undergoing similar reforms. The research agenda for this thesis is based on two questions. The first research question is: In what ways did the reforms conducted by the governments in Western Australia, Victoria and New Zealand change the participation of the school community in school decision making in state schools during the period 1985-1993? The extent to which the new organisational structures, based upon corporate management, facilitated the admission of the school community into the school decision making process is investigated. In order to facilitate the analysis of policy, this thesis develops a conceptualisation of the notion of controversy. The controversy framework involves the investigation of a number of elements of a controversy - stimulus, context, events, issues, arguments, protagonists, constraints, consequences and closure. The use of this framework is intended to assist in educational policy analysis by highlighting and elaborating upon the interdependent elements, including power relationships, involved in educational policy formulation and implementation. The second research question is: How effective is controversy as a framing device for educational policy analysis? The adequacy of “controversy” as a framing device is evaluated at the conclusion of the thesis. In order to investigate the research problems a variety of data was gathered and analysed. Scrutiny of the major Government and Education Department policy documents us well as a review of literature such as journals, books, newspapers, and documents produced by organisations such as teacher unions, was undertaken. In the case of Western Australia face-to-face interviews were conducted. A series of video-taped interviews with major actors in the controversy in Western Australia was also used in the data gathering process. The data was then systematically ordered using the controversy framework which enabled comparison of the controversies in Western Australia, Victoria and New Zealand. The conclusions drawn focus upon the manner in which corporate management and genuine democratic community participation are antipathetic. Despite rhetoric to the contrary, the school community was unable to exert meaningful influence upon the direction being charted for government schools. As a framing device for educational policy analysis it is concluded that controversy, at this preliminary stage, appears to have merit end further use and refinement of this framework is recommended.