The ‘migrant children schooling crisis’: examining the intersection between media framing, neoliberalism and schooling (Leicestershire)




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Peer reviewed


The ‘migrant children schooling crisis’: examining the intersection between media framing, neoliberalism and schooling (Leicestershire) 1.1 Aims The pilot project aims to address tensions identified with the ‘migrant children schooling crisis’ as it is portrayed in the media and the challenges this brings to local authorities and schools who have to place and educate ‘migrant children’. This is an intersectional study between the media framing of neoliberal tensions within the education sector and the reality of how local authorities and schools deal with those tensions. 1.2 Rationale The project examines neoliberal policies and practices embraced in the process of economic and social changes in the UK over the last three years (2010-2018) and the impact on the country’s education system, particularly on the compulsory education of transnational migrant children who relocate from Europe and rest of the world to the UK with their parents. The challenges within the school system are significant given how the education system is entrenched within a neoliberal political agenda and framing of ‘migrant children’ within a broader discourse of immigrant and Brexit. Evidence (Spencer, 2011) suggests media plays an active role in shaping and reshaping this debate in the public sphere, with hostile articles on ‘migrant children swamping UK schools’ but not accepting diversity as a pillar for development. On the other hand, schools are expected to play a vital role in developing community cohesion. The polarised and politicised media framing, therefore, inhibits certain stereotypes that in the long-run may have a detrimental impact on, not only, teaching and learning within schools, but on enforcing community cohesion. Mental health and wellbeing is also a key issue for migrant children. Effective schools and learning communities are characterised by learners who are healthy, well-nourished, resilient, ready to learn and supported by their family and community. Adolescence and early adulthood are peak risk times for the onset of mental health problems. At any one time, one in six young adults aged 16-24 will have a common mental disorder, such as anxiety and depression, that meets the threshold for a clinical diagnosis. Therefore, it is critical to understand how the schools are addressing the question of inclusion and diversity through innovative pedagogical interventions within the current curriculum framework. This is the first-ever study to develop a strategy for fostering social integration and not assimilation, as is sometimes conceptualised in the UK (Brubaker, 2001) of migrant schooling. Previous research (Turunen and Rafferty, 2012:43) suggests “dominant discourses based on neo-liberal rationale presented themselves as “unquestionable truths” that influenced how educators interact with others and went about their profession”. It is therefore paramount, firstly, to understand the neoliberal rationale as a discourse in UK educational context; secondly, the media framing; and thirdly, the impact on migrant children schooling from the perspective of Head Teachers and local authority.



migrant children, education, media framing, neoliberal tensions, politicised media, inclusion, curriculum framework, social integration, dominant discourses


Lahiri, I. (2020) The ‘migrant children schooling crisis’: examining the intersection between media framing, neoliberalism and schooling (Leicestershire). Symposium. De Montfort University. Presentation.


Research Institute

Media and Communication Research Centre (MCRC)