Byrne, D. and Rogers, T. (1996) 'Divided Spaces - Divided School: An Exploration of the Spatial Relations of Social Division', Sociological Research Online, vol. 1, no. 2, <>

Copyright Sociological Research Online, 1996


Divided Spaces - Divided School: An Exploration of the Spatial Relations of Social Division

by David Byrne and Tim Rogers
University of Durham

Received: 8/5/96      Accepted: 28/6/96      Published: 2/7/96


Recent actions by Labour politicians have highlighted the degree of differentiation among UK state secondary schools. This article uses data describing the characteristics of schools and the academic achievements of the children attending them to generate a typology. This is related to recent sociological discussion dealing with the increasing saliency of 'cultural capital' and the way in which families manage educational access as a way of maximizing the lifechances of their own children. The school data set is related to Census derived descriptions of catchment areas and the consequent patterns are examined in order to explore the educational dimension of 'the divided city'. The whole system of schools in space is considered as a far from equilibrium autopoetic system and the language of complexity theory is applied to it in order to see whether a description in terms of specieation and fitness landscapes illuminates our understanding.

Cluster Analysis; Education Policy; Secondary Education; Secondary School Performance Tables; Social Division

'This change in the rules of engagement is giving the middle classes the opportunity to capitalize on their superior market power in the competition for credentials within a market-driven system of education.' (Brown, 1995: p. 47)


The recent furore surrounding the secondary school choices for their children made by the Leader of the UK Labour Party and of that party's shadow Health Spokesperson and their respective spouses, has highlighted the very considerable degree of differentiation which exists within the 'public' (here that word is not being used as a synonym for private and exclusive) educational system in this country. Labour's formal commitment since the 1920s has been to what R.H. Tawney called 'secondary education for all' , but it is perfectly clear that nearly thirty years after Circular 10/66, through which Crosland sought to eliminate selection and social exclusivity in the public system. The choice of secondary school attended by pupils is still enormously important for the educational achievements and future career prospects of children. Indeed changes in the nature of the employment structure and of modes of access to employment, which are themselves the product of the basal changes usually described by the term 'deindustrialization' have made secondary educational careers even more important now than they were when the move towards a comprehensive system was initiated.

Sociologists investigating the form of the class structure of advanced industrial societies now pay considerable attention to 'the service class' (see Eder, 1992; Butler and Savage, 1995). Discussions of this concept emphasize the role of the possession of cultural capital in the formation of this class. The significance of formally validated qualifications acquired through educational processes, is almost the only demarcating element of the basis of 'the service class' which is generally agreed upon in discussions of how it should be defined. Even the significance of management authority, which goes back in discussions at least as far as The Managerial Revolution, is now associated with formally validated 'management knowledge' as a component of cultural capital. The term cultural capital in its modern usage is generally associated with Bourdieu; his original work in which the concept was developed dealt exactly with the significance of different forms of secondary and tertiary education in relation to social stratification in France. With the exception of Brown's (1995) recent work on higher education and Ball et al.'s (1995) examination of 'secondary school choice', surprisingly little attention has been paid to the same processes in the UK in recent years. This reflects the general decline in interest in the lifechance effects of educational systems. It seems as if the nomothetic radical programme of earlier sociologists interested in the relationship between educational access and inequality was considered to have been completed by the general implementation of comprehensive school based secondary education.

Given the continued existence of an elite system of private education, that abandonment was premature to say the least, but it did reflect the ambiguity underlying left-liberal programmes for improvement of educational access in the UK. That improvement of access was to be ability based and was considered to involve the opening up of routes into higher education for a larger, but still relatively small proportion, of age cohorts, on the basis of ability alone without closure of routes at age eleven. It was, essentially, a meritocratic programme rather than an egalitarian one, and was concerned with admission to a restricted range of elite occupations. The changes in the social order which are most generally described by the use of the term 'postfordist', and in particular changes in industrial and occupational structure, have profoundly altered the relationship between secondary educational achievement, occupational access and lifechances. There has been an expansion in employment sectors which depend on credentials for admission, a contraction in employment sectors which offered relatively high incomes to people whose training was generally 'on the job' (particularly skilled manual male employment), and a combination of credential explosion and credential devaluation, associated with a massive increase in participation rates in post compulsory education.

