This article is a critical poststructuralist analysis of Conservative led free school policy in England focussing on claims made by the New Schools Network and in the 2010 White Paper that free school provision promotes social justice. The article presents an empirical study of an alternative provision free school as a lens through which these claims can be interrogated. Drawing from Foucault’s concept of governmentality the article analyses the narratives of teachers working in the school in order to gain insights into the microphysics of the policy rationalities mobilised within the discursive site of the free school and claims that such provision promotes social justice. The teachers interviewed demonstrate a strong alignment to free school policy discourse, but also a blurring of pastoral and disciplinary rationalities expressed in terms of the rehabilitation of students on the educational boundaries of the “normal”. The article concludes that the school is a tactical move within neoliberal education policy in which the state responsibilises a new polity of actors, including teachers, sponsors and communities contracting out its interventions in order to govern the ungovernable. The article calls for further empirical research of free school provision in order to contest neoliberal discourses which obfuscate complex systemic failure and the social reality of intergenerational unemployment and disadvantage.
- Free school
- alternative provision