Educational Investments: Academisation, 'Entrepreneurial' Interventions and Inequality

Lead Research Organisation: University of Liverpool
Department Name: Sch of Sociology and Social Policy


What is the future of state funded education in the UK? And who has a say in what it will look like?

Over the last three decades reform in English education has been rapid and unwavering. There has been an onslaught of policy committed to external sponsorship, centralised governance, increased marketization, and diversified school types and structures, all framed as a means of 'raising standards'. One of the most significant instantiations of this can be seen in the academies initiative. Academies are autonomous independent state-schools, and nearly three quarters of secondary schools in England fall into this category. Although the initiative shows no signs of slowing- with every new school that opens coerced into academisation and 'failing' schools converted into academies daily- the same longevity cannot be assured for some of the external bodies investing in the programme. The dangers of the precarious nature of outsourcing public goods to private investors has recently been highlighted by collapse of construction giants, Carillion, and further threatens in reports of the imminent financial struggles of outsourcing hub, Capita. While education has long been understood as an institution that is tied to the market, what we don't understand fully yet is what this all means in the current context of increased and entrenched privatisation and financial crisis. Although unrelenting, academisation is not without its detractors. The academies programme has been called out about the lack of transparency and accountability in its processes, as well as undemocratic forms of consultation that take place during academisation. Localised demonstrations against academisation are also on the rise. This research project aims to look at the academies programme within this shifting context of privatization, crises and protest.

This piece of research goes further than my earlier scholarship. My previous research on academies drew on internal and micro level analysis of the curricula of a single academy school, specifically the 'entrepreneurship education' this particular school operationalised. While a portion of this project is dedicated to writing up this work in academic, collaborative and interdisciplinary ways, this research project also seeks to look both outwards and upwards and to generate an external , broader and more encompassing account of two things: 1) networks of elite actors investing in the Academies Programme 2) local public engagements in, negotiations with and resistance to academisation. To do so the project also looks to map out some of the elite actors and networks involved in two large chains as well as engage community and public audiences in the co-creation of documents on their explereiences of academisation, entering in to dialogue about what the public consider as important for the future of public education.
Title Worked with an illustrator to create a set of images that will accompany all public outputs from the project 
Description 1) Four conceptual images framed around different questions of the research: i) What are academies? (state sponsored privatisation) ii) Why do they exist? (Link this to historical, global processes of privatisation) iii) What do academies do? (Claim 'success' but focus on 'cultural'/pathological initiatives that have been proved to be ineffective) iv) Why does this matter? (It reproduces inequalities across 'race', class and gender). 
Type Of Art Image 
Year Produced 2020 
Impact This artwork has yet to be formally released. 
Description 1. This project has as academic outputs that are accepted, in press or in progress including, 1 edited book, 2 book chapters and 2 journal articles. In the duration of the project there were 3 conference papers given, in the UK and Canada. 1 of these papers was invited, to a mixed academic, practitioner and public audience, and a speaker fee given; 1 paper was part of an organised special panel at a national UK academic conference; and the other paper was to an international academic audience in Canada.

2. Particularly noteworthy new research networks/collaborations/partnerships, or combinations of these:
This project allowed and had lead to on-going collaborative efforts between young education activists in the UK and US. These young people were associated with different higher education institutions, charitable organisations, youth groups, social enterprises and academy schools.
There was also a formal working group of academics, publics, teachers, students and other interested parties set up to produce a public document on the academies programme- this is an ongoing process.
There was work done with an illustrator so that all public documents have attached images that make the document more easily accessible and interesting to public audiences.

3. New or improved research methods or skills developed:
As part of these collaborations, the young people and their associated organisations are in contact and developing new methods for future research, centring youth voices in the process.

4. Important new research questions opened up:
This project opened up two new avenues for future research on academies programmes, first that of formalised resistance to the programme, and the second of what educational futures would look like if the youth voice was at the centre of the debate.
Exploitation Route There are a number of academic outputs and in-progress academic outputs stemming from this project. This includes book chapters, a book and journal articles. These publications are useful for academics, students, educational practitioners, youth workers and social researchers.

