Research themes

Beamsville District Secondary School, Ontario

The four core themes of our research

Our research focuses on a number of important themes, including:

  • The roles that schools play and the impacts of school closures
  • The reasons for school closures
  • The school closure decision-making process
  • Consideration of alternative decision-making models

Should considerations of community matter? Schmidt et al. (2007) focus on the costs to social and human capital deriving from school closings. Their research asserts that by accounting for all costs, small schools are more efficient on a per capita student basis than larger school. Yet for most school closure reviews the terms of reference tend to take a pronounced neo-liberal fiscal preference through the repeated use of terminology such as “operating costs”, “fiscal accountability” and “economic restraints”. These terms define the conditions in which most school reviews will be conducted. These same review processes tends to be silent in terms of setting out conditions of reviews on the subjects of community impact and broader considerations of social and human capital.

Important considerations

In considering this state of affairs, a number of questions arise. How do the values of decision-makers at various levels influence and shape the policy agenda and its delivery? How do community members describe the concrete and practical application of school closure policy in their locales? How do they understand the consequences of school closings, especially as they occur in local settings? How (or do) the end results of school closures reflect what community members value?

The nature of policy research

Pal (2012) states that policy (decision-making) is the creation of (or is created by) values, which in turn, establishes a set of normative standards. The major focus of the research, then, is to further the understanding of the impact of values in the designs of public policy. At the centre of our research is the interplay between public policy and community, particularly how the values of key institutional decision-makers influence and shape the agenda and its delivery, and what values shape the responses of local community members. In other word, we are interested in the nature of the relationship between the values of policy-makers and the values of the members of affected communities.

Further reading and citations

Pal. L. (2012). Beyond policy analysis: Public issue management in turbulent times (4th Ed.). Toronto, ON: Nelson.

Schmidt, M., Murray, C., & Nguyen, H. (2007). Cohesive communities, improved outcomes: A case for small schools. Education Canada, 47, 59-62.

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