Helen M Gunter

Critical Education Policy Researcher

I am Professor Emerita in The Manchester Institute of Education, University of Manchester, UK. I undertake research  in education policy and educational leadership. I am a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences (2010), and recipient of the BELMAS Distinguished Service Award (2016).

My research focuses on the knowledge production and the politics of education policy, with particular attention to the field of educational leaders, leading and leadership.

https://www.research.manchester.ac.uk/portal/helen.gunter.html
About me
New for 2023
NEW FOR 2023!
 
 
 
A Political Sociology of Education Policy

Helen M Gunter

The segregation of education services is based on an education reform claimocracy that espouses eugenicist beliefs in order to sustain oligarchic club sovereignty as modern and modernising. The book presents empirical data and conceptual analysis from a range of projects to understand and explain segregation through undertaking a political sociology of education policy.

Chapter 1 Introduction: Education Reform Claimocracy
This introduction presents the case for a political sociology of education policy in order to understand and explain the use of an education reform claimocracy to defend and promote segregated education. Based on empirical and conceptual work from the Education Policy Knowledgeable Polities projects the case is made for the interplay and deployment of Arendtian and Bourdieusian thinking tools to reveal policy violence. This policy violence is authorised, legitimate and intelligent, and is examined in Part 1 of the book. Understandings and explanations of policy violence are presented in Part 2 of the book through a Thinking Politically-Sociologically Framework (TPSF) that includes: vantage points, viewpoints, regimes of practices, exchange relationships, and the intellectual histories underpinning knowledge production for and about policy.

Part 1: A political sociology of education policy

Chapter 2 Modernising Education
Segregated education services are enabled through eugenicist populism, and the chapter examines five main modernisation trends in general and in education policy that enable and sustain the eugenicist fabrications that are used to justify selection and secession. Policy violence is examined through a focus on social mobility as a form of legitimised violence. While the ERC uses the language of aspiration and opportunity, the continued investment in segregation based on natural inferiority-superiority limits aspirations and opportunities for the majority of children.

Chapter 3 Governing by Knowledge Production
Segregated education services are enabled through how private and globalised oligarchies occupy the state and use governing to control the ERC through knowledge production. Oligarchies are promoters and beneficiaries of depoliticization, and three forms in general and in education policy are identified: depoliticised privatism, corporatisation and populism. Policy violence is examined through a focus on problem solving as a form of authorised violence. While the ERC focuses on the centrality of improvement and effectiveness through problem identification and solutions, in reality power is evacuated, relationality silenced and action denied.

Chapter 4 Policy Mortality
Segregated education services are enabled through the use of failure, as policy mortality, that is integral to education policy. Children, professionals and schools have to experience the fear and actuality of failure for markets and choice to operate. The ERC is a product of and shapes the knowledgeable state, where the Education Policy Knowledgeable Polity projects demonstrate data and analysis in four main themes: Theme 1 system design; Theme 2 the workforce; Theme 3 policy actors; and Theme 4 knowledge production. Policy violence is examined through a focus on problem solving as a form of intelligent violence that is weaponised, calculated and enacted. While the ERC focuses on what is worth knowing about because it works, in reality this turns schools into what Arendt identifies as deserts.

Part 2: A political sociology of education policy in action

Chapter 5 Vantage Points
The starting point of the TPSF is to examine vantage points or the organisational location of the person or group involved in the claimocracy. Four vantage points are examined: core, privileged, marginal and othered, and the data show that the prime vantage point is the core. A case study from Theme 1: System Design is presented, where data and analysis are used to demonstrate policy violence through the dismantling of the local government provision of school places and its replacement with academies.

Chapter 6 Viewpoints
Following on from examining vantage points within the TPSF is the need to investigate viewpoints or the knowledge production position of the person or group who create and espouse the claimocracy. Three ontological and epistemological positions are identified: positivist, interpretive and critical, and based on this four knowledge production and viewpoints are presented: functional science, normative instrumentalism, narrative description and critical social justice. It is argued that a hybrid of positivist functional science and normative instrumentalism dominates that is called normative functionalism. A case study from Theme 2: Workforce is presented, where data and analysis are used to demonstrate policy violence towards the profession.

Chapter 7 Regimes of Practice
Following on from examining vantage points and viewpoints within the TPSF is the need to investigate regime inter-connections that enable the claimocracy. Three types of regimes are identified: state, satellite and star, where state regimes dominate, this is examined through a study of the Conservative Privatisation Regime, and the New Labour Performance Regime. A case study from Theme 3: Policy Actors is presented, where data and analysis are used to demonstrate policy violence towards the profession regarding the imposition of leaders and follower hierarchy.