At this stage the public collaborative outputs of this project are still ongoing and in development. It is anticipated that this would be of interest to general public and educational policy makers.
Sectors Education

Description Research Development Fund, University of Liverpool
Amount £2,000 (GBP)
Organisation University of Liverpool 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2019 
End 06/2019
Description Blog post for The Sociological Review 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A blog post written for Sociological Review. This is a widely read, internationally recognised journal, the blog outlet is a public facing platform.
As part of this blog post collaborative art work produced with illustrator Mariam sugraynes was used.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
Description Co-organised a two day workshop with young people from UK and US, social and youth workers, students and academics on: Educational Futures: Young People, Academies and Activism 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact As PI I organised a two day workshop for academic staff, students, and young activists and organisers from the UK and US, held in Liverpool Feb '19. In attendance were young people from local schools, local social enterprises and charitable organisations for working class young people, social and youth workers, undergraduate and postgraduate students, teachers, academics and social researchers. The speakers were mainly young people aged 12-21.

A blurb from the conference: The aim of the conference is to share our experiences and knowledge about prevailing inequalities in education across local and international borders, focus on timely topics such as the Academies Programme in the UK and the youth-led campaigns and activism which have sought to highlight and address issues raised. This topic is timely given current critiques of the process and impacts of the marketisation of higher education in the UK and internationally. In recent years marginally placed persons, whether it be in terms of 'race', class, gender, ethnicity, sexuality or disability "suffer from intense devaluation" in an increasingly accelerated 'neoliberal' age (Skeggs and Loveday, 2012). Despite years of investment into various educational institutions, policy agendas and widening participation programmes, the gap between a rhetoric of an 'education for all' and the lived reality of access to, and the lived experiences of memberships of these institutions remain 'non-performative' (Ahmed, 2004), and problematic. With gaps in attainment (in 2015/16, 78.8% of white students received a first/2:1 compared with 63.2% of BME students - a 15.6% gap [Equality Challenge Unit, 2017]); critiques of institutional racism in Higher Education (Alexander and Arday, 2015); a growing crisis in student and staff mental ill-health (Gorczynski, 2018); and a call for young people to be more entrepreneurial and resilient in an ever shifting and competitive market (Morrin, 2018), this conference embeds itself in this context in order to challenge it. It does so by asking two key questions; what is education? And what should education be? In order to answer these questions this conference looks to go beyond traditional boundaries of formal education and policy, as well as transcending national borders, to consider how young people from different parts of the world experience and challenge some of these prevailing inequalities.
This conference looks to the emergence of youth-led campaigns which have highlighted and challenged these inequalities and exclusions, and seeks to bring together a network of young people in order to continue and take forward these conversations. To give some examples of the campaigns and debates we will speak to throughout the day, in the UK several campaigns, such as 'Rhodes Must Fall' and 'Why is my curriculum white?' (Hussain, 2015; The Rhodes Must Fall Movement, 2018), highlight the need for a more diversified curriculum, and challenge the colonial foundations of many UK based Higher Education Institutions; the Let Us Learn campaign (conference participants) ( - led by British born and migrant young people- support young people who are not UK citizens and challenge some of the legal and financial barriers they have to accessing higher education; RECLAIM (conference participants) ( - a youth-led organisation in Manchester has (alongside academics) highlighted the unequal impacts austerity is having on working class and BAME women and this includes detrimental impacts to education; and the student-led rise of a Free Education Movement across England is calling for the abolition of fees and fee debt, sustainable rent, and a promise of no further detrimental cuts to education. While aspects of these issues are UK specific, these campaigns also connect to international debates. For example, the Rhodes Must Fall campaign has its roots in South Africa (Nyamnjoh, 2016). Meanwhile, for over a decade in the US undocumented youth have been campaigning for a pathway to citizenship, a campaign which, like Let Us Learn in the UK, emerged due to barriers immigration status placed on these young people's access to Higher Education and employment (Sirriyeh, 2018). Groups like '67 Suenos' (conference participants) ( in Oakland (USA) have, like Manchester organisation RECLAIM (conference participants), highlighted intersections of race and class in young people's experiences of exclusion. In April this year, thousands of students in Chile marched in protest against a profit-making education system, many of their calls similar to that of the Free Education Movement here in the UK. (Francisca Corblan Possel- a Chilean academic who worked with students as part of this movement, will be a conference participant via Skype).

