RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2014

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325 Changing cities, changing schools? (1) New perspectives on suburban aspirations and segregated inner-city schools
Affiliation Urban Geography Research Group
Convenor(s) Sol Gamsu (King's College London, UK)
Julia Nast (King’s College London / Humboldt University Berlin, Germany)
Chair(s) Sol Gamsu (King's College London, UK)
Julia Nast (King’s College London / Humboldt University Berlin, Germany)
Timetable Friday 29 August 2014, Session 1 (09:00 - 10:40)
Room Electrical Engineering Building, Room 403b - DO NOT USE 2017
Session abstract Across both the global South and North, urban education systems have borne the brunt of neoliberal reforms. This has re-shaped schooling as a form of urban governance, with schools increasingly marketized with little local accountability. These reforms, however, have done little to challenge long-standing patterns of social reproduction through schooling. From Santiago de Chile to London, the presence of elite, upper-middle class schools in the suburbs remains. In inner-city areas, gentrification both pre‐dates and has been exacerbated by the liberalization of school choice. In Chicago, Vancouver and London there is evidence of displacement of working‐class and ethnic‐minority Inhabitants and early gentrifiers as competition for a small number of ‘acceptable’ middle-class state schools intensifies. However, there are risks in focusing purely on the (white) middle-classes and the forces of capital accumulation. Although still constrained and marginalized in urban housing and jobs markets and schools, particular class fractions and certain ethnic minorities are gaining limited agency and are ‘succeeding’ educationally. Moving to the suburbs as an educational strategy is no longer the preserve of the white middle—classes with processes of ethnic/racial residential change challenging earlier models of suburban education. In both London and Amsterdam, ethnic--‐minority students have been the agents of substantial increases in school attainment in ‘inner--‐city’, ‘urban’ schools. These new processes underline the need to understand urban change through schooling in ways which both account for market--‐oriented reform, continued older forms of social reproduction and the development of new aspiring ‘middle class’ fractions amongst formerly marginalized groups.

For this session we include papers which examine either new processes of change or the continuation of earlier patterns (or both) with the hope of synthesizing these contrasting tendencies in urban school systems. We also join recent scholarship across the globe which seeks to put education at the heart of understanding urban change. Furthermore, these new patterns of urban schooling are allowing schools, parents and students to create new forms of knowledge about education. We include papers addressing methodological questions involved in this co-production of knowledge with a particular focus on participatory and ethnographic methods. Furthermore, the papers provide new approaches to school segregation using both qualitative and quantitative methods. Research on urban schooling is, by necessity, produced in collaboration with the school as well as with communities whose perspectives are often not heard, and we papers examining the tensions arising from this. Co-production of knowledge in educational contexts requires innovative methodological approaches and novel forms of exchange between researchers and educational actors.
Linked Sessions Changing cities, changing schools? (2) Gentrification, neoliberalism and participatory methods in urban schooling?
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2014@rgs.org
“From City to Suburb: Examining the Experiences and Educational Engagement of Black Parents in a Suburban Context.”
Linn Posey-Maddox (University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA)
Over the last decade a growing number of American suburban school districts have experienced growth in their black population, with many blacks leaving central cities in search of employment, affordable housing, and a better life for their children. Yet few studies have explored the push and pull factors contributing to the migration of black families to suburban areas and the experiences of these families in predominantly white school and neighborhood contexts. This paper explores black parents’ motivations for moving from urban to suburban, their experiences in a changing suburb, and their relationships with their children’s schools. The research is based upon a year-long ethnographic study that included participant observation and over 50 in-depth interviews with a socioeconomically-mixed group of black mothers and fathers. The findings challenge monolithic conceptions of “black” parents, demonstrating variation in parents’ educational engagement and experiences based upon social class and gender.
Occupational aspirations at the edge of the city
Sam Baars (The University of Manchester, UK)
When researchers and policymakers have turned their attention to poor educational outcomes, low aspirations and faltering transitions from school to work, they have traditionally looked to deprived areas of the inner city. However, in recent years inner urban schools in cities such as London have experienced dramatic improvements in results, with the poorest outcomes increasingly concentrated in outer-urban areas. This paper presents findings of research exploring how young people’s occupational aspirations are shaped by the areas they live in, combining fieldwork on a peripheral estate in Manchester alongside analysis of national level survey data. It suggests that young people from inner urban areas of deprivation have some of the highest aspirations, while their peers at the edge of the city often aim lower. The paper explores these spatial trends in aspirations as well as the mechanisms behind them.
