AbstractsGeography &GIS

Geo-identity, urban school choice and education campaigns for public schools

by Emma E. Rowe

Institution: Monash University
Department: Faculty of Education
Year: 2015
Keywords: School choice; Urban; Education campaign; Class; Identity; Educational geography
Record ID: 1068575
Full text PDF: http://arrow.monash.edu.au/hdl/1959.1/1145730


Educational campaigning has received little attention in the literature. This study investigates long-term and organised urban campaigns that are collectively lobbying the Victorian State Government in Australia, for a new public high school to be constructed in their suburb. A public high school is also known as a state school, government school, or an ordinary comprehensive school. It receives the majority of its funding from the State and Federal Australian Government, and is generally regarded as ‘free’ education, in comparison to a private school. Whilst the campaigners frame their requests as for a ‘public school’, their primary appeal is for a local school in their community. This study questions how collective campaigning for a locale-specific public school is influenced by geography, class and identity. In order to explore these campaigns, I draw on formative studies of middle-class school choice from an Australian and United Kingdom perspective (Campbell, Proctor, & Sherington, 2009; Reay, Crozier, & James, 2011). To think about the role of geography and space in these processes of choice, I look to apply Harvey’s (1973) theory of absolute, relational and relative space. I use Bourdieu (1999b) as a sociological lens that is attentive to “site effects” and it is through this lens that I think about class as a “collection of properties” (Bourdieu, 1984, p. 106), actualised via mechanisms of identity and representation (Hall, 1996; Rose, 1996a, 1996b). This study redresses three distinct gaps in the literature: first, I focus attention on a contemporary middle-class choice strategy—that is, collective campaigning for a public school. Research within this field is significantly under-developed, despite this choice strategy being on the rise. Second, previous research argues that certain middle-class choosers regard the local public school as “inferior” in some way (Reay, et al., 2011, p. 111), merely acting as a “safety net” (Campbell, et al., 2009, p. 5) and connected to the working-class chooser (Reay & Ball, 1997). The campaigners are characteristic of the middle-class school chooser, but they are purposefully and strategically seeking out the local public school. Therefore, this study looks to build on work by Reay, et al. (2011) in thinking about “against-the-grain school choice”, specifically within the Australian context. Third, this study uses visual and graphic methods in order to examine the influence of geography in the education market (Taylor, 2001). I see the visualisation of space and schooling that I offer in this dissertation as a key theoretical contribution of this study. I draw on a number of data sets, both qualitative and quantitative, to explore the research questions. I interviewed campaigners and attended campaign meetings as participant observer; I collected statistical data from fifteen different suburbs and schools, and conducted comparative analyses of each. These analyses are displayed by using visual graphs. This study uses maps created by a professional graphic designer and…