Governing education in times of crisis: state interventions and school accountabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic

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Strategic government interventions in public education have shifted and blurred the boundaries between state, market and civil society modes of governance. Within this matrix of interdependent relations, schools operate under increasingly hybrid accountability arrangements in which public accountability can both complement and compete with market and social regimes and their associated institutional logics, goals, values and mechanisms. During the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, national governments implemented a wide range of emergency measures which had consequences for the mixes and layers of school accountabilities. This article examines the principal policy changes in Denmark, England and Italy. Drawing on state theories and the concept of ‘hybrid accountability’, semi-structured interviews with national and local policymakers and school practitioners were analysed thematically. While cultural nuances exist between the cases, our findings reveal that state interventions reinforce a public–professional accountability hybrid and hierarchies of control and command within and outside networks. Concomitantly, state non-interventions and the distinct underlying institutional logics associated with national large-scale assessments suggest policy inertia with implications for professional accountability and institutionalised change. Future research might investigate whether educators’ experiences influence the direction of national and local accountability policy reforms in a post-pandemic era.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Educational Research Journal
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)520-539
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2021


  • Denmark
  • England
  • Hybrid accountability
  • Italy
  • crisis
  • educational governance
  • policy inertia


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