04 SES 11 C JS, Transforming the Learning Experience Beyond the School Walls: creating inclusive spaces for children and youth in and out of school
Joint Symposium NW 04 and NW 14
Persistent links between social background, educational attainment and wider life chances remain an issue across Europe. This paper argues that in disadvantaged communities, research which draws upon assets-mapping perspectives and engages students as co-researchers could inform more effective localised approaches to improving young people’s educational outcomes and life chances. These arguments are rooted in a qualitative case study conducted within and around a school within a highly disadvantaged UK inner-city district, which involved ten student researchers conducting seventeen focus groups, totaling up to 230 participants aged between 11 and 15 years old. During the focus group, participants were asked a series of questions, incorporating open-ended, spatial questions, such as: ‘Where do you go in your spare time?’, as well as scenario-based questions where more scaffolding was required: ‘Where do you go when you want to relax?’ As a result, an assets-map was created and then analysed thematically. It was found that young people most valued assets they could utilise to pursue their desired future. However, these were rarely professionally-led services intended to address community deficits, presenting fundamental challenges to local professionals’ approaches. For instance, whilst local professionals identified the extended school curriculum and youth centres as the most important ‘enabling’ assets in the lives of young people, the young people themselves identified ‘family’, ‘friends’ and ‘social media networks’, describing them as a rich source of social capital supplying knowledge about education and career choices. Using the student-created assets-map as a discussion point, the student co-researchers and a group of local professionals, seconded from fifteen differing organisations including Adult Education, the City Council, the NHS, local voluntary groups, primary schools and local business, have now worked together towards developing a co-defined future agenda with regard to children’s assets in the local area. This approach demonstrates therefore how communities, professionals and policymakers can work collaboratively towards improving student attainment. Fitting in with the ECER 2016 conference theme of ‘Leading Education’, this paper calls for policymakers across Europe to use this approach as an example of how educational reform strategies must be lead by community members themselves. Indeed, looking to the future, these findings and the approach presented, could now be transferred to other local and national contexts, as well as to established bodies of research within urban education across Europe.
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