Democratic citizenship, critical literacy and educational policy in England: a conceptual paradox?

Chloe Ashbridge, Matthew Clarke, Beth T. Bell, Helen Sauntson, Emma Walker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)


This article identifies a conceptual paradox between recent educational policy in England and a social-democratic understanding of critical literacy. Recent political events including Brexit, the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election, and the Coronavirus Pandemic reiterate the need for pedagogies that equip students to critique information circulated online. After setting out critical literacy’s genealogy as a democratic educational model, the authors situate these theoretical approaches within the context of English secondary education reform. The article then draws on teacher agency research to consider the practical barriers to implementing a critical literacy pedagogy capable of navigating the present political landscape. Addressing gaps within literary education and digital media research, the overall argument is that educational policy in England since 2010 has served the priorities of a neoliberal state system. In this context, enacting the democratic, social-justice orientated critical literacy demanded by the challenges of communicating in the twenty-first-century is both daunting and urgent.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalCambridge Journal of Education
Issue number3
Early online date8 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Critical literacy
  • media literacy
  • digital literacy
  • Neoliberalism
  • democracy
  • teacher agency


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