Video abstract – “Neoliberalising Education: New Geographies of Private Tuition, Class Privilege, and Minority Ethnic Advancement”

Geographic research on neoliberalism has explored the restructuring of educational landscapes wrought through marketisation of preschool, school and higher‐education provision and considered the responsibilisation of parents and children for educational outcomes.

Forthcoming in January 2020 in Antipode 52(1), and available on line now, “Neoliberalising Education: New Geographies of Private Tuition, Class Privilege, and Minority Ethnic Advancement” by Sarah Holloway and Philip Kirby develops understanding of the contingent emergence of neoliberal educational reform, and its progressive and regressive impacts, through an examination of the burgeoning private tuition market in England and Wales.

The paper outlines the contours of the previously hidden supplementary education industry, demonstrating that it reinforces regional and classed inequalities, while opening possibilities for ethnic minority advancement.

Conceptually, the paper advances debate about socio‐spatial specificity in neoliberal change, showing that the intersection of policy, free markets and consumer behaviour reshapes the educational landscape in ways that extend beyond state intention and control. Through these processes, contingent market forms are produced that offer social mobility for some, but ensure the social reproduction of enduring regimes of power.

Private tuition is now used by over one quarter of UK state-educated pupils at some point in their school career. Usage is highest amongst wealthier socio-economic groups, Black and minority ethnic (BAME) children, and London-based pupils. This tuition is primarily to improve grades in subjects key to educational transitions, such as English and maths. Some tuition is used to improve performance in entrance exams for academically-selective schools. As such, private tuition has significant consequences for social mobility. These effects are complex. Tuition exacerbates class differences and national North-South divides, but is also used by historically disadvantaged BAME groups to better their educational prospects.

As such, talk of banning private tuition is not only unrealistic but perhaps also unwise. Nevertheless, Government regulation is required to safeguard children, protect workers and promote quality. Once regulated, government should ensure that sufficient school-based support is made available to pupils who cannot access private tuition.

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Sarah Holloway is a Professor of Human Geography at Loughborough University and a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences. Her research on formal and informal spaces of education, neoliberal educational restructuring, enrichment activities for children, the changing nature of play, parenting education, earning a living while caring for children, and international mobility for higher education has been published in Progress in Human Geography, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, Children’s Geographies, Annals of the Association of American Geographers and Environment and Planning A, among other places.

Philip Kirby is a Research Associate at St John’s College and the Faculty of History at the University of Oxford. He previously worked in education policy at the Sutton Trust. Philip’s research looks at the histories of childhood and education, and science and medicine, focusing specifically on the history of dyslexia. It has been published in Social History of Medicine, Disability and Society, Oral History, The Psychologist, and History Today. He has also written about film geographies in Political Geography and Geopolitics.