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Unpicking the neoliberal noose: working towards democratic parent engagement in a primary school

Haines Lyon, Charlotte ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8341-744X (2019) Unpicking the neoliberal noose: working towards democratic parent engagement in a primary school. Doctoral thesis, York St John University.

Text (PhD thesis)
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

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This research study was driven by a personal frustration at the lack of democratic parent engagement in English primary schools. Charting the framing of parents as ineptitudes and unworthy of political involvement since state schooling began for all children in 1870, I have demonstrated and problematised how parents are expected to carry out individualised, compliant, performative parent engagement in terms of ensuring their child is brought up to be a successful economic being. I then conceptualised the problem as a neoliberal noose comprising three strands, that strangle democratic parent engagement:

1) Lack of agency regarding parents within education.
2) Lack of space for parents to debate within schools, or nationally, education and education policy.
3) Lack of collective parent engagement due to the pervasive individualisation within the education system.

I aimed to unpick this noose by seeking new understandings: establishing the conditions needed for democratic parent engagement and trialling a democratic parent engagement project. As part of a participatory action research study, I set up a Community Philosophy group with a small group of parents in a primary school on the Yorkshire Coast. The initial attempt to forge harmonious relationships between participants and the school became problematic and I had to reframe the research; the reframing process took a poststructural turn and entailed developing a new conceptualisation of action research to help me further unpick the noose and splice the comprising strands.

Unpicking the noose afforded a much deeper understanding of how the three strands both twisted together and also held each other in tension, forming a ligature. Moreover, with careful problematising, diffractive analysis and ‘plugging in of theory’ (Jackson and Mazzei, 2012), and a coreflexion process with participants (Cho and Trent 2009), I have re-laid the strands of the rope, and offer a possible lifeline for democratic parent engagement.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Status: Published
Subjects: L Education > L Education (General)
School/Department: School of Education, Language and Psychology
URI: https://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/4136

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