The use of Performance Language by Heads of PE (HoPE) within Free Schools.

Gareth Williams, Adam Burrows

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

45 Downloads (Pure)


This paper builds upon previous findings which identified perceived changes within workloads experienced by HoPE and personal dilemmas created by a performative culture (Williams, 2017). The recent growth in Free Schools is perhaps a further extension of this neoliberal paradigm although doubts remain regarding the ideological clarity behind their existence (Walford, 2014). Therefore the central objective of this research was to ascertain how HoPE in Free Schools feel about using performative language as part of the pressures associated with starting a ‘new’ school. Data was generated by a qualitative research design involving six interviews with HoPE in schools throughout North West England. The findings indicated that HoPE in all institutions accept that the use of performative language has become the norm, particularly in the pursuit of resources; a perceived form of ‘professionalism’ dependent upon context and audience. Participants were cautious as to whether adopting such a business like persona could eventually lead to a conflict of integrity with the original principles identified as reasons for entering the teaching profession. Such caution was often a reflection of the interviewees’ age and status; HoPE in Free Schools often take on other responsibilities. Thus, the two participants who were also members of Senior Leadership Teams were unequivocal in their belief that schools are now businesses and how this requirement challenges self-integrity. All HoPE were supportive of the concepts that surround Free Schools although identifying a common ideology was problematic. The theoretical basis that underpinned this research utilised Ball’s (2003) interpretation of performativity intertwined with Foucault’s concept of governmentality, used because the latter recognises both the role of the state and the process of self-regulation that policies can create. The performative pressures identified by the HoPE within this study exemplified by a conflict of integrity, are perhaps a good example of how the Free School ideology promoted vigorously by the state has led to a process of self-regulation amongst policy actors within it. The six participants within this study and the schools represented were very different. Confidence in terms of resources (facilities and pupil numbers) were key considerations. Foucault’s view that neoliberalism is a contested, conflicting combination of limited freedom and government intervention might suggest an uncertain future for Free Schools. Based on considerable differences between the institutions studied here and the data generated therein, only time will tell.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 31 May 2017
EventAnnual Conference for Research In Education (ACRE) - Edge Hill University, Ormskirk, United Kingdom
Duration: 10 Jul 201711 Jul 2017


ConferenceAnnual Conference for Research In Education (ACRE)
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • Performativity
  • Language


Dive into the research topics of 'The use of Performance Language by Heads of PE (HoPE) within Free Schools.'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this