The campaign to save Croxteth comprehensive: an ethnographic study of a protest movement

  • Phil F. Carspecken

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis is based on ethnographic research carried out on a Liverpool protest movement which occurred between November, 1980 and July,1983. The protest movement was waged by residents of the working class community of Croxteth Liverpool who wished to retain their state secondary school, Croxteth Comprehensive. The Liverpool City Council voted in favour of closing Croxteth Comprehensive in January, 1981 because of its declining roles. Residents began theIr campaign as soon as they became aware of intentions to close the school at the end of the previous year. The
campaIgn itself went through a number of different phases, distinguishable accordIng to the groups of people involved, the strategy and tactics they
employed, the ways in which they justified their campaign, and the goals they pursued.
In July of 1982 the organisation which led the protest, the Croxteth Community Action Committee, took illegal possession of the school buildings and ran a pilot summer school project. In September of 1982 they opened the school doors for all secondary pupils on the council estate and began running classes, with the help of volunteer teachers. The school was run successfully in this way for the entire 1982/83 school year. By the end of
this period the school was officially reinstated by a new Labour Party majorIty on the city council.
This thesis presents a comprehensive account of the entire campaign, from its beginning to end. The campaign is analysed in a number of ways: by situating the closure itself in the economic and political conditions of Liverpool in the 1980s, by examining the relation of Croxteth Comprehensive
to its community, by describing the conditions in which different groups of people contributed to the campaign and the changes it went through in its
use of tactics, and through a close examination of the activities which took place inside the school during its year of occupation.
A number of levels of analysis are used in the study. To explain the closure and the early forms of resistance which developed to oppose it, the
structural location of the local government of Liverpool in the late 1970s and early 1980s is described. To explain the relationship of the school to its community, the formation of a group of activists and their leaders, and the resources available to the protestors for pursuing their aims, a single-group model of social action is used. To analyse the establishment of social routines and schooling practices within the school during its
occupation, action-theoretica1 models are drawn upon., The chapters of literature review and concept analysis with which this thesis begins link these different levels theoretIcalIy through a model of actIon and its conditions. The theoretical framework employed is reviewed in the last chapter. It is one which could be used to study any social movement, and has applications to other social phenomena as well.
Lastly various issues within the sociology of education are examined in light of the events which took place in Croxteth Comprehensive, especially the theory of community education.
Date of AwardJan 1987
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorHenry D Miller (Supervisor)


  • social movements
  • action theory
  • ethnography
  • community studies
  • sociology of education

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