Webinar details:

Thursday 23 March 2023
16:00-17:30 GMT

New landscapes and logics of competition in education: Geography, demography and equity in English education policy

This presentation explores the new landscapes of competition in the English educational system. Such new landscape is part of broader processes of N/neoliberalisation, which involve not only changes at a structural level but also a reconfiguration of the subjectivities of political actors (from politicians to teachers and parents). This kind of analysis is of particular relevance in the contemporary context given the changes in the configuration and structure of educational provision as a result of the programme of academisation during the last decade. The Academies Act was passed in 2010 and it has been seen as the latest step of ongoing processes of disarticulation of the English education framework (see Ball 2013). Such new landscape is formed of an amalgamation of different types of providers, from the traditional state schools and fee-paying private schools, to a set of relatively new hybrid configurations, including individual academies and free schools, trusts, multi-academy chains, etc. This area of academic research has gathered interest in recent years. Researchers have focused, for instance, on mapping school catchment areas (Harris et al., 2016), the impact of catchment areas on choice & equity (Singleton et al., 2011; Allen & Higham, 2018), or the effect of such changes over performance (Burgess, 2014; Leckie and Goldstein, 2017).

This presentation is the base for a potential research project that aims to contribute to existing literature by focusing its scope on the dynamics and operations of local education markets. So far, during the first phase, we drew maps of local educational markets in three different geographical configurations (inner-city, suburb, rural areas). Here the aim is to identify the changes experienced in such maps in terms of the distribution of schools in the past decade since the academies and free-school legislation was introduced. We are also interested in how the process of academisation has affected school demographics and performance indicators. The second phase aims to analyse qualitatively the dynamics of competition enacted by local actors on the ground (parents, schools, local authorities). Here the research would explore the diversity in terms of general ethos, curriculum design and organisational structure in the chose local configurations. Finally, there is an aim to reflect on how traditional spaces and networks of collaboration amongst schools have changed in the last decade and in what ways this is related to the ongoing process of academisation.

Speaker: Antonio Olmedo is Associate Professor in Education Policy Sociology at the University of Exeter. He is lead editor at Journal of Education Policy and led and participated in several national and international research projects with a focus of analyses of neoliberal policy networks, the role of new policy actors, and the enactment of new solutions for social problems, with an emphasis on emerging patterns of privatisation, opportunity and inequalities in education policy.

Chair: Andrew Wilkins, Goldsmiths, University of London


Andrew Wilkins, Goldsmiths, University of London, UK

Brad Gobby, Curtin University, Australia

Rita Nikolai, University of Augsburg, Germany

Amanda U. Potterton, University of Kentucky, US


Education Policy Futures (EPF) is a global research forum dedicated to fostering debate and collaboration among educators and researchers interested in the geopolitics of education policy futures.

EPF is critical of accounts that either overestimate the coherence of political programmes, underestimate the capacity of actors and organisations to resist those programmes, or reduce political and social change to a residual effect of undifferentiated power structures and relations, including global hegemonic projects and governmental rationalities.

Instead, EPF encourages thinking and debate on the intensity and fragility of education policy making as the unique product of intermediating actors, networks and projects.

EPF therefore is philosophically committed to post-positivist analyses and methodologies that capture the contestability and revisability of education policy futures.

Relatedly, EPF advocates for progressive social change leading to more radical and equitable forms of education around the globe. To this end, EPF encourages, where possible, the practical use of theory as strategic vantage points through which to reimagine and transform education policy futures.

EPF is open to anyone with similar research interests and commitments. EPF hosts four seminars each year (see events schedule).

To join the members list, participate in events and stay updated on any developments related to EPF, please email Andrew Wilkins (

Follow us on twitter @EPFutures