Learning for Active Citizenship? Critical pedagogy, tenant activism and housing stock transfer in England

John McCormack

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


This thesis examines opportunities for citizenship education afforded to tenants in council housing in England by a policy that seeks to encourage the transfer of their homes to not-for-profit landlords. Specifically, it explores the role of tenant activists in stock transfer processes within an ontological framework of learning for active citizenship, and addresses two questions: what is it tenants need to know, or be able to do, in order to intervene effectively in transfer proposals? How are these things learnt?

The questions are addressed iteratively in a research process that draws upon several strands of empirical data, including literature relating to stock transfer (scholarly and grey), document analysis, and primary data arising from semi-structured interviews with tenants. The analysis is informed by the theory and concepts of critical pedagogy, as articulated by Paulo Freire.
The thesis finds that opportunities for citizenship education are in fact undermined by the failure of policy and practice to recognise fully, and address appropriately, the educational dimensions to tenant involvement in housing stock transfers. In particular, the prevailing conceptualisation of tenants as consumers results in the provision, to tenants, of over-simplified, and ultimately misleading, information.

It also finds that the political environment in which transfers are situated renders the issue of tenant consciousness pivotal to the interests of other, arguably more powerful, stakeholders. Consequently, participating tenants are subject to conflicting, yet coherent, manipulative narratives, all of which require of them critical capacities. This is illustrated vividly in the thesis by evidence derived from critical hermeneutic analysis of in-depth interviews with sixteen tenant activists.

The thesis develops an alternative, embryonic pedagogy of stock transfer, embracing curriculum content and pedagogic principles. It concludes by arguing that this approach to non-formal citizenship education has salience in relation to wider processes of public service reform.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Institute of Education
Award date18 May 2012
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • lifelong learning
  • active citizenship
  • tenant activism
  • housing stock transfers
  • Freire
  • critical pedagogy


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