• Governing through trust: Community-based link workers and parental engagement in education

      Fretwell, Nathan; Osgood, Jayne; O'Tool, Gill; Tsouroufli, Maria (Wiley online library, 2018-09-28)
      This article seeks to further understandings of contemporary patterns of parental government. It explores the politicisation of family life by examining a pilot programme tasked with enhancing parental engagement in education amongst ‘hard-to-reach’ families within the white British community of a large inner-London borough. Focusing on the programme’s signature device – the deployment of community-based ‘link workers’ to bridge home and school – ‘governmentality’ (Foucault, 2009) is used as a theoretical lens through which to foreground the link workers’ role in governing parents. We draw on qualitative data collected from link workers, parents, and school leaders, to argue that link workers represent a mode of governmentality that privileges the instrumental use of trust to achieve strategic objectives, rather than coercive authority. The aim being to produce responsible, self-disciplined parents who act freely in accordance with normative expectations as to what constitutes ‘good’ parenting and effective parental support. As such, the article highlights the link workers’ role in (re)producing the ideal, neoliberal parent. However, governing through trust comes at the cost of being unable to firmly secure desired outcomes. We thereby conclude that this gentle art of parental government affords parents some latitude in resisting institutional agendas.