Creating a community of care in education : the work of a primary school to mitigate social and economic disadvantage in education in New Zealand : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand

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The failure of education services to ensure equitable outcomes for all groups of children has been an enduring problem for educators and policy makers in New Zealand. More recently, primary schools have become the focus of policy to ensure that children from low income, Maori and Pasifika homes achieve in formal education at levels commensurate with their peers. This research explores the work of a single low-decile primary school and its community in New Zealand as it navigates the choppy waters of political ideology, education policy and the educational needs of its students. This research takes a critical realist perspective, which argues that real consequences attend success or failure in formal schooling for individuals, and these can be described in both qualitative and quantitative terms. However, a critical realist approach is also substantively concerned with uncovering structural conditions that lead to success or failure in education, insisting that this knowledge is vital in achieving transformative change. The research therefore makes use of existing quantitative data and employs a variety of qualitative research methods, to piece together an account of the work of the school. This approach allows the school to be placed within local contexts, which shape its responses to the needs of its school community, while also supporting an examination of the effects of wider systems and institutional practices that structure its operations. Descriptions of the work of the school in this research reveal its intensely relational nature conducted in nested communities of interaction: within the school; within localised communities and neighbourhoods; and within national structures and institutions. Concepts of ideology, social justice and an ethic of care are used as a framework to evaluate the research findings, which in turn coalesce around three issues: attendance; achievement; and behaviour. Crosshatching an issue-based account of the work of one low-decile school with this conceptual framework allows the complexity of the educational project to be revealed. These complexities notwithstanding, the research also opens up possibilities and spaces for action at the level of the school, the family, the community and the state to support the shared goal of redressing educational inequalities.
Education, Elementary, Social aspects, Educational equalization, New Zealand, Research Subject Categories::SOCIAL SCIENCES::Social sciences::Education