Factories for learning

Making race, class and inequality in the neoliberal academy

By Christy Kulz

Factories for learning


  • Hardcover
  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-1619-2
  • Pages: 208
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £14.99
  • Published Date: August 2017
  • BIC Category: Society & social sciences / Sociology & anthropology, Society & social sciences / Social & cultural anthropology, ethnography, Sociology, EDUCATION / Philosophy & Social Aspects, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / Cultural, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General, Moral & Social Purpose Of Education, Sociology, Philosophy & theory of education, Social & cultural anthropology
  • Series: New Ethnographies


Over half of England's secondary schools are now academies. While their impact on achievement has been debated, the social and cultural outcomes prompted by this neoliberal educational model has received less scrutiny. This book draws on original research based at Dreamfields Academy, a celebrated flagship secondary school in a large English city, to show how the accelerated marketization and centralization of education is reproducing raced, classed and gendered inequalities. The book also examines the complex stories underlying Dreamfields' glossy veneer of success and shows how students, teachers and parents navigate the everyday demands of Dreamfields' results-driven conveyor belt. Hopes and dreams are effectively harnessed and mobilized to enact insidious forms of social control, as education develops new sites and discourses of surveillance.


'Kulz's brilliant and chilling ethnography of Dreamfields Academy shows that students no longer merely learn to labour, as Paul Willis once put it, but rather education itself becomes a factory. Schools do not foster critical intelligence but rather make, shape and discipline young people in the doctrine and dream world of neoliberal capitalism. The book reveals the cruel hopes and authoritarian aspects of a modern urban academy schooling. It left me with a sense of outrage because these black, white and Asian working-class students, and every student for that matter, deserve so much more from education than this. This book outlines with sociological precision and keen attentiveness the shape of that educational betrayal.'

Professor Les Back, Goldsmiths, University of London

'This book is a 'must read' for all, particularly for teachers and parents. Christy Kulz's ethnographic study unmasks how education practice within an urban academy school is raced, classed and gendered. This timely and exceptional book reveals how inequity is sedimented within the academies policy. It reveals a complex picture of how this academy is led and managed; how the relentless pursuit of better outcomes drives the ambitious aspirations of the headteacher and how the ethos of "structure liberates" reflects the zealous drive to educate and civilise 'urban' children to become units of economic productivity to attain social mobility. The headteacher's evangelistic zeal is realised through disciplinary and regimented processes which subjugate teachers and pupils.

Christy Kulz shows how inequality is perpetuated in the school through the panoptic architecture of the school buildings, the stark surveillance of pupils and the enforcement of draconian rules which re-inscribe gender, race and class stereotypes within a regimen that serves to 'normalise' or whiten pupils' identities. She shows how this results in symbolic violence on Black and minority ethnic bodies and how, for some pupils, the promise of social mobility remained an unrealised aspiration given the insurmountable structural inequalities they encountered every day.

This book will be a seminal text documenting the effects of the academies policy on schools, teachers and a generation of young people.'

Professor Vini Lander, Edge Hill University

'Christy Kulz has produced an incendiary and detailed account of the reality of life in an Academy school. Kulz's ethnographic research, using a single school case study to explore wider issues of education reform, control and the creation of inequity, is in the best traditions of British sociology of education. The book is essential reading for anyone interested in the grim reality of education on the conveyor belt that lies behind the shiny deceitful rhetoric of aspirations and social mobility.'

Professor David Gillborn, University of Birmingham


Christy Kulz is a Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow within the Faculty of Education at the University of Cambridge.


1 Building new narratives: academies, aspiration and the education market
2 Research frameworks: historical representations and formations of race and class meet neoliberal governance
3 Disciplining Dreamfields Academy: a 'well-oiled machine' to combat urban chaos
4 Cohering contradictions and manufacturing belief in Dreamfields' 'good empire'
5 'Urban children' meet the 'buffer zone': mapping the inequitable foundations of Dreamfields' conveyor belt
6 Students navigating and negotiating the conveyor belt: aspiration, loss, endurance and fantasy
7 Urban chaos and the imagined other: remaking middle-class hegemony
8 Remaking inequalities in the neoliberal institution

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