Commercial Actors and the Governing of Education: the case of academy school sponsors in England.
This article explores the ways in which commercial actors are operating in state education by focusing on the case study of England’s academies policy. First of all the discussion outlines the development of academies over time and the way in which the policy has provided opportunities for private actors to become involved in the state schooling system. The second part of the article focuses on empirical findings from interviews with academy sponsors as a way of understanding the nature of the role commercial actors play in academies. Commercial sponsor involvement in academies demonstrates a blurring of the boundaries between ‘public’ and ‘private’, and the article suggests that commercial actors need to be understood not merely as participants in this process, but as being active in the reconstruction of ‘public—private’ categories. Also, it is underlined that the commercial sponsors in this study cannot be disconnected from the locality in which they operate. In light of this, the article calls for greater attention to be devoted to understanding local assemblages of policy when attempting to explore the role played by commercial actors in the governance of education.