Interrogating parent-school practices in a market-based system. The professionalisation of parenting and intensified parental involvement: is this what schools want?

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


In parts of Europe and the Anglophone world according to some, parenting and parental involvement in education has taken on an unhealthy intensity. Driven by individualisation and the global competition of seeking ‘world leading’ education performance, governments and policy makers have raised their expectations of schools and their parents as providers of school-ready children, primed to perform in the heightened assessment stakes that face them on a regular basis. This has been described as the professionalisation of parenting. As well as middle class parents enhancing their children’s cultural capital, parents from low SES, working class and Black and Minority Ethnic groups are frequently expected to undertake parenting classes. Parents have been seen as central to the operationalisation of the educational market, such as through school choice and consumer processes and calling schools and teachers to account. They are also held responsible for the implications of austerity measures and held responsible to act as a buffer to any acts of discontent as a result. At the same time, parents have limited voice and agency in terms of school accountability.
In this chapter I am particularly interested in analysing the changes in the expectations of parents through government policies, schools and the neo-liberal project. I discuss how these changes have played out in contributing to the further construction or re-construction of the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ parent, already well-rehearsed concepts in the education arena and in particular, the impact of these changes on the parent-school relationship. The middle-class parent has been moulded into the neo-liberal parent and, in turn, is the key driver of neo-liberal, market based education policies. As such s/he, for example, actively chooses or is expected to choose her/his child’s school and engage/s in concerted cultivation. This is part of their construction as the ‘good’ parent’. The working-class parent, by contrast, is, on the one hand, depicted through policy discourses as feckless and, as I show, tends to be regarded, in relation to the school, as an indifferent and unsupportive parent: the parent who has not yet become a neo-liberal subject. I discuss the ways that neo-liberal policy developments have contributed to the intensification of parenting and how these, in turn, have driven middle class parents on to maintain position as the ‘good’ parent. I also discuss how this often obstructs and overshadows economically disadvantaged, working class and Black and Minority Ethnic parents’ agency and their legitimacy as acceptable parents. In conclusion, I aim to demonstrate the effect of the intensification of parenting as classed and raced devices for control.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Wiley Handbook of Family, School, and Community Relationships in Education
Place of PublicationUSA
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-119-08302-3
ISBN (Print)978-1-119-08255-2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2019


  • Parental involvement; intensification of parenting; neoliberal policies, parents and schools

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