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Durham University

School of Education

Research Projects

Publication details

Hillyard, S. & Bagley, C. (2013). 'The fieldworker not in the head's office': an empirical exploration of the role of an English rural primary school within its village. Social & Cultural Geography 14(4): 410-427.

Author(s) from Durham


This paper presents the findings of a project exploring the role of an English primary school inside its rural village. The fieldwork discovered that the school had lacked a full-time head teacher for a number of years and the paper explicates three dynamics to unravel why: (1) interpersonal issues (high staff turnover and the legacy of a former head); (2) the political–economic development of the village and its shifting local ‘squirearchy’; and finally (3) the construction of the spatial environment of the village (post-war expansion and the situation of amenities). These three dynamics possessed a synergy and this was key in seeing the complexities of this rural environment and its bearing upon social relations such as the absent head. It therefore supports recent theorising positioning interpersonal power alongside the temporal and spatial character of a local environment. The paper concludes by using this insight to consider what problems the school—and any new head teacher—might face in the immediate future. The research is based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in 2009–2011.Using a multi-strategy research approach, the paper draws upon participant observation, interview, documentary, visual and historical material in support of its analysis.

School of Education