Chapter 8 Exchange Relationships
Following on from examining vantage points, viewpoints and regimes within the TPSF is the need to investigate exchange relationships that secure the claimocracy. Five forms of exchange relationships are presented: personal, employment, project, socio-political and cultural, and it is argued that personal-cultural contractualism dominates. A case study from Theme 3: Policy Actors is presented, where data and analysis about local policymaking are used to demonstrate policy violence through how strategic and tactical change are understood and engaged with regarding academisation.

Chapter 9 Critical Education Policy Studies
Following on from examining vantage points, viewpoints, regimes and exchange relationships within the TPSF is the need to investigate the knowledge production that underpins the claimocracy. Four policy positions in relation to criticality within Critical Education Policy Studies are identified: description, science, entrepreneurialism, and scholarship, where the primacy of entrepreneurialism is examined. A case study from Theme 4: Knowledge Production is presented where the writing and conceptualisation of intellectual histories demonstrates how policy violence is based on recognising wants, needs and likes, and the denial of intellectual activism.

Chapter 10 Conclusion: Intellectual Activism
This chapter is the conclusion to the book, and a summary of the arguments about segregation and eugenics in education is provided by using the Thinking Politically-Sociologically Framework. The argument is that political sociology enables the Critical Education Policy Studies field to think productively in relation to, first, a political sociology of and about the education reform claimocracy; and second, a political sociology for and by the field regarding positioning within and in relation to the claimocracy. It is argued that research and scholarship within and by the field of Critical Education Policy Studies is in danger and so may find the adoption of little agoras and intellectual activism helpful regarding revitalising the purposes and practices of research.

Advanced ordering: 
https://policy.bristoluniversitypress.co.uk/a-political-sociology-of-education-policy

This book is the third in a trilogy:
https://policy.bristoluniversitypress.co.uk/leadership-and-the-reform-of-education

https://policy.bristoluniversitypress.co.uk/the-politics-of-public-education

2021: Understanding Educational Leadership

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2020: reporting research into Arendtian scholarship and education

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2020: reporting comparative research into consultants.

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2018: reporting research into reforms of public education using Arendtian scholarship.

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2018: reporting research into theorising in educational leadership.

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2017: reporting research that maps consultants and their impact on education.

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2017: reporting research into the impact of corporate elites on public education

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2016: reporting research into the meaning and practice of educational leadership

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2016: reporting research into NPM in education.

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2014: reporting research into educational leadership

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2014: reporting accounts of undertaking research

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2012: reporting research into how and why educational leadership became so important

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2012: reporting research on the reforms to higher education

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2011: reporting research into academies

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2010: reporting research into inequality in higher education

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2010: reporting research into poverty and education

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2009: reporting research about the field

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2009: reporting research into educational reforms

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2007: reporting research into the reforms of educational professionals

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2005: reporting research into teachers as leaders

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2001: reporting researching into school leadership

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1999: reporting research by headteachers about doing their job

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1997: reporting research into the state of the field

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Knowledge production and education policy

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Knowledge production, schools, professionals and children

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Knowledge production and educational leadership

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Knowledge production and research

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2020: Could Dido Harding move into education next? https://www.bera.ac.uk/blog/could-dido-harding-move-into-education-next With CEPOL Team 2020: Five education myths that Covid-19 shatters https://www.bera.ac.uk/blog/five-education-myths-that-covid-19-shatters With CEPOL Team

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2019: Five ways in which Edu-Exit was the test run for Brexit https://www.bera.ac.uk/blog/five-ways-in-which-edu-exit-was-the-test-run-for-brexit

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2017: Anarchist Tendencies in Distributed Leadership? http://blogging2.humanities.manchester.ac.uk/mie/anarchist-tendencies-in-distributed-leadership/ 2017: Thinking about Education Policy Research https://www.bera.ac.uk/blog/thinking-about-education-policy-research

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2016: Grammar schools and Downton Abbey politics http://blog.policy.manchester.ac.uk/posts/2016/09/grammar-schools-and-downton-abbey-politics/ 2016: A mimicry of the public school: grammar schools never went away, but they should have. With Steven J Courtney. http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/the-mimicry-of-the-public-school-grammar-schools-never-went-away-but-they-should-have/

