University of Western Ontario - Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Location of Thesis Examination

Room 1010 FEB


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Rebecca Coulter


Responding to financial pressures and declining school enrolments, the Ontario government in 2006 developed a new policy on school-closures establishing specific criteria to determine the value of a school to a community and requiring every school board to involve the local community in any school-closure decision. Despite these provisions, the implementation of this policy at the local level created anger and active resistance from community members.

Focussing on two school-closures within an Ontario school board, using ethnographic methods, this study explores how one board implemented the provincial-policy, specifically the impact this had on those directly affected. Informed by neoliberalism-communitarianism debates, this critical policy-in-practice analysis of school-closures provides a detailed case study of policy development-implementation. By examining how school closure policies are actually implemented - how these policies affect the people and communities involved - this study contributes a new dimension to the literature which, to date, has focussed on providing advice on how to ease the school-closure process.

My analysis centres on the interplay between public-policy and community, particularly how the values of key institutional decision-makers shape the agenda and its delivery, and what values shape the responses of local community. I demonstrate how the dominant policy paradigm, based on adherence to neo-liberal economics and new-managerialism adopted by school boards, underlines the conflict between institutional imperatives and community wishes. The research reveals a deep institutional-community dichotomy, where the social purposes of the local school as defined by the community are in constant tension with the school board’s economic-fiscal policy purposes.