Class, Culture And Control: the Transformation Of Educational Work In A Gentrifying Primary School

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Research indicates that white middle-class families’ engagement with urban schools in gentrifying localities is often characterised by strategies of dominance and control, which support claims of belonging and identity, as well as securing educational advantage for their children. This is referred as ‘class colonisation’ or ‘school gentrification’. However, there has been a neglect of educators’ perspectives and responses to urban social change and middle-class parental practices. In this paper, I offer an institutionally-focused analysis of class colonisation as a feature of educators’ working lives. I argue that class colonisation produces organisational ‘turmoil’ through parental practices and interactions which unsettle staff’s social and cultural control over key aspects of their work situation and institutional boundary maintenance. This turmoil is experienced as disruptive of the social order, generating staff cynicism, conflict, ambivalence, and alienation. I draw on ethnographic data with teachers and teaching assistants from a gentrifying inner-London primary school to empirically specify these arguments. Theoretically, this paper integrates elements of Bourdieu and micro-sociology, to foreground how agents use their unequal resources to negotiate their interpersonal institutional realities, and in the process, re-produce classed and racialised boundaries and relations within the changing contexts of urban education.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages24
JournalResearch Papers in Education
Issue number0
Early online date19 Nov 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Nov 2020


  • School gentrification
  • bourdieu
  • class colonisation
  • educational staff
  • urban education
  • urban sociology
  • white middle-class parents


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