Liminal spaces constructed by primary schools in predominantly white working-class areas in England

Steven Puttick, Yvonne Hill, Pat Beckley, Elizabeth Farrar, Antony Luby, Adam Hounslow-Eyre

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Despite successive policy interventions, students’ socio-economic status continues to strongly predict educational outcomes. Many schools aspire to ‘close’ this ‘gap’. This paper presents an ethnographic study of a group of Primary schools in predominantly white working-class areas in the Midlands of England. Generating ethnographic data through time-recurrent, multi-sited fieldwork including observation, informal conversations, semi-structured interviews, photography and documentary analysis, findings were constructed through critical dialogue between the group of six researchers. A concept of liminal spaces is used to analyse the schools’ work in seeking to move individuals, families, and communities beyond that which they previously knew, foregrounding norms, practices, and discourses constructed on the ‘inside’, and highlighting aspects in tension with the imagined ‘outside’. These schools’ conceptualisations of poverty are shown to be complex and multifaceted, and suggestions are made to employ liminality for articulating and critically exploring the spaces and transformations that schools seek to construct.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-154
Number of pages18
JournalEthnography and Education
Issue number2
Early online date3 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2 Apr 2020
Externally publishedYes


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