Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

Mediation, translation and local ecologies: understanding the impact of policy levers on FE colleges

By Ken Spours, Frank Coffield and Maggie Gregson


This article reports the views of managers and tutors on the role of policy ‘levers’ on teaching, learning, and inclusion in colleges of Further Education (FE) in our research project, ‘The impact of policy on learning and inclusion in the Learning and Skills Sector (LSS)’.i Using data from five research visits conducted over two years in eight FE learning sites, we explore the processes by which colleges ‘mediate’ and ‘translate’ national policy levers and how this affects their ability to respond to local need. The paper tentatively develops three related concepts/metaphors to explain the complexity of the policy/college interface – ‘the process of mediation’, ‘acts of translation’ and ‘local ecologies’. We found that policy levers interacted with a complex set of national, local and institutional factors as colleges responded to pressures from the external environment and turned these into internal plans, systems and practices. We conclude by suggesting that national policy-makers, who design national policy levers, may not be fully aware of these complexities and we make the case for the benefits of greater local control over policy levers, where these interactions are better understood

Year: 2007
OAI identifier:

Suggested articles


  1. (2007). (eds) Improving Learning Cultures in Further Education doi
  2. (2002). (forthcoming) Rolling out ‘good’, ‘best’ and ‘excellent’ practice. What next? Perfect practice?,
  3. (2005). 14-19 Education: policy, leadership and learning.
  4. (1998). 9000 voices: student persistence and drop-out in FE.
  5. (2005). A new learning and skills landscape? The central role of the Learning and Skills Council,
  6. (2005). A New Learning and Skills Landscape? The LSC within the learning and skills sector,
  7. (2004). Agenda for Change doi
  8. (2006). Alternative futures: professional identity formation in English Further Education’
  9. (1992). An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology (Cambridge,
  10. (2005). Curriculum Authority (QCA)
  11. (2006). Delivering quality and choice: how performance indicators help and how performance indicators hinder
  12. (2004). Further Education Middle Managers: Their contribution to the strategic decision-making process, doi
  13. (2006). Further Education: Raising Skills, Improving Life Chances (Norwich, Stationery Office).
  14. (2002). Incentives and Organizations in the Public Sector: An Interpretative Review,
  15. (2006). Learner autonomy in FE. Paper presented to BERA conference 2006, University of
  16. (2007). Learners in the English learning and skills sector: The implications of halfright policy assumptions, doi
  17. (2007). Learning cultures across sites’
  18. (1997). Managerialism and Professionalism in the ‘Cinderella Service,
  19. (2005). Middle managers in English further education colleges: understanding and modelling the role,
  20. (2006). National Learner Satisfaction Survey: Highlights from 2004/5
  21. (2006). Nuffield 14-19 Review Working Paper 13 at, accessed
  22. (2000). Principles speaking: managerialism and leadership in further education,
  23. (1992). Reforming Education and Changing Schools: case-studies in policy sociology
  24. (1991). Situated Learning (Cambridge, doi
  25. (2005). Skills Development Agency (LSDA)
  26. (2003). Success for All: Implementation of the Framework for Quality and Success, Circular 03/09
  27. (1979). The ecology of human development: Experiments by nature and design
  28. (2004). The organisation of full-time 14-19 provision in the state sector.
  29. (2003). Trust in the Future: Report of the Bureaucracy Task Force
  30. (1999). Under new management: changing perceptions of teacher professionalism and policy in the further education sector,

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.