• A school for our community: Critically assessing discourses of marginality in the establishment of a free school

      Tupling, Claire; University of Derby (Policy Press, 2017-06-28)
      In 2010 the Coalition Government announced its flagship Free School policy. Designed to be responsive to the needs of local communities, Free Schools are state funded and independent of local authority control. Adding to a diverse school system, the UK Government claims Free Schools increase the availability of ‘good’ schools, therefore providing greater choice for parents. The stated aim of this educational reform is to raise standards and narrow the attainment gap by targeting under-performance in disadvantaged areas. However, social justice concerns have suggested that Free Schools may not reflect the diversity of local communities, attracting the least disadvantaged pupils and therefore failing to offer increased educational opportunities for the most disadvantaged pupils despite the requirement that their admission criteria are fair and transparent. A limited number of recent studies of the Free Schools policy have used statistical data in assessing the extent of social segregation and how admissions criteria can result in a segregated intake, suggesting that these schools may indeed be serving pupils from more advantaged backgrounds. This chapter adds to that discussion by exploring the nebulous nature of the term ‘community’ in relation to the establishment of a Free School in, the community of Newtown (a pseudonym) in the North East of England. Drawing on Anderson’s concept of ‘imagined communities’ this chapter will demonstrate how the term ‘community’ has been employed in key documents written by the Newtown Free School proposers to identify and secure a school for pupils within Newtown. Newtown will be revealed as a relative socially advantaged community, but one where marginalisation, associated with schooling, is claimed to characterise the lives of the young people living there. As a consequence a Free School is proposed to tackle this marginalisation and create a community.