Teachers, school choice and competition: Lock-in effects within and between sectors

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Journal Article
Policy Futures in Education, 2017, 15 (1), pp. 113 - 128
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© Author(s) 2016. Neoliberal forces since the latter part of the 20th century have ushered in greater devolution in state schooling systems, producing uneven effects on the working conditions of teachers, commonly the largest segment of the public sector workforce. Within this context, this paper examines secondary teachers' working conditions as they relate to the restructuring of the professional landscape that school choice reforms bring. Drawing illustrations from a qualitative study of teachers' working experiences in the lowest socio-economic status schools, through the 'middle band', to the most prestigious and affluent in a metropolitan city in Australia, this paper finds that teachers develop skill-sets that are context specific, creating possible 'lock-in effects' within but also between sectors. Moreover, various work arrangement issues seem to reinforce the lock-in effects by making changes between sectors risky and unattractive. We postulate that inter- and intra-sectoral differences, which are exacerbated through school choice processes, have the potential to reinforce and deepen the lock-in effects on teachers, with possible consequences for their future career mobility.
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