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Student experiences of democratic education and the implications for social justice

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)40-64
Number of pages25
JournalTheory and Research in Education
Issue number1
PublishedMar 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This work was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (grant number ES/P000703/1). Publisher Copyright: © The Author(s) 2021. Copyright: Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

King's Authors


Using data from a case-study school as a springboard, this article explores how enactments of democratic education might both problematise and illuminate new possibilities for the way we conceptualise social justice in education. Nancy Fraser’s tripartite framework of social justice is used to analyse in-depth interviews with students aged 14–16 from a democratic school in the United Kingdom. The article makes two key arguments: first, it highlights the interdependence of ‘recognition’ and ‘representation’ and, consequently, calls on mainstream policy and practice to make a substantive commitment to participatory democracy as part of the ‘inclusive education’ agenda. Second, it points to the tensions between ‘redistributive’ justice and other social justice aims which may be particularly stark in democratic education (and other progressive education) spaces. The article suggests that a strengthened relationship between democratic schools and research communities would offer a crucial contribution to collective critical reflection on social justice in education.

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