‘You can’t show impact with a new pair of shoes’: negotiating disadvantage through Pupil Premium

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The Pupil Premium policy was introduced in 2010 by the UK coalition government to tackle the attainment gap disproportionately affecting children from low-income families. Semi-structured interviews and policy documents are examined for the way the policy has been enacted in a single comprehensive secondary school in England. In 2014, this school had a lower population of Pupil Premium pupils (18%) compared to (29%) nationally and (25%) countywide. Despite this, the study provides evidence that the Pupil Premium has become invested within and gives rise to, a number of neoliberal techniques, technologies and practices. The study bridges insights from Mitchell Dean’s ‘analytics of government’ and Ball et al.’s work on policy enactment to provide an in-depth, grounded analysis of the way the policy plays out within this school’s context. It argues that the combination of national accountability measures used to show impact for Pupil Premium, and the school’s ongoing struggle to raise overall attainment, leads school leaders and staff members to rethink the concept of disadvantage for their school population. This results in disadvantage being reconceptualised to fit a matrix of moral/pastoral obligations and efficiency/economic competitiveness, in which the tensions between these two orientations are uncomfortable and unresolved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)526-557
Number of pages32
JournalJournal of Education Policy
Issue number4
Early online date13 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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