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.
This chapter explores how students navigate Dreamfields' conveyor belt while learning how to imagine themselves and their future in particular ways. Whereas many working-class and ethnic-minority students often disinvest in education and 'know their limits' after repeated experiences of academic failure, Dreamfields presents a limitless landscape where investment is mandatory. Ambivalent feelings rest at the heart of Dreamfields' project as future fantasies promising happiness and enjoyment are allied to the present-day endurance of heightened control, discipline and securitisation. Several students discussed how they coped with Dreamfields' disciplinary structures by feigning compliance. As Bondi and Laurie discuss, neoliberalism actively works to deplete and constrain activism; Dreamfields' systems teach students the pointlessness of attempting to make their voices heard from the outset. Loss and gain becomes a raced and classed process, where students must move away from essentialised representations of blackness and working-classness to better fit into the Dreamfields landscape.
This chapter examines parents' orientations to the Dreamfields' academy, where middle-class and mostly white students were positioned as a buffer zone against urban chaos. The white middle-class parent occupies an invisible, normative space, while working-class and ethnic-minority parents feel the potential weight of discipline's reformative hand. Many middle-class parents readily compared schools to businesses and positioned the market model as obviously and unproblematically applicable to education. The privileged status accorded to middle-class parents shapes their relationship to discipline, with several suggesting that although Dreamfields seems heavily disciplined, this is more an impression created than a daily reality. The complete lack of resistance to marketised education shows how deeply ingrained neoliberal market logic is in the minds of middle-class parents. Dreamfields reinstates middle-class hegemony as white middle-class parents successfully manipulate the education market to create an 'oasis' in Urbanderry.
This conclusion presents some closing thoughts on the concepts discussed in the preceding chapters of this book. The book shows how the aspirational rhetoric of Dreamfields and English education policy does not do what it advertises. Race and class are being lived out in various ways through neoliberal regimes like Dreamfields which (re)produces difference differently. The book describes that instigating urban regeneration through education is framed as an obvious and neutral solution to deprivation, while serving as an effective response to the narratives of failure surrounding Urbanderry's education system. While Dreamfields is positioned as a tool transforming Urbanderry's urban culture, it also provides an 'oasis' ripe for middle-class colonisation. The book explains that nineteenth-century middle-class social reformers felt urban slums could be improved by a resident gentry bringing superior culture to these areas.
This chapter begins by mapping the key questions framing the research and begins to explore the Dreamfields ethos. It examines how the birth and development of the academies programme embeds and extends a vision of marketised education originating in the 1980s. Former Minister of State for Education Lord Adonis described how the schools would build aspirational cultures and act as 'engines of social mobility and social justice' at the 'vanguard of meritocracy'. The chapter provides a contextualised study of the education market in action by showing the implications neoliberal reforms and a result-driven focus have on the shaping of subjectivities. 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.
Historical representations and formations ofrace and class meet neoliberal governance
This chapter 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. Current discourses draw on historical representations rooted in the development of industrial capitalism, classificatory mechanisms and empire. The chapter reflects on the methodological process of producing qualitative data. The 'structure liberates' ethos highlights the paradoxical contradictions of liberalism's reliance on freedom accessed through submission. Neoliberal governance accelerates these interventions focused on the site of the individual. Dreamfields' neocolonial stance of virtuous missionary saving urban children follows a long trajectory of interventions aimed at Britain's urban poor. Culford emphasises how Dreamfields creates a culture and belief structure that 'works' in urban areas. Foucault's work on the production of docile bodies through disciplinary mechanisms is pivotal to understanding Dreamfields' approach.
This chapter describes how Dreamfields responds to narratives of failure, the demands of the education market, and anxieties over national decline. Dreamfields is disciplined through a variety of practices to ensure its 'well-oiled machine' routinely fashions its raw materials in accordance with global capital's needs. The chapter describes how space, time and the body are (re)ordered through repetitive routines and surveillance which mesh various modes of discipline, ranging from panoptic surveillance to verbal chastisement to audit systems' measurement to create the neoliberal subject. Drawing on de Certeau's concept of strategies, it describes how Dreamfields as a subject with 'will and power' isolates itself, establishing a 'break between a place appropriated as one's own and its other'. This is a useful way to think through Dreamfields' demarcation of itself as a space apart from Urbanderry from where it can manage exterior threats.
This chapter examines how Dreamfields' 'high expectations' are steeped in raced and classed norms that extirpate heterogeneity. Belief is cultivated through the use of repetition and morality tales that smooth over the various contradictions and ambiguities inherent in Dreamfields' approach. Culford's position as principal and archetypal masculine figurehead is paramount due to his dictatorial management style and his embodiment of the ethos. Culford symbolises Dreamfields' mission, embodying its mantra as a self-made, mixed-race man of modest working-class origins who has made it to the top. Dreamfields aligns its mission with the pursuit of equality, while simultaneously refuting the structuring importance of race and class on positioning. Dreamfields chose a traditional uniform aligning the student body with 'smart' middle-class professional bodies, signifying normality and announcing that Dreamfields students were just like other Goldport professionals heading to work.
Mapping the inequitable foundations of Dreamfields’ conveyor belt
Some students fit on Dreamfields' conveyor belt with greater ease from the outset. This chapter begins to unpick the inherent normality and 'innocence' of the middle classes embedded within Dreamfields' institutional perspective. It examines how this preferred normality intersects with race and is compounded by the education marketplace's demand for results. The chapter explores how these parameters shape teacher and student negotiations. Deficit representations of the working class underpin Dreamfields' rhetoric and practice, as the loud, illiterate 'chav mum' with her gaggle of multicoloured, illegitimate children is replaced by the respectable middle-class (mostly white) surrogate parent-teacher. Meanwhile the white working class are represented as an obstacle to what Chris Haylett terms 'multicultural modernisation', with their valueless culture obstructing the realisation of neoliberal modernity. Ethnic-minority children fall into the problematic working-class category. They are folded into the term 'urban children' and tied to pathologised urban space.
Inside the English education lab shows how critical qualitative methodologies work to illuminate and interrogate the everyday life of England’s privatised educational landscape. England has garnered a global reputation as a key proponent of education policy reforms defined by high-stakes accountability, claims of greater school autonomy and a centralised governance structure. Qualitative and ethnographic methods with their focus on practices unfolding over time and across particular situated spaces considers academisation in ways that depart from benchmarks and Ofsted ratings. The collection counters academisation’s contradictory assertion that quantitative data is the singular measure of value. The book makes a pivotal contribution to gauging some of the social and cultural effects of academisation through its reflexive focus on the practical ambiguities and incongruities that result as policy translates into practice. It explores how academisation (re)positions policies and publics through new modes of governance, it examines strategies employed by students and teachers in situ, and interrogates how institutions are being produced through space, discourse and practice. This is the first book to bring together innovative new qualitative research on academies and free schools by early career academics. The research traverses numerous geographical and social contexts within England. It provides a valuable viewpoint that reaches beyond policy claims and rhetoric by focusing on the everyday and often ambiguous practices operating within England’s rapidly academising education system.