School choice and the commodification of education: A visual approach to school brochures and websites

Wilkins, Andrew. 2012. School choice and the commodification of education: A visual approach to school brochures and websites. Critical Social Policy, 32(1), pp. 69-86. ISSN 0261-0183 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

As subjects of the parental right to choose (DES, 1988), parents are called upon to fulfil certain duties and responsibilities when choosing a secondary school for their child, with the expectation that they might navigate the school system ‘successfully’ and become ‘better informed consumers’ (DCSF, 2008). To comply with these rules of citizenship parents are encouraged to make use of a variety of information on schools as part of a realistic and informed choice, one that is consummate with their role as consumer-citizens. Such ‘cognitive mapping’ is evident in school brochures and websites where choice is assembled on the basis of visual iconography and narrative terrains. This leads to a consideration of how choice is visually mediated and communicated through the circulation of symbols and the structure of narratives. To explain these phenomena, I analyse and compare the ways in which two all-girls faith secondary schools attempt to (further) define themselves, culturally, historically and pedagogically, in a crowded field of choice. I conclude the paper with a discussion of the benefits and insights generated through a visually orientated approach to the study of school choice.

Item Type:


Identification Number (DOI):


choice, discourse analysis, education, neo-liberalism, school photos

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Educational Studies


6 December 2011Published Online

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Date Deposited:

07 Nov 2019 15:16

Last Modified:

15 Jun 2021 07:11

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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