Conference Papers

Constructing the ‘other’ in Education

This paper considers the construction of the educational ‘other’ through the example of home education. Although home education has been on the rise for decades, in both in the UK and elsewhere, it is regularly treated as an oddity by both official and popular sources and is frequently marked out by its ‘difference’ to the main stream within its own community. The aim of this paper is to explore how discourses surrounding home education have helped create an ‘othered’ space of education for both those within and outside the home education community. Using critical discourse analysis techniques such as those of Fairclough (2003) this research shows how the space of ‘other’ education is created through techniques of discourse from both the ‘in’ and ‘out’ groups of home education. Textual analysis is conducted using official documents , Local Authority websites, home education information sites and forums as well as print sources. Visual analysis using photographs and illustrations which accompany home education information and commentary are also employed. Through this analysis a variety of techniques are highlighted for their contribution to the construction of the ‘other’. Analysis of discourse from outside the home education community (including official information) is used to illustrate how opposing practices of normalisation (which highlight difference) and universalism (which deny difference) are employed to both ‘other’ and deny home education. Text analysis of material emanating from within the home education community, reveals twin pulls of self-proclamation and self-censorship as home education supporters both champion their cause and protect themselves from mainstream criticism. Drawing on the representation theories of Stuart Hall (1997) the paper goes on to consider how the uses of discourse in these texts and images links to the political positioning and identity of those within alternative education. This paper argues that that the sum of these techniques is the creation and maintenance of an ‘other’ space of education which is used as both a retreat for home educators and as site of contention for educational authority.

Pattison, H. (2017) 'Constructing the ‘other’ in Education', paper presented to The 13th Annual Conference of the British Education Studies Association (BESA), 29–30 June, viewed 18 January 2020, <>