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Contested territories: English teachers in Australia and England remaining resilient and creative in constraining timesGlobally teachers are experiencing reductions to their autonomy and constraints on their professional practice through legislative impositions of limiting standards, external testing and narrowing curricula. This study explores the ways English educators find a balance between these external expectations, contemporary pressures, professional aspirations, and personal values. It was a qualitative investigation into the perceptions shared by thirty-three English teachers from New South Wales, Australia and across England. A significant gap now exists between the ways English teachers conceive their subject, their purposes and the nature of their work, and that determined by regulation, formalised curriculum and accreditation requirements. The enduring resilience of these teachers is revealed but also the corrosive structural effects produced by narrowly focused, neoliberal policies especially in relation to high stakes testing. However, the research demonstrates how certain English teachers remain remarkably resilient–retaining autonomy where they can–and we define this attribute as ‘adaptive agency’.