Austerity, poverty and the diverging forms of symbolic control of schooling across four jurisdictions in the UK

Year: 2016

Author: Ivinson, Gabrielle, Gannon, Susanne

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

While the English 2016 Education White Paper is a decisively centralising document that places ‘enormous power in the hands of the secretary of state’ (Husbands, 2016). The Donaldson Review of Education in Wales imagines a teaching profession with increased powers to control pedagogic practices at the level of the classroom. To address the complex needs of children and young people living in poverty teachers need to draw on a wide range of pedagogic approaches that go far beyond reductive approaches such as teaching to the test. Drawing on the work of the British Education Research Association (BERA) Commission on Poverty and Policy Advocacy in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales we explore the diverging forms of ‘symbolic control’, (Bernstein and Solomon, 1999, 269), such as a drive for efficiency instantiated in the English White Paper, that shape the social imaginaries (Rizvi and Lingard, 2010; Taylor, 2003; Appadurai, 1996) of poor children and their families. We explore how pedagogic modalities (Bernstein, 2000; Singh, Harris & Thompson, 2013) in schools across the four jurisdictions are being shaped differently by a politics of austerity and the specific regulatory bodies and policy contexts in each. By comparing the policy contexts across the jurisdictions, we illuminate differences in the way poor children are imagined, specific pressures on teachers, the way curricula are structured, institutional arrangement such as streaming, statementing of special educational needs, vocational options and the variable spaces or room for manoeuvre that teachers have, to adapt their pedagogic practices to accommodate the needs of poor children and young people. Through a critical comparative analysis, we ask if poor children’s complex needs are better able to be met in some jurisdictions rather than others, irrespective of the endemic low levels of educational achievement that have historically come with poverty in the UK.