Class Values and Exclusion: A Case Study of an English Free School: Kitchen table utopias do not become schools

Stephanie Brown, Graham Downes

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference Paperpeer-review


Meet Debbie: a single mother living in social housing. She is active within her local community but her engagement with her children's schools is limited. Meet Sarah: author, activist and mother. Both live within the same area and their children would attend the same state secondary school. One of them was instrumental in the successful creation of a new free school, which her child now attends. The other will send her child to the preexisting school.
Despite the intention to give communities more control over schools within their local area (DfE, 2010), our research suggests that the free schools policy relies on an over simplistic account of community (Norman, 2010). Predicated on antipathy towards the state, government texts reveal a conceptualisation of community as anything other than the state. This in turn obfuscates inclusion and exclusion within existing social spaces. Our case study focused on actors connected with a new free school. It revealed many tensions, with class as a significant organising factor. Drawing upon the work of Sayer (2005) we posit that the school's organisation is predicated on values that differentiate between those who are able to participate and those who are not.
We propose that Sarah and Debbie's experiences need to be recognised in governance arrangements if issues relating to underachievement and social exclusion are to be effectively addressed. We assert that more discussion is required around what communities actually are and the way in which class and spatial arrangements operate within educational contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 16 Apr 2015
EventBritish Sociological Association Annual Conference - Glasgow, United Kingdom
Duration: 15 Apr 201517 Apr 2015


ConferenceBritish Sociological Association Annual Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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