Looking for good schools. Urban School choice and the local educational market
Anne Jurczok (University of Potsdam, Germany)
Tilman Drope (German Institute for International Educational Research, Germany)
Since an increasing number of federal states in Germany are liberalizing - or at least emphasizing - school-choice it becomes not an option but a necessity. Focusing on the process of school choice in a deprived district in Berlin we find a diverse local educational market in which all families try to make a good choice for their child. Especially in deprived areas the story about school choice is told from the perspective of the middle classes who seem to prevail over the contested school places. Those “left behind” are assumed to make inferior school choice decisions because they are left with schools that are not fitting the ideal of the middle class school. Basing on qualitative and quantitative data collected in a recent research project we would like to present first findings about how the educational market in one inner-city district is shaped and how inhabitants of deprived areas perceive and place themselves in their educational market.
Composite geographical context and school choice attitudes in Sweden: A study based on individually defined, scalable neighborhoods
Bo Malmberg (Stockholm University, Sweden)
Eva Andersson (Stockholm University, Sweden)
Zara Bergsten (Uppsala University, Sweden)
This paper contributes both to the expanding literature on the effect of school choice and to the literature focusing on how to measure and conceptualize neighborhood effects. It uses a novel approach to the measurement of geographical context to analyze neighborhood influences on school choice attitudes among Swedish parents. Data on attitudes come from a survey of 3 749 families with children in upper primary school. Geographical context is measured using contextual factors based on socio-economic indicators for individually defined, bespoke neighborhoods that incorporate from 12 to 12,800 people. The results show that parental motives for choosing schools in Sweden are strongly influenced by the social and ethnic composition of their own and their adjacent neighborhoods. Contrary to most other studies, we find effects of socio-economic context stronger than the effects of the parents' own social and ethnic background. Thus, parents living in academic, high-income areas put little stress on attending an assigned school, close-to-home schools, or stating that the municipality has influenced their decision. Furthermore, these attitudes become even stronger if nearby neighborhoods are dominated by visible minorities and economically weak groups.
[Distributed paper] Tracing affective classed processes in contemporary London secondary schools
Sumi Hollingworth (London South Bank University, UK)
London schooling has undergone significant changes in the past fifteen years and scholarship about class strategies and educational markets (e.g. Ball et al. 1995; Ball, 2003; Butler and Robson, 2003; Reay, 2007) is in need of updating. Substantial New Labour government spend on education and schools and has seen London school results rocket compared to the rest of the country (Hutchings et al. 2011). Much of these gains have been amongst minority ethnic and working class students who make up the majority of London state schools, but some argue that we are also witnessing a ‘return’ of the (White) middle classes to London schools. Through analysis of two London secondary schools- following quite opposite trajectories- this paper theorises the gendered and racialised classed processes operating in contemporary urban schooling. Specifically I get underneath discourses of the ‘good mix’ (Byrne, 2003) and demonstrate how different local dynamics: demographics; external market forces; internal governance and institutional practices, produce different affective circumstances under which the mix of the school can be viewed as ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
[Distributed paper] The case for a community secondary school in a disadvantaged neighbourhood of a small English city
Susan Steward (King's College London, UK)
In 1965 a Labour Government set out its principles for comprehensive secondary schooling throughout England: one aim was to establish a school community in which pupils over the whole ability range and with differing interests and backgrounds can be encouraged to mix, another was that such schools would reflect the characteristics of the neighbourhood in which they are situated. 50 years on it can be argued that both these aims have failed to be properly realised in most areas and have recently been much undermined through the increased marketisation of schooling and ‘choice’. Using the city of Norwich in the East of England as a case-study I combine school and pupil level data with local area indicators of deprivation to look at which types of pupil go to which schools and the social and academic mixing (or lack of) that results. Through life-history interviews with young people living on one large deprived housing estate in the City I consider the implications of having no secondary school in the local area, not only for the young people themselves, but also for the wider community to which they belong.