Cracking the Code: The Social Mobility Commission and Education Policy Discourse

Maslen, Joseph (2018) Cracking the Code: The Social Mobility Commission and Education Policy Discourse. Journal of Education Policy. pp. 1-14. ISSN 0268-0939

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Promoting social mobility seems to be simple common sense. However, the solutions proposed in the UK under successive governments reflect a problematic individualism that is not about helping all of the poorest children, but about encouraging the poor to become as ruthless and competitive as the middle and upper classes. This article shows how the emphasis on competition is delivered in social mobility policy through the language and metaphors that are used. It examines how the problem of social mobility is represented through a critical discourse analysis of Cracking the Code: How Schools Can Improve Social Mobility. This 2014 report, produced by the UK Government’s Social Mobility Commission, uses metaphors, especially sporting metaphors, to engage the reader in its discourse. These include ‘key steps’ and ‘marginal gains’, ‘walking the walk’ and ‘stepping up to the plate’, being ‘sharp-elbowed’, and ‘cracking the code’ itself. These metaphors tell a story of competitiveness. The report exemplifies a wider climate in which we are now trying to ‘crack’ entrenched issues such as poverty, but still working within the neoliberal framework where the solution is yet more competition. Through metaphor, the report seeks to justify, disguise and normalise such competition, and make it seem common-sensical.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information and Comments: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Journal of Educational Policy [5th April 2018], available online from:"
Faculty / Department: Faculty of Education > Education Studies
Depositing User: Joseph Maslen
Date Deposited: 22 Mar 2018 14:15
Last Modified: 15 May 2020 11:11

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