14 SES 11 B, Family Education, Parenting and School-Family-Community Links II
Cities across Europe (e.g. London, Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris) are experiencing two forms of transition in terms of population. One is the arrival ‘of people from more varied national, ethnic, linguistic and religious backgrounds’ (Meissner & Vertovec 2014 p.542), creating conditions of superdiversity (Vertovec 2007). The other is gentrification as middle class families increasingly seek accommodation close to the centre of cities. In some cities, these two population flows may not mix greatly; however, in London, the two processes have created superdiverse areas where middle class gentrifiers live close to recent migrants, and their children attend the same schools. This paper reports from data collected for a UK Research Council-funded study, and considers the nature of social relationships between families from different social and ethnic backgrounds whose children attend state primary schools. Our particular focus here is first on the attitudes and perceptions of the middle class parents in our research concerning both the gentrification and diversity of their localities, and second, their interaction with and perceptions of classed and ethnic ‘others’ at their children’s school. We conclude with reflections on the transitioning nature of the local communities in our research, and how schools can best respond to changes in their population so that the interests of all children are served.
The paper will draw on and contribute to the literature on gentrification, superdiversity and education. We will fully review the literature on superdiversity in the paper, following Meissner’s argument that superdiversity describes a social phenomenon, and also has analytical potential, revealing among other things the way in which ‘migration-related diversity is increasingly being seen as ordinary and part of everyday lives’ (Meissner & Vertovec 2014 p. 547, also Wessendorf 2014). Local specificities are important. In London, the marked diversity has arisen from the variety of trajectories by which people arrived in the city through new migrations, and also a more long-standing minority ethnic population. The existence of social and private housing side-by-side means that many gentrifying areas remain home to diverse class and ethnic groups. The concept of ‘gentrification’ is itself contested one, but can be defined as the transitioning of space ‘for progressively more affluent users’ (Hackworth 2001: 1, cited in Jackson & Butler 2014 p. 3). Scholars have analysed the way in which place contributes to classed identity practices, often using, as we will do here, Bourdieu’s work. For example, Savage et al (2005) have argued that middle class people are able to choose a residential location, prioritizing the achievement of a ‘fit’ between habitus and place, which normally includes the presence of other ‘people like us’. The tendency of some middle class fractions to disaffiliate from some aspects of their surroundings has also been noted (Watt 2009, Butler & Robson 2001).
Education can be a key arena for disaffiliation, as middle class residents may avoid local state schooling options, seeing them as containing disreputable classed and ethnic ‘others’ (Vowden 2012). However others have argued that for some class fractions within the metropolitan middle classes, engagement does take place with ‘others’, although in particular ways, and confined within particular boundaries (Reay et al 2011, Jackson & Butler 2014, August 2014).
Our complete paper will fully develop our use of Bourdieu (see for example Vincent et al 2012), and the way in which we use concepts of habitus, and capital as activated in the field of education, to consider the formation of middle class identities in relation to urban schooling and social relationships, with a particular focus on how middle class parents interact with classed and ethnic ‘others’, and their attitudes towards their children so doing.
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