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 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.
a ‘well-oiled machine’ to combat
The end product is such that the school is so well disciplined in so many different
areas of its operation, including things like the behaviour of the children, that it
means that the machine – if that’s what the academy is – works. It’s a well-oiled
machine, it’s well serviced, it’s kept up to good operational standards and it’s
regularly fixed if it goes wrong. So it’s able to deliver, if you like, its passengers.
It can deliver what it’s aim, I mean the train has got an aim to
the only way that these children will achieve is if we go the
extra mile for them. (Mr Culford, Principal of DreamfieldsAcademy)
This research focuses on DreamfieldsAcademy,1 a celebrated secondary academy
based in the borough of Urbanderry, which is located within the large urban
conurbation of Goldport, England. Dreamfields’ ‘structure liberates’ ethos claims
to free children from a culture of poverty through discipline and routine. Since
Dreamfields opened in 2004, it has become popular with parents, politicians and
the media and is continually referenced as
Remaking inequalities in the
DreamfieldsAcademy 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. It responds to a perceived crisis of authority in urban
areas where a racialised and classed cultural disorder is leading young people
astray. Culford holds up Dreamfields’ sponsor Andrew Moore and his rags-toriches tale of the working-class boy transformed into self-made millionaire to
show that anyone can become anything if
Cohering contradictions and
manufacturing belief in Dreamfields’
Throughout this lesson I aspire to maintain an inquisitive mind, a calm demeanour and an attuned ear so that in this class, and all classes, I can reach my true
potential. (Dreamfields’ Academy reflection)
The golden opportunity you are seeking is in yourself. It is not in your environment, it is not in luck or chance, or the help of others; it is in yourself alone.
(poster on a Dreamfields’ classroom wall)
At the start of each class students must put their planners on their desks