The predominant focus in this paper is on issues of school context and, in particular, on the dimensions of context at a large English comprehensive school that enable it to thrive within the current demands of the contemporary audit culture. Featuring interview data gathered from a number of senior educators, the paper draws on Braun et al’s (Braun, A., S. Ball, M. Maguire, and K. Hoskins. 2011. “Taking Context Seriously: Towards Explaining Policy Enactments in the Secondary School.” Discourse: Studies in the Politics of Education 32 (4): 585 -596) heuristic device for thinking about the ‘situated’, ‘professional’ and ‘external’ dimensions of context at the school. This device supports an analysis of the school’s intake (in particular the high cultural and class related aspirations of parents and students) and its values (namely the school’s traditional ethos of academic and behavioural excellence). The central argument of the paper is that these contextual dimensions contribute significantly to the school’s capacity to forge a worthy school identity within the current hyper-accountable and competitive environment where academic achievement (along increasingly narrow and conservative lines) and maintaining standards in relation to this achievement are utmost priorities.
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