One aspect of the shift from a 'Fordist' to a 'Postfordist' social system which has attracted considerable attention, is the 'polarization' of urban space (see Byrne [Forthcoming] for a general discussion). Essentially a stratification system which is considered to have moved from a pyramidal to a more hour glass shaped form, is reproduced in terms of residential segregation in cities and their suburbs. Attention to residential segregation and the formation of socio-spatial systems in urban space is scarcely new. It is the core of social ecology in the tradition of the Chicago School, descriptions of such social ecologies can be located as early as Engels' The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844. However, main-stream urban sociology abandoned concern with intra-urban socio-spatial systems; under the influence of Castells who, in The Urban Question (1974), threw out the substantive baby of interest in how social hierarchy was reproduced in urban space, along with the ideological bath water of Chicago social ecology's traditional use of a positivist social 'Darwinism' as an explanation for the form of consequent socio-spatial systems.

In contrast those concerned with policy never lost sight of the significance of spatial segregation, especially when this was associated with ethnicity as well as class; particularly of course in the United States where formal and informal segregation, rooted in racist chattel slavery, remains of such profound importance. Given the significance for the Civil Rights Movement of citizenship-based access to the common public educational institutions, it is not surprising that there has been a continued US interest in the interactions among class and race in space in relation to education (see Massey and Denton, 1993). This has acquired additional force in relation to debates and discussions about a racially constructed so-called 'underclass' (Wilson's 1991 term of the 'ghetto poor' is much to be preferred in the US context). What is interesting about the UK is that in a society where racially constructed ethnic exclusion, whilst not in the least unimportant, is much less significant than in the US (given both the absence of a formal internal, as opposed to colonial, history of enforced ethnic segregation. The relatively small - six percent - 'other than white' element in the population, and the very high degree of internal differentiation of that element), is the way in which processes of deindustrialization have generated a degree of socio-spatial segregation which reproduces the sorts of social divisions characteristic of the rust belt US in rust belt Britain.

In a piece stimulated by Wilson's (1987, 1991) account of the impact of deindustrialization on black people in the urban US, Byrne (1995) examined the forms of socio-spatial segregation consequent on the deindustrialization of the Teesside conurbation. In a review of available descriptive secondary data, he noted the very high degree of correspondence between the social characteristics of areas and the achievement of pupils in state secondary schools drawn from those areas. This was scarcely a surprising finding, but what is more surprising is the extent to which such divisions have been taken for granted and not considered as of considerable social significance. This is particularly the case when access to a highly differentiated state school system is not simply a matter of area of residence, but, under the provisions of the 1988 Education Reform Act, is also a function of 'parental choice'.

Ball et al. (1995) have recently reviewed the way in which social class background affects the processes of parental choice of school. They described the detailed knowledge based processes of choice by middle class parents in a particular locality in contrast to the much more 'localist' preferences of working class parents. Their account emphasises the significance of educational processes for the transmission of class position. This argument is highly persuasive and resonates well with the very general account available from Social Policy style studies of the extent to which differential knowledge maximizes the relative gains of the middle classes from publicly available welfare goods.

