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This paper is a critical policy analysis of intersections between social class inequality and education policy in Ireland. The focus is upon contemporary policy and legislation such as The Irish Constitution and equality legislation; social inclusion policies such as the DEIS scheme; literacy and numeracy policy documents; as well as current government policy statements on education. It utilises Stephen Ball’s policy analysis tools of policy as text, policy as discourse and policy effects to examine the social, cultural and political constructs of policy and legislation influencing social class inequality in education in Ireland (Ball, 1993). The focus is upon the refusal to name social class as a significant issue despite the weight of evidence showing the key influence class position and access to economic and cultural resources has on one’s educational opportunities, experiences and outcomes. The approach taken here is discursive in the sense that the documents are the data and the findings are infused with detailed theoretical discussion of contemporary issues around inequality in education in Ireland. The analysis finds that the absence of social class in official policy and legislative discourses is indicative of a growing neoliberalisation of education policy in Ireland where increased foci on international comparisons and a consumer-driven philosophy of educational provision militate against equality for students from lower socio-economic groups.
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