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Keywords:

  • neoliberalization;
  • policy localization;
  • policy subjects;
  • class;
  • parents;
  • education

Debate about neoliberalism has been a significant feature of twenty-first century geography. Appreciation of the contingent nature of neoliberalisation has promoted interest in the localisation of policy, and this paper furthers debate in three ways. First, it highlights the importance of the peopling of the state and more specifically the importance of everyday public sector workers in the localised production of roll-out neoliberalisation. Second, it illustrates the significance of these actors’ ideas about idealised policy subjects – and the ways they relate these to their own client groups in different socio-economic neighbourhoods – in the localised emergence of policy. Third, it explores the consequences of this for geographically and socially uneven service provision under neoliberalisation. These arguments are illustrated through a case study focus on educational restructuring under New Labour in England. Our focus is on the Extended Service initiative which combines workfare and family policy agendas by giving primary schools a duty to provide/signpost: wraparound childcare, enrichment activities for children, and parenting support. The case study explores how headteachers’ understandings of idealised neoliberal parenting subject positions, and their notions of ideal childhoods, shape their attitudes to the implementation of this programme in schools serving different socio-economic communities. This process not only involves the reproduction of classed, (de)gendered, and heterosexed discourses seen in national policy, but also moments where local actors draw on alternative models of parenting and/or childhood to influence school-based policy, with the result that what is perceived to be ‘good’ for families of one social class is not seen to be so for others. There is a complex politics at play here. Academics must expose the class biases inherent in neoliberal policies at the same time as they work as ‘critical friends’ in improving public service provision which impacts positively on some individuals’ lives.