Challenging representations of ‘disadvantaged’ primary schools and their communities: getting out of deficit, again

Year: 2013

Author: Kerkham, Lyn, Comber, Barbara

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In educational discourse, it is often argued that if school leaders and teachers are to succeed in recognizing and appropriately responding to the learning needs of the students in disadvantaged schools it is important that they ‘know the community’. Negative representations of ‘these communities’ in the media are endemic in Australia and perpetuate stories of family dysfunction, violence, crime and failure. Unquestionably the materiality of poverty in some locations is confronting. In this paper we work towards reframing what it means to ‘know the community’ and complicate deficit discourses that taint high poverty communities and the schools that serve them. We draw from an ongoing ethnographic study of a number of primary schools located in low socio-economic areas to illustrate how these schools have begun the work of renaming, and reconnecting with, communities and strengthening discourses of possibility, successful learning and positive futures.