Framing, explaining and forming the National Improvement Framework

  • Lee Coutts

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The National Improvement Framework (NIF) is intended to bring together the Scottish Government's priorities for education into one source. It promotes educational improvement through two main aims: achieving excellence and equity. It was published in January 2016 and is updated annually.;Adams' (2016) original approach to policy analysis is used to examine how the NIF has been formed through discourse (for example, conversations) at the micro level (policy-forming). However, these do not occur outside the social, cultural, historical or economic sphere in which they take place (Gee, 2012). Therefore, it is necessary to consider how policy ideas are framed through wider Discourse (policy-framing), and subsequently presented and explained in policy pronouncements (policy-explaining).;Fairclough's Critical Discourse Analysis was used to examine policy-framing and policy-explaining. The literature was used as data to highlight wider Discourse that framed the NIF. The NIF is framed within Discourse that espouses a Scottish identity through education, education in a globalised society and as a means to achieve equity. The internal relations, organisation and structure of the NIF policy text was examined to understand how the NIF was explained. Words and images are used that position education as a top priority with children placed centre staged. There is a focus on improvement and numbers that has positioned data as a symbolic form of capital.;Semi-structured interviews were undertaken with seventeen primary school teachers and analysed thematically to show how the NIF was formed. Since the NIF was published, there has been an increase in formal assessment and data tracking. Teachers are engaging in discussions about data, and children are being referred to by their 'data double' when achievement is reduced to colour coding on a spreadsheet. The distribution of pupil equity funding (PEF) is sometimes being prioritised for children in P1-P3. These practices are conceptualised as gaming by schools, although often resisted by teachers, which is not always commensurate with the aims of the Scottish curriculum.;It is recommended that the purpose of the NIF and its relationship to CfE is made clear to teachers. Schools need to examine the practices that have formed around tracking and the distribution of PEF. Local authorities and the Scottish Government need to examine the practices that have formed, and the increased sense of accountability felt by teachers, due to 'reaching into' schools' data.
Date of Award28 May 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SupervisorPaul Adams (Supervisor) & Kate Wall (Supervisor)

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