Headteachers’ readings of and responses to disadvantaged contexts: evidence from English primary schools

Existing research demonstrates the impact of context on school organisation and management, curriculum and pedagogy and on student peer relations. New developments in English education policy will devolve more responsibility for dealing with these issues to headteachers. Headteachers' readings of their contexts and the responses that they make are thus of increasing interest. This paper draws on interviews with eight headteachers of less advantaged English primary schools to explore how they understand and articulate the contexts in which their schools operate and how this knowledge is translated into strategies for organising curriculum, pedagogy and other school processes. These headteachers observed context through the lens of the behaviour of parents and children in relation to school, contrasting it with an assumed middle-class normality. More critical perspectives on families' social and economic position or on the contribution of school practice to educational exclusion were largely absent. School responses were many and varied but, given the constraints of budgets, market and performative pressures, were unlikely to substantially transform the educational experiences and outcomes of disadvantaged students. We point to the continuing need for more contextualised funding mechanisms and policies to improve schools in disadvantaged areas and also, in the light of devolution to schools, to the need to develop mechanisms of support to headteachers to help them to develop critical understandings of context and to reflect on school process and practices in the light of these understandings.
Journal Article
Type of thesis
Lupton, R., & Thrupp, M. (2012). Headteachers’ readings of and responses to disadvantaged contexts: evidence from English primary schools. British Educational Research Journal, 39(4), 769-788.
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