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Introducing the researcher

I have had a long standing professional drive to better understand the relationship between learning and student voice. This relationship has progressed from seeing students as representatives, to facilitating their role as agents in school operations, and to my current research interest: the impact of voice in students’ learning and engagement. This commitment demands participatory forms of institutional governance rather than representative forms, and is at odds with the current neoliberal-informed political reform focus based on changes in technical practice rather than democratic principles (Dahlberg & Moss, 2004; Harvey, 2005).

I am now in the unique position of being the newly appointed principal in a remote, disadvantaged, Category 1 school that has no cash reserves and is being tightly monitored as a ‘one year turn around’ school under neoliberal inspired policies. There is enormous pressure to bring about change and improve student outcomes using prescribed technical practices (Dahlberg & Moss, 2004) at CPAS.

“The bad news is that […] we are losing ground—the economic and education gap has been widening at least since the year 2000.” (Fullan, 2007).

This loss of ground is widely lamented, and is described in various ways in the literature; as plateauing or declining outcomes and a widening equity gap (Adams Becker, Freeman, Giesinger Hall, Cummins, & Yuhnke, 2016; OECD, 2016), as shrinking voice (Mitra & Gross, 2009, p. 525), as a loss of democratic missions in schools (Dahlberg & Moss, 2004; Diemer, Rapa, Voight, & McWhirter, 2016), and as schools providing experiences that students describe as ‘anonymous and powerless’, more focused on test scores than preparation for engaged and contributing citizenship (Feu et al., 2017). This loss of ground is being addressed at my school as part of my ongoing work.