Policy Response Toolset
for equity and learning
Barriers to policy implementation
While policy response has the potential to engage all members of a learning community in ‘creative social action’ (Ball, 1998, p. 270),
various barriers to policy implementation may disrupt this process. In 2013, the UK team of the European Policy Network on School Leadership (EPNoSL) conducted
a study of the implementation of policy on school leadership for equity in Scotland (Bagley & Ward, 2013; Ward et al, in press).
School leaders identified four reasons why they were not engaging with this policy:
policy documents are too ‘hard going and laborious’;
policy is perceived to be irrelevant, either ‘distant from my post and what it means in the context of my job’ or they are already doing this in their schools;
not enough time to engage with policy or implement it;
concerned about the lack of policy ‘ownership’ and the lack of consultation during policy development.
Sometimes, policy seems to be so far removed from school leaders’ everyday experience that its implementation is almost impossible, as in the example provided below.
Reflect on the case of 'Schools in Challenging Circumstances'
In 2001, the UK government published a policy document aimed at improving school performance, ‘Schools in Challenging Circumstances’.
This policy implied that inequity of results is the product of the poor practice of school leaders and teachers,
rather than the result of widespread material poverty outside the school.
Furthermore, it appeared to overlook the fact that some school leaders in ‘failing’ schools are obliged to direct time and resources to pastoral support for deprived pupils.
Lupton (2005) interviewed school leaders in the wake of this policy, and concluded that if policy fails to
acknowledge or address contextual pressures faced by schools in deprived communities,
then this policy may foster a climate of despondency that undermines school leaders' ability to engage with proposed solutions to inequity.