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How public management reform influenced three professional groups - teachers, nurses and social workers - in England during the period 1979-2010

How public management reform influenced three professional groups - teachers, nurses and social workers - in England during the period 1979-2010

Lethbridge, Elizabeth Janet ORCID: 0000-0002-0094-9967 (2015) How public management reform influenced three professional groups - teachers, nurses and social workers - in England during the period 1979-2010. PhD thesis, University of Greenwich.

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This thesis examines the influence of institutional and government policy change, in the form of public management reform, on the professional development of teachers, nurses and social workers, described as 'social service professionals', delivering public services in England between 1979 and 2010. The influence of institutional and government policy changes were assessed through a textual analysis of public policy documents; an analysis of the changing size and structure of the three groups highlighting gender, age and ethnicity; an analysis of training reforms through changing institutional arrangements and course content and: the perceptions of six key informants from trade unions and professional associations which represent these professions. These findings were tested on a consultative group of twelve experts in the field of employment relations in the public sector. This thesis found that there were similarities in the reforms introduced by government throughout this period to these three professional groups, which were characterised by the imposition of increased documentation and record keeping, targets and inspections. The control of the work process decreased, with a reduction of professional autonomy and accompanying reforms to professional training. All three professions have been dominated by women throughout the period and the proportion of men has changed little but they are disproportionately represented in management. The introduction of senior practitioner roles has not resulted in women exerting a stronger control over their profession. For all three groups, there has been a tension between higher education institution (HEIs) providers of training, government and employers as well as a lack of consensus about what constitutes appropriate professional training. This is not necessarily a new phenomenon but public management reforms have intensified it and the introduction of ‘learning on the job’ training will further weaken the role of HEIs in vocational training. One of the criticisms used to justify public service reforms was the apparent insensitivity of public services to the needs of users. Some of the responses by trade union and professional organisations to these attacks on professional autonomy have resulted in the exploration of a concept of democratic professionalism, which aims to strengthen the relationship between professionals and service users, so addressing one of the original criticisms of these professionals. This concept represents a different response to public management reforms which has the potential to address problems of democratic involvement in public services and defend them from government attacks. This thesis has two main original contributions to knowledge: it contributes to research showing how 'social services professionals' have been affected by public management reforms and how they are building a concept of democratic professionalism and; it further develops comparative professional studies.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information:
Uncontrolled Keywords: Public management reforms; professionalism; teachers; nurses; social workers;
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Faculty / Department / Research Group: Faculty of Education, Health & Human Sciences
Faculty of Education, Health & Human Sciences > Department of Psychology, Social Work & Counselling
Last Modified: 18 Oct 2019 13:52
Selected for GREAT 2016: None
Selected for GREAT 2017: None
Selected for GREAT 2018: None
Selected for GREAT 2019: None
Selected for REF2021: None

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