Policy Networks in Scottish Education: The politics of representation

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation



This paper is based on a larger piece of research that traced the formation and implementation of a teacher education policy, ‘Teaching Scotland’s Future’ (Donaldson, 2011) in ‘action’. This policy set out a programme of radical change in Scottish teacher education, with its proposals carrying implications for entry to initial teacher education (ITE), the content and structure of ITE, the nature of teacher professional learning, and management and leadership. Shortly after its publication, the Scottish Government accepted all of its fifty recommendations and set up a ‘National Partnership Group’ (NPG) to begin to implement the recommendations from the original policy text. This group consisted of a number of individual teachers and representatives from different organisations with an interest in teacher education, such as the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS), Education Scotland and universities.
The Scottish policy style is often based on a concept of partnership and is described as inclusive, democratic and open (Menter & Hulme, 2011) and members of the policy community tend to know each other on a personal basis. Although on the surface this may have a number of positive attributes, it is not always deemed to be effective, and this research found that it led to a level of conservatism within the system and a resistance to the traction of new ideas.
The overall approach used in this research is critical policy analysis, which attempts to highlight issues of power in the formation and enactment of policy. It also draws on elements of actor-network theory (Fenwick & Edwards, 2010) to highlight the role of formal and informal interests in policy translation
This paper will draw on the interview data to explore the way that individual actors construct their roles as ‘representatives’ in the policy process. It will argue that one of the main issues with the traditional model is that organisations are treated as individual entities, when they should be considered as complex actors composed of multiple interests and (hidden) agendas. Questions will be raised about the extent to which individuals can act as democratic ‘representatives’ of institutional organisations or professional groups.


Donaldson, G. (2011). Teaching Scotland’s Future: Report of a Review of teacher Education in Scotland.Edinburgh: Scottish Government.
Fenwick, T., & Edwards, R. (2010). Actor-Network Theory in Education. Oxon: Routledge. 
Menter, I., & Hulme, M. (2011). Teacher education reform in Scotland: national and global influences. Journal of Education for Teaching, 37, 387-397.

PeriodSep 2016
Event titleBritish Education Research Association (BERA) 2016 Annual Conference
Event typeConference
LocationLeeds, United Kingdom
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • policy networks
  • network governance
  • Teacher Education
  • policy development
  • scottish education