However, choices of school are not unconstrained. Let us leave on one side the extremely expensive elite boarding schools. This leaves us with a secondary day school system of which about 10% is private and 90% public. Most of the private schools are former 'direct grant' schools which withdrew from the state system in the 1970s when threatened with being placed under the control of elected local education authorities. Access to these schools depends on a combination of financial resources and the ability of children. Fees are high. On Tyneside they are about £3,500 p.a. Their entrance examinations are academically demanding and many who pass have attended private fee paying primary schools which specialize in coaching for them. There is an assisted places scheme, but it notoriously benefits those parents who are self-employed and have clever accountants. Access to 'desirable' public (in the real meaning of that word) schools is also constrained. Schools have admissions policies, few of which are based on ability tests, rather more of which are based on 'interviews with parents and children, but most of which have some kind of geographically based prioritizing schemata. Typically, children from a geographical area either defined directly for the secondary school itself, or indirectly through access from designated primary schools, have first priority. In 'desirable' schools it is difficult for any but first priority children to gain a place.

Part of the life strategy of the middle classes (and this term is here used to describe the combination in status terms of 'the service class' and the increasingly reinvigorated petit-bourgeoisie) involves picking areas of residence and primary schools in order to maximize their children's chances of gaining access to 'good schools'. Perhaps the only democratizing element in recent legislation is that knowledge of what is 'good' is no longer a perk of public sector service class employment or a subject of gossip. Instead detailed school examination results are published on an annual basis and widely publicized in both the national and local press.

It was the availability of this data which prompted the present study. We obtained a computer readable version of the school performance tables from the Department for Education and Employment (DEE) and realized that by using postcodes for schools given in the address information, it was possible to locate schools in wards for which social condition indices could be derived from the small area data sets based on the results of the 1991 Census. The study that follows is an exploratory account of variation in types of schools, using the examination results and attendance information contained in the DEE set, which is then related to the social characteristics of the areas within which the schools are located. It is an exploration (that word is used deliberately to indicate that the study is in the tradition after Tukey (1979) of emphasizing the use of statistical information as a description and source of ideas rather than for the positivist testing of hypotheses) of the way in which spatial separation of social classes facilitates the reproduction of those classes through differential access to schools.

A Typology of English and Welsh Secondary Schools

The Department for Education and Employment Secondary School Performance Tables is published annually. Considered as a set of variables describing schools as cases it comprises the following elements which we have employed in this study:

There are also a number of elements describing A'Level achievements and examination results in vocational and other qualifications. However, we have not included these in our analyses because in many LEAs there is a tertiary college system in which some or all secondary schools cover the age range of 11-16 and students transfer for post-GCSE studies to a tertiary college. There is also considerable transfer at age 16 from 11-18 schools into the tertiary sector and among schools.

We began by constructing a typology for all secondary schools of the above types in England and Wales. We employed a procedure of cluster analysis using percentage of pupils gaining five grades A-C, percentage gaining five grades A-G, percentage of half-days lost due to authorized absences, and percentage of half-days lost due to unauthorized absences. Using Wards Method and hierarchical fusion in a cluster analysis, we found that a significant typology of schools emerged at the three cluster level. We established this using Quick Cluster. Table 1 describes the typology which emerged.

Table 1 - School Cluster: 3 Cluster Level
School Cluster 1 School Cluster 2 School Cluster 3
Number of Cases 655 977 1959
% 16 Yr. olds obtaining 5 or more grade A-C GCSEs 16 77 39
% half days lost due to Unauthorized Absences 3 0 1
% Independent (Private) 10 49 3
% Selective Admissions Policy 3 51 2
% Mixed Sex Schools 90 62 91

Table 1 shows that there are three sorts of secondary school in England and Wales. Those schools in Cluster One are poor performers in which less than 20% of pupils attain what is generally considered to be the minimal academic level at GCSE for any real prospect of going on to tertiary education. At the other extreme Cluster Two comprises a set of elite schools which are more likely to be either or both of private and selective and in which the overwhelming majority of pupils achieve this standard (and may well do very much better). Cluster Three contains the great middle mass of schools with results centering about 40% of children reaching the five A-C GCSEs standard.

