Discretion and control in education: the teacher as street-level bureaucrat

Ian Taylor*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article assesses the impact of education reform and the new public management (NPM) on the discretion of school teachers. The focal point of the study is Michael Lipsky's theory of discretion which casts public service professionals and others involved in service delivery as 'street-level bureaucrats' because their high degree of discretionary rule-making power enabled them to effectively make policy as well as implement it. The article considers the relationship between education reform and the NPM and focuses on the increased emphasis on skills-based teaching and changes in management and leadership in schools. The literature and survey of teachers demonstrate that discretion in the workplace has been eroded to such an extent due to a high degree of central regulation and local accountability as to question the applicability of Lipsky's model. The findings are based on the literature and a small survey undertaken by the author. © 2007 BELMAS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)555-572
Number of pages18
JournalEducational Management, Administration and Leadership
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2007


  • discretion
  • leadership
  • Lipsky
  • NPM
  • teachers


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