Over half of England's secondary schools are now academies. The social and cultural outcomes prompted by this neoliberal educational model has received less scrutiny. This book draws on original research based at Dreamfields Academy, to show how the accelerated marketization and centralization of education is reproducing raced, classed and gendered inequalities. Urbanderry is a socially and economically mixed borough where poverty and gentrification coexist. The book sketches out the key features of Dreamfields' ethos before reflecting on the historical trajectories that underpin how education, urban space and formations of race, class and gender are discussed in the present. Academies have faced opposition for their lack of democratic accountability as they can set their own labour conditions, deviate from the national curriculum and operate outside local authority control. The book examines the complex stories underlying Dreamfields' glossy veneer of success and shows how students, teachers and parents navigate the everyday demands of Dreamfields' results-driven conveyor belt. It also examines how hierarchies are being reformulated. The book interrogates the social and cultural dimensions of this gift that seeks to graft more 'suitable' forms of capital onto its students. The focus is on the conditions underlying this gift's exchange with children, parents and teachers, remaining conscious of how value is generated from the power, perspective and relationships that create the initial conditions of possibility for exchange. Dreamfields acts as a symbolic and material response to the supposed failures of comprehensive education and public anxieties over the loss of nationhood and prestige of empire.
Building new narratives:
academies, aspiration and the
Children who come from unstructured backgrounds, as many of our children
do, and often very unhappy ones, should be given more structure in their lives.
So it means that the school in many ways becomes a sort of surrogate parent to
the child and the child will only succeed if the philosophy of the school is that
we will in many ways substitute and take over where necessary … Therefore we
want staff who commit themselves to that ethos. It’s not a nine-to-five ethos; it’s
an ethos which says
to sixth-form college.
Many middle-class parents recognised their innate ‘worth’ on the educationmarket, and their ability to manipulate this market. Middle-class students’
favoured status connects to their parents’ position of value to form a circuitous
route of privilege. As Ball (2003) points out, this preferred position must be
struggled for; efforts must be made to secure their child’s position on the conveyor
belt. Veronica described how a group of middle-class parents at her daughter’s
primary school actively strategised to gain
from A to B, that’s what the school’s doing. The school’s taking the children
from one position and getting them to the other. And if a wheel falls off, that can
hinder, so what we need to be sure of is that in every single aspect of this school,
the academy works. Every aspect of the school works. (Mr Davis, SMT)
This chapter describes how Dreamfields responds to narratives of failure, the
demands of the educationmarket, and anxieties over national decline explored
in Chapters 1 and 2. Dreamfields is disciplined through a variety of practices to
normative. This chapter draws
out a few key conclusions and reflects on more equitable approaches to education.
Changing urban culture?
Although Dreamfields’ ‘oasis in the desert’ was allegedly built to transform urban
children, Dreamfields has also become a haven for Urbanderry’s middle classes,
changing urban culture in unanticipated ways. Besides grafting cultural capital
onto students, it actively seeks out those who already have the capitals it requires
to excel in the educationmarket. Chapter 7 concluded that this reiteration of
middle-class hegemony gives ‘oasis
Chapter 3, parents often feel
a lack of choice. The educationmarket is affected by limits of supply
(schools cannot easily ‘spring up’ to meet a demand) which means
that schools do not operate in a pure market. The cost of some schools
being winners in the market for students and funding is that others
will be losers. Yet many children still have to attend those ‘losing’
schools. There are only so many places which popular schools can
offer for students and, for many parents and children, the notion of
choice becomes a fiction, particularly in those areas where all the
), 105–17; J. A. Gordon, ‘Community responsive schools, mixed
housing, and community regeneration’, Journal of Education Policy, 23:2
14 See J. Avis, ‘More of the same? New Labour, the Coalition and education: markets, localism and social justice’, Education Review, 63:4 (2011),
421–38; E.g. S. Ranson, J. Martin and C. Vincent, ‘Storming parents,
schools and communicative action’, British Journal of Sociology of Education, 25:3 (2004), 259–74.
15 D. Reay, ‘Mothers’ involvement in their children’s schooling: social reproduction in action?’, in G
they will not be conspicuous at school and in social situations. It also
supports assertions that without apparent essentials such as computers
and fee-paying schools, young people will be left behind in the job and
educationmarkets. This discourse is also associated with a practice of
parents buying things for their children in order to compensate for the
fact that they spend long periods of time apart, while parents are at work.
New essentials discourses also support the creation of self-esteem and
self-assertion by means of possessions. They have the effect of
has made it to the top. Crafting
‘appropriate’ aesthetic appearances and reiterating Dreamfields’ superior position
in the educationmarket are also facets of this indoctrination process, offering
powerful proof of institutional validity and providing a sweetener, allowing the
often unpleasant medicine of discipline to go down smoothly.
Dreamfields staff recite the universally high expectations of students. Mr
Davis describes how a teacher at a nearby school nearly fell off his chair when he
told him Dreamfields’ predicted GCSE 80 per cent pass rate, adding that
Mapping the inequitable foundations of Dreamfields’ conveyor belt
, you know, whether or not I personally agree
with it from a moral point, I know that as a teacher in Goldport schools, you’ve
got to have those kids and those parents on board. You’ve got to.
Dreamfields’ survival in the educationmarket is tied to the steady generation of
exam results, and, as Ms Wainwright describes, the middle-class child – c onsistently
envisioned as white – features as a valuable commodity. This reflects Reay and her
colleagues’ assertion that in a target-driven culture (white) middle-class children
are perceived as valuably helping schools