Of course there is variation within clusters. The best way to illustrate the form of this is by examining frequency polygons generated for the variable five A-C GCSEs both for all schools and for schools classified by cluster membership. This is done in Figures 1a-c. There appears to be a more or less normal distribution covering the range between 0 and about 65% on the variable, and another distribution which has values rising from 65%+ towards 100% with a modal value of 100%. The schools in this second part of the distribution are all in Cluster Two as described in Table 1b. The great majority of them are either private or selective or both.

Figure 2 shows the pattern of distribution of schools within each cluster. Clearly there is a degree of overlap (note that we are dealing with a census of schools here - these are not sampling distributions) between clusters, but the apparently normal first part of the national distribution can now be partitioned into three elements. These are low achieving schools in Cluster 1, the middle range in Cluster 3, and the high achieving state (including voluntary aided and voluntary controlled schools) which form the bottom part of the bimodal distribution within Cluster 2.

We have found it useful to employ ideas about specieation couched in the language of 'fitness landscapes' in attempting to describe and understand both this situation and the processes which give rise to it (for a general account see Kauffman, 1993; 1995). It seems evident that the primarily selective schools in Cluster 2 constitute a separate species and a quite different peak on the fitness landscape. Other schools could only emulate them by the enormous energy commitment of themselves becoming academically selective - a filling in of a valley separating their range from the distinctive selective peak. This would require a lot of energy but for the schools in the 60% plus range which are not selective, such a change would be possible given a policy change which would allow such schools to introduce selective examinations - they could become Gillian Shepherd's 'Grammar Schools' in every town. In the language of contemporary evolutionary theory, a crucial change in environment (policy regulating the employment of academic selection in state schools) would permit a substantive evolutionary transformation. Some schools (for example the notorious Oratory of Blair and one Harman-Dromey child fame) by employing 'interview' procedures possible under Grant Maintained Status, have already moved in this direction. Thus Grant Maintained Status opens up another evolutionary route.

Changes between Cluster One and Cluster Three, and from high Cluster Three to low Cluster Two, involve movements along slopes. In other words they appear possible in a landscape, described thus far only in terms of school characteristics, because there is a route along the slope. This requires energy but not a landscape transformation. However, school descriptors although important, are clearly not the whole of the picture. Most schools exist embedded in socio-spatial landscape where the social characteristics of their core catchment areas provide another set of variables which serve to determine their form by locating them in relation to another fitness landscape.

Socio-Spatial Differentiation - Divided Spaces : Different Catchment Areas

It is possible to locate schools in space by using the postal code component of their address. Postcodes can be matched to 1991 Census Wards using the national postcode file which is part of the MIDAS data sets at Manchester. This approach is pretty rough and ready. Postcode boundaries may cross ward boundaries - in such cases the postcode is assigned to the ward which contains the larger part of it. More importantly secondary school catchment areas are larger than the wards in which the schools are located. In almost all cases even a 'county' (i.e. directly LEA controlled) state secondary school will have a core catchment area covering more than one ward - even in quite densely built up central Gateshead schools typically draw from about three wards. Catholic Schools have much larger catchment areas (typically four times as large) and oddities like City Technology Colleges draw from very large areas indeed. Catchment areas are not necessarily circular with schools located in their centre. There are still many pre 1970 buildings in use which were built as Secondary Modern Schools or Grammar Schools and catchment areas can be awkward. In one extreme example in Gateshead a school is assigned by postcode to an affluent ward, but is in the extreme corner of that ward and draws its children from much poorer areas to the East of that Ward. In subsequent more detailed studies we intend to map out exact catchment areas, but in this exploratory study we are working with what is readily available with the necessary metric limitations noted.