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019: Five ways in which Edu-Exit was the test run for Brexit https://www.bera.ac.uk/blog/five-ways-in-which-edu-exit-was-the-test-run-for-brexit 2017: Anarchist Tendencies in Distributed Leadership? http://blogging2.humanities.manchester.ac.uk/mie/anarchist-tendencies-in-distributed-leadership/ 2017: Thinking about Education Policy Research https://www.bera.ac.uk/blog/thinking-about-education-policy-research 2016: Grammar schools and Downton Abbey politics http://blog.policy.manchester.ac.uk/posts/2016/09/grammar-schools-and-downton-abbey-politics/ 2016: A mimicry of the public school: grammar schools never went away, but they should have. With Steven J Courtney. http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/the-mimicry-of-the-public-school-grammar-schools-never-went-away-but-they-should-have/ 2015: Post 2015 general election thoughts… https://www.bera.ac.uk/blog/post-2015-general-election-thoughts

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Editing: Journal of Educational Administration and History

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Editing: Perspectives on Leadership in Higher Education

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Critical Education Policy and Leadership papers

In these pages I intend presenting short articles that focus on knowledge production and educational policy/leadership

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CEPaLS 01 Paper: More Leadership?

The first CEPaLS article is a reissue of my inaugural lecture from 2005.

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CEPaLS 02 Paper: Foster's Paradigms and Promises Revisted

In this paper I review Foster's contribution in his 1986 book Paradigms and Promises

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CEPaLS Paper 03: Smyth's edited collection: Critical Perspectives on Educational Leadership

This paper reports on my review of this edited collection.

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CEPaLS Paper 04: Rethinking education: the consequences of Chaos Theory.

This is an updated version of the paper I gave at BELMAS in 2004 based on my work in the 1990s on the use of Chaos Theory and field development.

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CEPaLS 05: Thrupp and Willmott's book: Education Management in Managerialist Times.

This is a review essay I wrote for a symposium focused on the book at at BELMAS conference.

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CEPaLS 06: Knowledge networks and educational reform in England

CEPaLS 06 is the paper I gave at the American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting, San Francisco, USA, April 2013.

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CEPaLS 07: Risky Reforms: stories from a New Labour Project

This is a paper that I gave at a conference in 2007.

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CEPaLS 08: New Models of Leadership: A Literature Review

This is text I produced for a commissioned project report that was not used.

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CEPaLS 09: Knowledge production and leadership as a globalised business

This is a paper I gave at the 2011 BELMAS conference

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CEPaLS 10: a critical conceptualisation of privatisation in Chile and England

This is a paper I gave with Alejandro Carrasco and Gabriel Gutierrez at the 2016 BERA conference.

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CEPaLS 11: The ultimate privatisation, the case of grammar schools

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I began supervising doctoral projects from 1999 at Birmingham (1999-2004) and then Manchester (2004-2022) Universities. Here is a list of 38 completions.

