Health imperatives in primary schools across three countries: Intersections of class, culture and subjectivity

Jan Wright, Lisette Burrows , Emma Rich

Research output: Contribution to journalSpecial issuepeer-review

32 Citations (SciVal)


In this article, we want to focus on the impact of the new health imperatives on young children attending primary schools because the evidence from both our own and others work suggests that younger and younger children are talking in very negative and disturbing ways about themselves and their bodies. We see this in a context where in the name of getting in early, governments and authorities are targeting primary schools and primary school parents and children for messages about health and weight. Just as ‘obesity’ has become a global concern, we argue that globalisation of risk discourses and the individualisation of risk, the league table on which country is becoming the fattest have impacted on government policies, interventions, schools and children in ways which have much in common. In this article, then we argue first, that there is a problem (it is not one of children becoming fatter, but rather the way in which the ideas associated with the obesity crisis are being taken up by many children), and second, that the ways in which these ideas are taken up are not uniform across or within countries but depend on contexts: national contexts including, but not only, government policies and campaigns; and contexts within countries which vary with the social and cultural demographics of schools, in ways that are similar across countries.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)673-691
Number of pages19
JournalDiscourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2012


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