We should note here that we do not regard it as a difficulty for this study that many children under the exercise of parental choice do not come from the designated catchment area of the school. We are not attempting to construct correlation based causal models relating school performance by cohort achievement to the social background of the school catchment area. Rather we are interested in relating a typology based fitness landscape of school space to the fitness landscape expressed by residential socio-spatial differentiation. We are arguing that the form of that second landscape is extremely important in determining the initial character of the school, and that it is this initial character which induces positive feedback in the term of the injection of children from other catchment areas into successful schools and the withdrawal of children who are catchment area resident, from unsuccessful schools. 'Extremely important in determining' does not mean absolutely determinant. We are particularly interested in schools which are 'deviant' in terms of the correspondence between school and socio-spatial fitness landscapes - successful schools in poor areas and unsuccessful schools in affluent ones. Much of this non-correspondence is a problem of the inadequacies of the postcode based spatial metric as described above. Where it is not, then agency is what matters and that is very interesting indeed from the point of view of the development of policy.

Table 2 outlines the results of a cluster analysis of ward level data which provides an exploratory classification of social areas using variables related to the presence or absence of social deprivation. Again it is the three cluster level which provides the first important level of classification. This does not correspond simply to the idea of postfordist urban space as being differentiated into two regimes, but in fact other studies suggest that what we have is in fact a complex combination of the two sorts of postfordist urban space - affluent and poor, with a surviving form of Fordist space located between them.

The schools and the wards in which they are located are all in the Northern Standard Planning Region of England and include all non-private, non-special secondary schools in that region for which data is available. The Northern Region includes a good mix of rural, suburban, outer estate and inner city areas, but has a very small 'other than white' population. It has relatively few 'opted out' (of local authority control) schools, almost all of which are in Cumberland. The region has been substantially deindustrialized and that deindustrialization is probably now complete in the sense that it has gone as far as it is going. Indeed it can be argued that the region is a developed example of late modern polarized social space.

Table 2 - Social Deprivation Ward Clusters: 3 Cluster Level
Social Deprivation CL1 Social Deprivation CL2 Social Deprivation CL3
Number of Wards 50 85 70
% Households (Hhds) Owner Occupiers 41 61 83
% Hhds Social Housing 55 32 10
% Hhds with no car 59 42 25
% Hhds with 2 or more cars 7 15 25
% Hhds with at least one child and no employed worker 38 22 11
% Hhds containing children headed by a lone parent 22 13 7
% Economically Active Males unemployed or on a government job creation scheme. 28 16 9
% Economically Active Females unemployed or on a job creation scheme 14 9 6
% of pupils at schools located within the clusters obtaining 5 or more A-C grade GCSEs. 28 37 42

These social deprivation clusters were formed using the percentages of economically active unemployed males or on a government scheme; ditto for females; households with no car; households with two cars; households containing dependent children headed by a lone parent; ditto containing no employed adult; households which are owner-occupied; and those with social tenancies. Clearly we have an affluent, a deprived and a middle cluster.

Table 3 shows the relationship between School Cluster based on school performance data and the Social Deprivation Cluster of the Ward in which the school is located.

Table 3 - School Cluster by Social Deprivation Cluster
School Cl 1 Mid-level achievement School Cl 2 High achievement School Cl 3 Low Achievement Total No. of Schools in Social Deprivation Cluster
High Social Deprivation No. of Schools 15 2 33 40
Mid level Social Deprivation No. of Schools 47 7 28 82
Low Social Deprivation No. of Schools 45 9 16 70
Total No. of Schools in School Cluster 107 18 77 202

From Table 3 it can be seen that there is a relationship between the character of the ward within which a school is located and its 'performance type' but that this is not exact (the Cramer's V measure, which is a measure of association for categorical data corresponding to r sq. for continuous data was 0.37). For example two high achieving schools are in areas of high deprivation and 16 low achieving schools are in areas of low social deprivation. The first anomalies are easily disposed off. One is a CTC with a very wide catchment area and a semi-selective policy. The other is a catholic school in a semi-rural area which also has a very wide catchment area. Of the seven high achieving schools in middle areas, two are county, two are catholic and three are grant-maintained so the effect of larger catchment areas also applies here. The sixteen low performing schools in low social deprivation areas are more difficult to account for. In the extreme case (the Gateshead example cited above) this is a matter of a school being on the edge of its catchment area, but detailed examination of these schools is clearly necessary. It should be remembered that school cluster membership was determined from a data set including private schools but these have not been included in the social deprivation analysis.

