The positions of primary and secondary schools in the English school field: a case of durable inequality
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In interviews as part of a research study of structural reform in England, some tension between primary head teachers and their secondary peers was evident. This was symptomatic of a long-standing difference in status between the two phases. At a time when relations between stakeholders in local systems are subject to change, we seek to understand anew why that might be the case and how the tension we found was evidence of a current difference of power within interactions between representatives of the phases. We analyse differences of size, resources, workforce, pedagogy and history, and how they have resulted in different, and differently valued, practices and professional identities. We explore how attributes of the two phases have been counterposed and how, in complex interaction with wider discourses of politics, gender and age, this process has invested the differences with meanings and values that tend to relegate attributes associated with primary school. By focusing on the activation of cumulative inequality in interactions, we contribute a complementary perspective to studies of perceived relative status and highlight the implications for understanding school positioning in local arenas as the role of local authorities is reduced.
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