Parents as consumer-citizens: an investigation into parent governors

Woods, Philip Arthur (1995). Parents as consumer-citizens: an investigation into parent governors. PhD thesis The Open University.



The study takes as its problematic that parents are increasingly being viewed as consumers and that this conception of parents is too limiting. It goes on to argue that the notion of the consumer should, however, not be discarded altogether, and that the alternative notion of citizenship is in itself insufficient.

Based on an appreciation of developments in consumer studies and consumerism, four models of consumer empowerment are outlined. Each model is associated with different types of consumer activity (see below). Building on this, an alternative concept of the consumer-citizen and its constituent dimensions is proposed as an ideal type.

The thesis then explores how far a particular group of parents - parent governors - appears to resemble the ideal type: ie how far their views and actions accord with the expectations of the concept. Data from questionnaires completed by parent governors in 1988 and 1992 are used to do this.

The study concludes that the consumer-citizen concept is a more accurate and useful analytical tool than the 'consumer' or the 'citizen'. Its empirical findings are generative, rather than firm conclusions. Attention is drawn to limitations in the data collected and to challenges that may be made to the validity of this data, including issues relating to the aggregation of data which was undertaken for the purposes of statistical analysis. The main findings are that the parent governors surveyed are more - likely to resemble a specific variant of the ideal type, le the Incorporated consumer-citizen. In terms of the consumer-citizen dimensions, they are most likely to approve of acting as a member of a political community (representing the school's interests to the local education authority) and checking (evaluating the school's performance), and less likely to see their role as making decisions (doing), though approval of this increased significantly since 1988. Avenues for further work are suggested.

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