Type has an interesting effect on performance. In general Voluntary Aided (Catholic) Schools do somewhat better than County Schools and better than the social area of their ward of location would suggest. Newcastle and Cleveland County schools do particularly poorly with a mean of less than 25% of their cohorts achieving the five A-C GCSE standard.

A Competitive Ecology - Two Sets of Predators - Landscapes, Fields and Habituses.

'Public' schools operate in a financial environment in the UK where they receive a sum of money for every child they educate. In effect every child is a walking voucher. Schools, other things being equal, want to attract as many children as possible in order to maximize school income. However, other things are not exactly equal. Children are differentiated. There are some with severe behavioural problems which, other things being equal, schools don't want to attract to themselves. Such children are difficult in themselves, and repel the sorts of children which schools do want to attract. This positive attraction, with a whole industry of brochures and open-days to support it, is designed not only to maximize numbers, but also to maintain the existing good record of 'good schools' by attracting the sort of children who will do well at GCSE. In other words schools (and here 'schools' means the senior management teams and teachers in the schools, together with lay governors who include representatives of existing parents) want to maximize the existing value of their inputs. The easiest way to do this is by a selection process geared towards ability, but this is not generally available as an option. Grant Maintained Schools and CTCs can use parental interviews. Others can use the character of other spaces as a proxy for the character of children.

The result of this competition is the creation of a system which looks very like a classic Darwinian landscape. The fittest survive in terms of recruited numbers and with positive advantageous feedback. The poorest in terms of results fail because disadvantageous positive feedback (i.e. withdrawal of children from their formal catchment areas), challenges their financial viability as their roles fall. This also produces concentrations of the most difficult children in those schools, and is clearly associated with the negative inspectors' reports which are considered to demarcate 'failing schools'. However, elimination at the bottom is not all that important. What does matter is the construction of a landscape which now has a relatively stable form, with socio-spatial residential locations playing a key role in determining access to routes to schools which maximize the possibility of credential achievements.

However, the 'schools' are not the only actors. We also have parents making parental choices about schools for their children and those choices are based on differential formal access, differential knowledge and differential commitment to achievement goals. Ball et al. (1995) have used qualitative interviewing to explore the character of such parental choices. Their account suggests that parents can be divided into two species operating in the landscape of schools - one species has a wide perceptual field and an instinct for the advantaging consumption of educational privilege. The other is much more vegetative. It sticks and accepts. It seems quite appropriate to think about the educational system here, not only as a fitness landscape by analogy with evolutionary accounts, but also as a field in Bourdieu's terms, and to think about the two sorts of approach described by Ball et al. as constituting two different habituses which operate on this field (see Jenkins, 1993; Bourdieu, 1990).

We find the analogy between Bourdieu's concept of field and the notion of fitness landscape to be one which is based on considerable resonance. Jenkins describes the concept of field, thus :

A field, in Bourdieu's sense, is a social arena within which struggles or manoeuvres take place over specific resources or stakes or access to them. Fields are defined by the stakes which are at stake. ...The field is the crucial mediating context wherein external factors - changing circumstances - are brought to bear upon individual practice and institution. (1992: pp. 84, 86)
Here space is being used metaphorically, but we will argue below that there is a real spatiality to the field of educationally mediated cultural capital. Let us make implicit 'complex realism' explicit, and emphasize that we use the term 'analogy' here not as a synonym for metaphor, but because complex autopoetic systems in general which are characterized by far from equilibric internal conditions and are placed on the edge of chaos by positive feedback, do have a common character. We regard the secondary educational system as described here as constituting such as a system as expressed in social space. It is highly environmentally dependent. Here the environment contains both the effects of policy change and underlying social changes, and the dependency is a product of the inter- action between the two.

