Uncovering Policy Response: Primary School Principals in the Netherlands and the Professions in Education Act Janine Smit, dr. Carl Bagley and dr. Sophie Ward
Summary: The Netherlands currently has one of the most decentralised education systems in Europe, with a high level of school autonomy and no formal governance levels between the national government and the school. Consequently, school principals have gained more freedom in educational policy, but also face more responsibilities in the provision of schooling. The aim of this study is to discover the ways in which principals in Dutch primary schools respond to governmental policy. The policy focus is the Professions in Education Act (BIO-Act), 2004, which aims to assure the quality of education delivered by school principals, teachers and supporting staff in schools. The research employed a mixed method sequential and phased design approach, collecting and analysing quantitative data (N=103) and augmenting these results with in-depth qualitative data analysis (N=5). The tentative findings from this relatively small study cautiously suggest school principals’ (i) possess a sense of responsibility in needing to respond to policy; (ii) mediate policy response in relation to the culture and history of the school and other key stakeholders; (iii) are engaged in a complex process of ‘creative social action.