This conference opens up space for conversations across these contexts, and provides an opportunity to build networks and allow for local and global exchange knowledge. As well as this, at the heart of the conference is the need to centre experiences and knowledge of students and other young people. In the first instance the conference is organised in partnership with the Students Guild, University of Liverpool. In order to further break down borders of academic, researcher, student, young person and activist, speakers and participants are from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences, and the order of the day goes beyond traditional panel-question formats. Finally the conference challenges the notion of 'education', and though citing activism as a pedagogical practice, it opens up ideas of what is, and what can be, an 'educational space'.

The day will consist of plenary, panels, workshops, a walking tour and a film screening. Each session including the keynotes will be in an interactive format and designed to facilitate accessible and inclusive space for debate.

On Day One: Dr Remi Joseph-Salisbury*, University of Manchester will open up the conference with a plenary talk on his role as an academic and activist in race, youth and education issues. Breaking from traditional keynote formats, this talk will inform a roundtable session, where participants will draw on themes raised in Remi's talk, in order to have conversations and a feedback session. This will be followed by sessions on student protest and a local walking tour about 'race', class and education in Liverpool. There will then be a film screening of a youth-made documentary on race, class and educational inequalities (Title: 'Where is my education?' By Claudia Suarez), and closing the day there will be a round up of the day's discussions.

*Currently a Senior Lecturer at Leeds Beckett University, Dr Remi Joseph-Salisbury will be joining the University of Manchester as a Vice Chancellor's Fellow in Race and Ethnicity in September 2018. His research is centred on race and education in the UK and US. Remi is a founding member of the Critical Race and Ethnicities Network and a board member of the Racial Justice Network. His work straddles academia and activism. A keynote at this year's NUS Black Students conference, he has regularly contributed to debates on racism in higher education and decolonising the curriculum.

Day Two will begin with a plenary by 67 Suenos** (US) and UK based youth activists*** who highlight intersections of race and class in education exclusions and how to campaign through centring youth leadership and voice. This will be followed by a panel session on decolonising education. The day will conclude with a zine making workshop to produce manifestos reimaging student welfare and reimaging education.

**67 Suenos are a collective of working class immigrant (including undocumented) young people in Oakland, California. They use arts-based advocacy to facilitate healing and empower youth, and to campaign on social justice issues affecting their peer group and local communities.
***This includes members of RECLAIM, a Manchester-based youth leadership and social change organisation which supports and amplifies the voices of working class young people, and Esme Flinders (Sociology undergraduate at University of Liverpool) who will speak about her experiences of engaging in local youth parliaments.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
Description Created a formal working group to write a public document on the issues with academisation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact I created a formal working group to write a public document on the issues with academisation. This group consists of a number of key academics in the field of academies and education study. There will also be different members of other groups invited e.g. teachers, campaigners, young people, journalists. This document will be written and published at a later date. It is expected that the publication will be written for a Think Tank e.g. CLASS.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
Description Invited Keynote 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact I was invited to speak as a keynote to a group of academics, students, members of the public and educational professionals. I was joined by well regarded journalist Warwick Mansell who was the second Keynote of the day. Engaged conversations about the histories and futures of the Academies Programme were had, and new networks forged.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
Description Worked with an illustrator to create images for future related public documents, and heighten future public engagement 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact I worked with an illustrator to create easily accessible images to go along with any public documents created and co-created from this research. In main I will use these for the public document that will emerge from the formal working group I created (see details about this in other record in this section).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019