Environmental changes can be 'global' in terms of the transformation of national policy arrangements, involve the local expression of global factors - particularly in terms of the locality level effects of industrial change, and be local. Of course any combination of these can and does operate in an interactive (i.e. non-linear) way. Local effects can be initiated by schools as actors. The Carlisle situation in which almost all secondary schools opted out, was a consequence of one school opting out and gaining a momentary advantage, which persuaded all other schools in the same locality to opt out in pursuit of the same advantage. The actual actors in the schools were senior managers (primarily heads) and governors who initiated opt outs, and parents who voted for them in specific ballots. However, a 'form change', i.e. a change of type, is not the only way in which a school can change the environment in which it is operating. As is so often the case with complex systems, transformation of quantity into quality can have important effects. The fitness landscape for achievement suggests that movement of a school from low achiever to moderate achiever is perfectly possible. The more complex landscape which incorporates social background suggests that only if background is favourable will it be possible to move from moderate to high achievement, although there are clearly many moderately achieving schools in low deprivation areas which have this route available to them.

It is useful to explore these variations in more detail in a particular locality. Indeed one possible useful operational definition of that much disputed term which gets away from the simple productivist emphasis of labour market, would be that of the range over which secondary school children move for schooling. We have taken that of Northumberland plus Tyneside i.e. the education authorities of Northumberland County, Gateshead MBC, Newcastle City, North Tyneside MBC and South Tyneside MBC. These boundaries are not exact. There is movement to and from the south viz. County Durham and Sunderland City. However, the fuzzy set nature accepted, they will do.

First let us bring in the private secondary day schools so far excluded in our considerations of the public system. There are 14 in this locality with a total of 6100 pupils aged 16 or less. Their scores on the five A-C GCSE variable are between 25% and 96% although only two schools have scores of less than 70% and most have scores of 90% or more. They contain 8% of the secondary school population aged 16 or less. Access to almost all these schools requires both academic ability from the children and cash from the parents. Next there are the 'good' 'public' secondary schools i.e. those in the national School Cluster Two. There are six of these which comprise the Gateshead CTC which has a selection mechanism, one suburban Tyneside Catholic comprehensive, one suburban Tyneside county comprehensive and three Northumberland comprehensives in affluent mixed suburban/rural areas. The range of their five A-C GCSE scores is from 60% to 75%. However, in the popular mind these schools are not differentiated by kind (although they are differentiated by degree) from those schools in the middle achieving cluster which have five A-C GCSE scores of more than 50%. In this category there are eight suburban Tyneside county comprehensives, five Catholic schools, two rural Northumberland schools and two Northumberland schools which are really in Tyneside's suburbs. Including the two remote rural schools, it is these 23 schools containing 35% of secondary school pupils aged 16 or less which constitute the good non-private and desired schools in the locality. All the county comprehensives in this set are in areas of low or middle social deprivation. Figure 3 shows the distribution of schools in this locality (Northumbrian) according to percentage of pupils aging five or more A-C's at GCSE.

In contrast there are the 18 schools in Cluster 3 where the percentage of pupils gaining five or more A-C's at GCSE never exceeds 30% and is usually substantially less. These are the academically weak schools which are to be avoided by those who are managing the educational careers of their children. They contain about 20% of the secondary school population aged 16 or less. Some, in areas of high social deprivation are dreadful in terms of performance with seven schools in Gateshead and Newcastle having five A-C rates of less than 20%, but the only risk a middle class child has of arriving in one of these is if their parents overbid their application to a highly desired school for which they are not in the first priority category for access. This can happen but it is an unusual event. In general they are filled by the children of parents who follow a habitus of localism and acceptance in their operations in the field of educationally mediated stakes.

