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Utopian Promise or Burdensome Responsibility? A Critical Analysis of the UK Government's Building Schools for the Future Policy

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Abstract:  This paper critically analyses a nationwide school‐building programme in England: Building Schools for the Future (BSF). It is argued that, between 2003 and 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 the UK. 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, it is argued that BSF constituted an allegorical utopia: whilst suggesting a “radical” vision for schooling and society, its ultimate effect was to preserve a conventional (neo‐liberal) 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.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Geography, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK;

Publication date: June 1, 2012


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