Theorising the democratic potential of privatised schools through the case of free schools

Ruth Boyask
Vol 32, Number , p.9
Principles of freedom, independence and differentiation are shaping a new education landscape that includes new schools like free, charter and academy schools. Paradoxically, the reforms are justified on the basis of a rights and equalities discourse, yet they lead to greater competition through increased involvement of private interests. Critics of privatised schooling highlight its effects upon social inequalities. Looking to schooling in the fee-paying private sector reveals that there are a few schools whose strong ideological drivers resist competitive social relations. The ideas of Durkheim and Dewey on developing individuality in relation to a social good suggest it is theoretically possible that some of the new state-funded schools will also operate from their own social values to further social equity and make contributions to a more just society . This paper explores such a possibility by comparing newly established free schools in England with existing cases of democratic schooling to theorise how in a deregulated market a school might act upon the social field of schooling to promote social responsibility and minimise commitments to economic drivers, showing also the challenges a school might face in so doing.