If a cluster analysis is performed only on the schools in the locality, then three clusters emerge. The first contains only the CTC and most of the private schools all of which exceed, and most of which very substantially exceed, a score of 75% on the five A-C GCSE index. The second contains most of the voluntary aided and county schools and has a means score on that index of 42%. The third contains 13 comprehensives, one voluntary aided school and two privates schools and has a mean score of 19%. This cluster corresponds quite closely to the 'less than 30% category' identified in the preceding paragraph. It may well be that it is locality typologies which matter more than national ones. Locality is the range of social knowledge and of child mobility - indeed the latter is probably substantially contained within sub-localities, although these are certainly larger than single LEAs even in the public sector.


This study is avowedly exploratory but even as an exploration it shows some things which are of considerable sociological and policy interest. The examination of the national data set shows very clearly the extent to which private schooling mediates educational success, despite the existence of a small minority of very poor private schools. Private schooling not only continues to be an important mechanism for transmission of advantage in relation to cultural capital, but has probably become more important with the unequivocally private character of former ambivalent direct grant day schools. These were always middle class preserves, but they now no longer recruit through public examinations (although they remain highly selective) and, despite assisted places, are probably now as elitist as they were before the 1944 Education Act. These schools and the system of advantage transmission of which they are a part, matter a good deal.

However, the main focus of the study was on differentiation within the public system and on the relationship between this and socio-spatial differentiation in the Northern Region. There are problems of measurement in the data employed here, and we want to refine our ways of defining and describing 'school catchment spaces'. However, even with these limitations, the present study does show a relationship which confirms Byrne's impression from the much more limited Middlesbrough study. In particular, if the private schools are unequivocally generating an elite, the schools where less than a fifth of pupils are achieving the old O'Level matriculation standard are clearly significant as a source of people with 'negative' cultural capital, in an employment world where 'positive' cultural capital is ever more important for lifechances. The divided city is not reproduced exactly in schooling, but the poles of division in residential space and schooling do essentially correspond.

It is important to say some more general things here. First, the comprehensive system has massively increased formal educational achievement. In Gateshead, when Circular 10.66 was issued, less than 20% of all school pupils achieved a five O'Level matriculation standard. In relative terms now any school in the borough which does not achieve that standard is a failure, and more than 35% of all pupils do reach it. Second, the evidence about the close association between social deprivation and extremely poor performance is evident. The seven Gateshead and Newcastle schools with five GCSE A-C rates of less than 20% all draw their pupils from areas of very high social deprivation. One is currently under threat of closure as a 'failing school' but it is clearly not the case that any other school in the Northern Region with such a deprived catchment area is doing any better in formal output terms than it is. This suggests that at this end of the system, at the very bottom of the slope on the fitness landscape, easy assertions about internal school operations which disregard the effect of social context, are essentially vacuous.

In terms of perspective on the situation described by these secondary data analyses, we have sought to combine the vocabulary of complexity, and in particular the idea of fitness landscapes after Kauffmann (1993, 1995) with the idea of field as expressed by Bourdieu (1990). We are reasonably happy with this combination and consider that the powerful analogy of the two descriptions does reflect the character of structures which emerge in far from equilibrium autopoetic systems in general. We do, however, have some reservations about the use of habitus as a concept here. The term seems to describe very well the sources of the practices of those parents who accept what is local and given, by implication in relation to our data, and explicitly in relation to the accounts given to Ball et al. (1995) in their interview based study. It does not describe the conscious actions around advantage being pursued in relation to good state schools. We will fly the idea that there are clear habituses operating at either end of this field/fitness landscape. At the bottom the poor accept what is available to them, at the top the affluent simply continue a habitus of using elite private education. In between some people pursue strategies which are clearly conscious and informed. There is movement, and there is the possibility of change in environment as a consequence of policy. If the whole system in its upper middle range displays signs of the influence of rational choice, that is because, to use Bourdieu's terminology, 'the field of power' in terms of formulated and implemented educational policy, has set it to be like that. The nature of actors behaviour in that field is beyond the scope of the present paper.


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