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Ambiguous citizenship: democratic practices and school governing bodies

Young, Helen Victoria; (2014) Ambiguous citizenship: democratic practices and school governing bodies. Doctoral thesis , Institute of Education, University of London. Green open access

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School governing bodies in England have considerable formal powers and responsibilities. This qualitative research study explored their concrete practices drawing on understandings of deliberative democracy and citizenship as sensitising concepts. The empirical research was broadly ethnographic and took place in two primary and two secondary maintained schools. Data was generated primarily from interviews and observations. Considering school governors from the perspectives of deliberative democracy and citizenship draws attention to ambivalences and ambiguities in their role. These ambivalences and ambiguities cover issues of agency, representation, exclusion, knowledge and a singular conception of a ‘common good’. Firstly, despite their busy-ness, governors are largely passive in relation to decision making and dissensus can be socially awkward. Consensus is underpinned by a singular conception of the ‘common good’. Secondly, the voices of certain governors are marginalised. Some governors are positioned as representatives and their constitution as partial masks the partiality of all governors. Thirdly, there are ambiguities in relation to the valuing of different knowledges. Educational knowledge is valued but also inflected by managerial knowledge. The policy emphasis on the value of managerial knowledge and measurable data tends to displace other possible ‘lay’ knowledges. Fourthly, education and governing are constituted as apolitical and there is limited discussion of educational aims, principles and values. In all this, despite policy describing governors as ‘strategic’, their work is largely technical and operates within a constrained national performative system that renders alternative conceptions of ‘good’ education unsayable or unthinkable. These ambivalences and ambiguities operate, together with a dominant discourse of skills and effectiveness, to obscure possibilities for thinking otherwise about education.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Ambiguous citizenship: democratic practices and school governing bodies
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Keywords: Sociology of education, school governing bodies, deliberative democracy, citizenship
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10021646
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