RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2014

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359 Changing cities, changing schools? (2) Gentrification, neoliberalism and participatory methods in urban schooling?
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) Julia Nast (King’s College London / Humboldt University Berlin, Germany)
Sol Gamsu (King's College London, UK)
Timetable Friday 29 August 2014, Session 2 (11:10 - 12:50)
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? (1) New perspectives on suburban aspirations and segregated inner-city schools
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2014@rgs.org
Whose 'oasis in the desert'? Neoliberal education reform and the remaking of hierarchies in urban space
Christy Kulz (The Open University / Goldsmiths, University of London, UK)
Beaumont Academy opened in London in 2004. It is a celebrated secondary school showcasing New Labour's public-private financed academy programme which aimed to instil ambition and replace a supposed 'poverty of aspiration' in deprived urban boroughs (Adonis 2008). Then-principal Sir Stanton pronounced that Beaumont’s ‘structure liberates’ ethos would provide an ‘oasis in the desert’ for ‘urban children’, liberating them from their unstructured, unhappy home lives. While Beaumont has achieved outstanding GCSE results, this paper examines the contradictory tensions between the academy mission in policy and practice where marketised educational institutions act as engines of gentrification and create a different sort of ‘oasis’. Drawing on ethnographic methods and interviews with students, parents and teachers, my paper explores how academies reorganise urban space, reproducing and reformulating raced and classed hierarchies. While many middle-class parents recognised their innate 'worth' on the education market, and their ability to manipulate this market, many working-class and ethnic minority parents without the necessary capitals endured the weight or threat of discipline in hopes of accessing promised good life fantasies - despite the potential costs (Berlant 2011).
Friendship spaces: why the spatial makes a difference in children’s and adults’ friendship making and maintenance in social and ethnically mixed urban geographies
Sarah Neal (University of Surrey, UK)
Carol Vincent (Institute of Education, University of London, UK)
Humera Iqbal (Institute of Education, University of London, UK)
While social and/or ethnic difference in children and young people’s friendships has been the focus of extended social science study (e.g. Hewitt 1986; Bruegal 2006), there has been less scrutiny of social and ethnic difference in adult friendships. There is a growing literature on adult friendships (e.g. Pahl and Spencer 1999; Savage et al 2005; 2013; Smart et al 2012) but this has largely avoided focussing on the (often micro) spaces and places in which friendships are generated and maintained. In another article we (Neal and Vincent 2013) note the way in which spaces shaped friendships. We begin to develop here the ways in which the ‘where’ of being friends is central to friendship relations given that social and personal geographies are almost invariably marked by class and to a lesser extent cultural and ethnic boundaries. Drawing on extensive data from our current ESRC project, qualitatively designed, which examines how different local primary schools work as sites of friendship making in a super-diverse North London geography, we use this paper to continue to explore this relationship between geography and friendship making/practices, and focus on the containing and/or facilitating nature of this relationship.
The paper looks at the ways in which the built environment in which primary schools are located (housing, cafes, shops, bus stops, parks) and the social practices of using/being in these (playing in the park, walking to/from school, negotiating the playground, going to others’ homes and inviting others home) generate or inhibit affective interactions and social intimacy. Our research does show that mixed forms of friendship emerge from regular encounters around and within primary school worlds but what also seems clear is that where friendships get made and where they are maintained is deeply inflected with class and often with ethnic divisions and separations. The paper then focuses on the nature of those spaces in everyday urban localities that seem particularly productive of affective social relations, those which particularly reinforce class, cultural and ethnic boundaries, and those more liminal spaces where mixing practices and friendships appear to flourish.
Shifts in capitalism and education: a historical-ethnographic study of Rancagua
Francisca Corbalán (Institute of Education, University of London, UK)
During the last decades the Chilean educational system has undergone a deep process of neoliberalization of both the model of regulation and provision, and the meaning of education itself. This has recently led social movements to demand a political reverse and to seriously rethink what should education be for. In this context, analyses and strategic positioning tend to base on accounts of the history of state policies and macro-numbers, leaving little space for exploring the lived experiences of change. This paper will try to contribute in this sense by zooming in the experience of the people of Rancagua, a Chilean middle size city, regarding the transformation of the urban space and education during the last decades. Based on this case, I will discuss the production of the local education discourse, and problematize the limits and possibilities that a participatory ethnographic approach has in terms of theorizing neoliberalism and political struggle.
Using Participatory research to involve and empower disadvantaged Chilean communities in addressing literacy
Margarita Calderón (Lancaster University, UK)
This research draws on social practices and beliefs involved in the process of developing reading and writing. In particular, this study focused on explaining the role of literacy in disadvantaged environments and to what extent and how the context impacts on literacy practices. To do so, a participatory approach was developed to observe home and school on 16 students. The purpose of using a participatory approach was engaging the participants and the community as agents of their own learning. Some of the findings include that the participants perceived literacy as expert knowledge, so their own understanding of literacy discourage them to be more empowered in their own learning. By making the participants’ aware of the relevance of everyday practices in relation with reading and writing, the participants felt more comfortable and empowered towards their reading and writing.
[Distributed paper] Erosion of the concept of school catchment system as a local policy in big cities in Poland
Artur Bajerski (Adam Mickiewicz University, Poland)
The presentation aims to analyse the determinants and consequences of a liberal approach to the school catchment system in large Polish cities which leads to its erosion. The author makes use of a case study of the operation of lower secondary schools in Poznań (the fifth largest city in Poland). A liberal approach to the school catchment system, which makes the school choice more flexible, is presented to residents by local authorities as a way to improve the educational offer and raise teaching standards. However, the research has shown that it is also a tool used by the local authorities to reorganize the school network (through the policy of closing down some schools). Liberalization of school recruitment principles indirectly widens social inequalities in the access to quality education since an active school choice by students and parents has become a significant factor diversifying the results of school-leaving exams in lower-secondary schools.