Primary teachers’ reflections on their response to three phases of the PNS and their perceptions of the effect these responses had upon their experiences of teaching mathematics

  • Evelyn Penfold

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The government introduce policy in response to economic priorities and with a view to raising standards in education (Ward & Eden, 2009, Askew et al, 2001). Teachers are expected to respond to policy and their enactments are observed and assessed by colleagues and Ofsted inspectors. Their responses are affected by their teaching experiences, their capacity to make changes to their practice and their perceptions of how they should respond. I wanted to understand what teachers considered within a changing policy landscape and how their daily mathematics lessons were affected.

I designed a qualitative, interpretative research study that involved interviewing 29 teachers. My sample consisted of head teachers, deputy head teachers, mathematics coordinators and class teachers. I drew on policy enactment theory to explore their responses. Social constructionism theory enabled the teachers and myself to co-construct an understanding of their actions and the effect of policy on their professionalism. I undertook a thematic analysis to facilitate the emergence of themes from the data.

I found that policy was not enacted as intended by the government, particularly when the changes to teachers’ mathematics teaching were significant. Teachers have varying levels of security in terms of their pedagogical content knowledge (PCK), which fluctuated as they experienced policy changes. Teachers made connections to policy when they reviewed and updated their practice. Conversely disconnections were made when teachers perceived that their PCK was more relevant than policy. Policy was a means of professional development, which depended on teachers’ capacity to recognise potential enhancements to their practice. My findings suggest that professional development should have a lasting effect in order for teachers to manage future policy changes. Teachers were autonomous when they perceived that they could act upon their professional judgement and adapt or ignore policy. In contrast teachers’ autonomy was limited when they perceived that policy superseded their professional judgements.
Date of Award18 Feb 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Roehampton


  • Professionalism
  • Policy
  • National Strategies
  • National Numeracy Strategy
  • Primary National Strategy
  • Policy enactment
  • Teachers

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