Date
 
AwardStudent NameTitle
2021EdDJames TwiggTowards an understanding of children’s accounts of learning in primary schools. 
50,000 word thesis, plus supervision of the three 10,000 word research papers as part of the Doctoral programme.
2020PhDLuyao HuangSocial capital, education and entrepreneurial development
80,000 word thesis.
2019PhDBelinda (Bee) HughesAn investigation into the Chief Executive Officer of a Multi Academy Trust in England. 
90,000 word (Journal Format) Thesis.
2019PhDOmar KaissiResearching corporeality in education: an investigation of knowledge production in gender and education on boys and masculinities. 
90,000 word (Journal Format) Thesis.
2019EdDDr Lee WebsterAn investigation into informed learning and postgraduate study: the SPIDER case study. 
60,000 word thesis (Alternative Format), plus supervision of the three 10,000 word research papers as part of the Doctoral programme.
2019EdDBecky Lunson SouthallPeer Wellbeing Champions in Secondary Schools. Towards an understanding of online-peer-mentoring and wellbeing. 
50,000 word thesis, plus supervision of the three 10,000 word research papers as part of the Doctoral programme.
2019EdDLewis EntwistleAn investigation into building democratic values and practices through young people’s experiences of knowledge and learning in a sixth form college
50,000 word thesis, plus supervision of the three 10,000 word research papers as part of the Doctoral programme.
2018EdDCaroline LeahApproved Mental Health Professionals: negotiating dialogic identities as hybrid professionals
50,000 word thesis.
2017EdDLiz GregoryTowards a collective identity: a study of learners self-perception in the FE environment
50,000 word thesis, plus supervision of the three 10,000 word research papers as part of the Doctoral programme.
2017PhDWazerah BawazeerWomen in leadership in higher education in KSA
80,000 word thesis.
2017EdDStephen RaynerValues and policy enactment: the interrelationship between decision-making processes, values and professional practice in an English secondary school.
60,000 word thesis (Alternative Format) plus supervision of the three 10,000 word research papers as part of the Doctoral programme.
2017EdDAndy GrahamA study of the perceptions of academic staff of workload and performance management models.
50,000 word thesis, plus supervision of the three 10,000 word research papers as part of the Doctoral programme.
2017EdDJennifer SilverthorneAn investigation into pharmacist professional formation. 
50,000 word thesis, plus supervision of the three 10,000 word research papers as part of the Doctoral programme.
2016EdDMichael BurnittPrimary Headteachers: Perceptions on Standards, Accountability and School Context
50,000 word thesis, plus supervision of the three 10,000 word research papers as part of the Doctoral programme.
2016EdDAleksander JedroszScience teaching spaces: their impact on teaching.
50,000 word thesis, plus supervision of the three 10,000 word research papers as part of the Doctoral programme.
2016EdDRachel ChardA study of current teacher professionals and their attitudes towards promotion and careers.
50,000 word thesis, plus supervision of the three 10,000 word research papers as part of the Doctoral programme.
2015PhDSteven J CourtneyInvestigating school leadership at a time of system diversity, competition and flux.
90,000 word (Alternative Format) thesis.
2015EdDTony FortConstituting the Managerial Subject: an investigation into middle management in FE.
50,000 word thesis, plus supervision of the three 10,000 word research papers as part of the Doctoral programme.
2015EdDVictoria Ruth JohnsonPolicy, practice and assessment: revealing the relationship between the GCSE English assessment and educational reproduction.
50,000 word thesis, plus supervision of two out of the three 10,000 word research papers as part of the Doctoral programme.
2014PhDRuth McGinityAn investigation into localised policymaking at a time of rapid educational reform in England.
80,000 word thesis.
2014EdDJulian SkyrmeContextual admissions and social justice in selective English higher education institutions.
50,000 word thesis, plus supervision of the three 10,000 word research papers as part of the Doctoral programme.
2013PhDOlga Campbell-ThomsonExploring the process of national identity construction in the context of schooling in The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus
80,000 word thesis.
2013EdDPatricia DaviesStudent leadership of ICT for learning in a high school.
50,000 word thesis, plus supervision of the three 10,000 word research papers as part of the Doctoral programme.
2013PhDAna-Cristina PopescuHeadteachers and the Decentralisation of Public Education in Post-Communist Romania.
80,000 word thesis.
2013PhDChristiana KarousiouAn Exploratory Study into Primary Teachers’ Professional Identity at a Time of Educational Reform in Cyprus.
80,000 word thesis.
2012EdDAdrian LythgoeA study of the professional identities of senior school leaders in areas of economic hardship.
50,000 word thesis, plus supervision of the three 10,000 word research papers as part of the Doctoral programme.
2012PhDStephen RogersAn investigation into New Labour Education Policy: personalisation, young people, schools and modernity.
80,000 word thesis.
2012PhDDiane WhalleyPolicy and practice for children with complex needs.
80,000 word thesis.
2011EdDMaureen CainInside the Primary School Leadership Team: an investigation into Primary school leadership practice and development as an integrated process.
50,000 word thesis, plus supervision of the three 10,000 word research papers as part of the Doctoral programme.
2010EdDJoe O’ConnellTowards an understanding of the factors that influence teacher engagement in continuing professional development.
50,000 word thesis; plus supervision of the three 10,000 word research papers within the Doctoral Programme.
2009EdDCraig BlythDisabled gay men and Manchester’s gay village: the socially and spatially constructed gay body.
50,000 word thesis.
2008EdDCharlotte WoodsInvestigating Emotion in the Higher Education Workplace Using Q Methodology.
50,000 word thesis
2008PhDWei ZhangAn Investigation of the Professional Learning of School Leaders in English Schools.
80,000 word thesis.
2007PhDAnne LanceAn investigation of policy and practice in the primary school.
80,000 word thesis
2006EdDAlison TaysumThe EdD and the learning journies of leaders in education.
50,000 word thesis; plus supervision of the eight 5,000 word research papers within the Doctoral Programme.
2006PhDLin MacKenzieAn investigation into adult learners and learning: powerful learners and learning in three sites of adult education.
80,000 word thesis
2004EdDLynn BradburyA study of women who are headteachers and mothers.
50,000 word thesis; plus supervision of the eight 5,000 word research papers within the Doctoral Programme.
2004PhDRobert SmithWork, identity and the quasi-market: the FE experience.
80,000 word thesis

  • Professor Helen M Gunter, The Manchester Institute of Education, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester. UK
  • M13 9PL

I do not have an office phone number any longer, and so please email me.