Here, in the last of our video abstracts from Antipode 44:3, University of Leicester geographer Peter Kraftl talks about his paper ‘Utopian promise or burdensome responsibility? A critical analysis of the UK government’s Building Schools for the Future policy‘.
The paper critically analyses a nationwide school-building programme in England – Building Schools for the Future – arguing that between 2003-2010 the UK government’s policy guidance for BSF represented a (re)turn to utopian discourse in governmental policy-making, mobilised in order to justify a massive programme of new school building. In doing so, BSF connected with the promise of three further discourses: school(-children), community and architectural practice. It anticipated that new school buildings would instil transformative change – modernising English schooling, combating social exclusion and leaving an architectural ‘legacy’. However, BSF constituted an allegorical utopia: whilst suggesting a ‘radical’ vision for schooling and society, its ultimate effect was to preserve a conventional (neoliberal) model of schooling. The paper highlights the critical role that notions of utopia might have in negotiating – and challenging – promise-laden mega-building policies like BSF. In doing so, it develops recent geographical research on utopia, education and architecture.