University of Western Ontario - Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

Education

Supervisor

Dr. Rebecca Coulter

Abstract

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.

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