Schools and Deprived Communities: A Case Study of a Community-Oriented School

  • Harriet Rowley

Student thesis: Phd


The increase in intra-urban polarisation in Britain has seen the inter-linking of multiple problems amongst certain sections of society (Hills et al., 2010; Aldridge et al., 2012). Within the context of these processes, schools have frequently been positioned as a local regeneration delivery mechanism (Lupton, 2006) with the expectation that they can mobilise a response. However when compared to the totality of other social and economic factors at work, their capacity to do so is weak (Bernstein, 1970). Schools thus occupy a difficult position; rather than driving social change, they struggle to mitigate the relationship between deprivation, poor educational outcomes and poor life chances in general (Fabian Commission on Life Chances and Child Poverty, 2006; Cassen & Kingdon, 2007; Wilkinson and Pickett, 2009; Dyson, 2012).The community-oriented school approach has been adopted across a number of countries in an effort to tackle these issues (Dryfoos & Maguire, 2002; Dyson & Raffo, 2007). This thesis addresses the relationship between schools and their communities using the distinctive example of a school which took a community-oriented approach in an effort to tackle issues which beset the deprived community.Weston Academy opened in 2008 and was sponsored by the main social housing provider in the area, Weston Housing Trust. The school sought to not only improve standards of education but also provide services and support through a joined up approach. This study forms part of a three-year development and research partnership between Weston Academy and the University of Manchester. As a member of the research team, I conducted a longitudinal case study to explore the development of the school and used family case studies to track the impact of their efforts on community members' lives. The research reveals that despite their promising approach, Weston Academy had limited impact. I recognise that although Weston Academy sought to improve standards, this over-shadowed their more community-focused efforts, meaning that they developed on two separate tracks. However, this study shows the effects of these actions were increasingly intertwined. I thus argue that the standardised nature of how schools operate ultimately restricts the extent they are able to tackle issues which beset deprived communities. I close with a consideration for what kinds of differences community-oriented schools might be expected to make in the future.
Date of Award1 Aug 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorDavid Dyson (Supervisor) & Helen Gunter (Supervisor)

Cite this