The management of 'emotional labour' in the corporate re-imagining of primary education in England

Agnieszka Bates

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The last 20 years has witnessed the spread of corporatism in education on a global scale. In England, this trend is characterised by new structural and cultural approaches to education found in the ‘academies’ programme and the adoption of private sector management styles. The corporate re-imagining of schools has also led to the introduction into the curriculum of particular forms of character education aimed at managing the ‘emotional labour’ of children. This paper argues that character education rests on a fallacy that the development of desirable character traits in children can be engineered by mimicking certain behaviours from the adult world. The weaknesses in the corporate approach to managing ‘emotional labour’ are illustrated with empirical data from two primary schools. An alternative paradigm is presented which locates the ‘emotional labour’ of children within a ‘holding environment’ that places children’s well-being at its core.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)66-81
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Studies in Sociology of Education
Issue number1
Early online date17 Aug 2016
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2016


  • emotional labour
  • corporatisation
  • emotional capitalism
  • Nussbaum
  • well-being

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