04 SES 04 C, Within the Inclusive School: Building spaces, promoting participation
Pupils’ experience of learning, relating and belonging are crucial to their participation, engagement and well-being in school. Yet little is known about how pedagogic and organizational features of schools mediate these experiences. The study adopts a socio-cultural approach to theorizing, investigating and analysing processes of mediation. It investigates that mediation through an innovative approach to understanding the ways in which the culture of schools shapes and responds to the experience of difference. The research builds on a range of existing relationships established under the title of The Oxford Education Deanery. Together with Deanery schools we have identified the problem of relationships and a sense of belonging as witnessed in absenteeism as the major concern in the city. Our long term purpose is to support schools in responding to the needs of diverse learners through understanding the ways in which the cultures of schooling mediate experiences of relating, learning and belonging. While this project shares some of the assumptions of researchers adopting an inclusionist perspective of educating all, and the transformative work on pupil voice, it differs on two key aspects; the place of relationships and a sense of belonging; and the systematic testing of the utility of the data that a) reveal the effects of institutional mediation and b) support schools in managing and arranging local practices. The involvement of the Deanery ensures the outcome is "Fit for Purpose" i.e. supports schools in making changes.
Our objectives were to: Investigate the barriers that learners experience alongside their sense of belonging; Examine the utility of the data we collect for schools; gather insights into cultural differences across schools: Investigate differences in the ways in which schools respond to these data and the processes that lead to change. We set these findings within a national policy context gaining further insights into the meditational process through comparing our findings with parallel research in Spain.
We draw on our previous research (Porter et al 2012; Porter 2015; Ortega et al in press) to use tools that are inclusive and do not pre- empt or limit what participation means to pupils. The tools have been used progressively to clarify the nature of the barriers and supports to participation in school life, their frequency and importance. Different ages and stages give rise to particular challenges in schooling and we have tested this approach with a year group who find schooling particularly troublesome. Exclusion data in England reveal that ages 13 and 14 are particularly turbulent times with the highest rates of fixed term and permanent exclusion during these years (DfE 2017).
The research has been planned over three phases: pupil survey and follow up; testing the utlity of the data for staff and evaluating the outcome of changes. This paper will report findings from the first two phases. Survey: We surveyed year 8/9 in six secondary schools using questionnaires. These comprise a modified “School Connectedness” (Goodenow 1993) which asks pupils to rate their sense of belonging and relationships together with a revised “Making schools better places for learning” (Porter et al 2010) which collects quantitative and qualitative data on the times, places and activities that pupils find difficult, inviting pupil comment on these tools. We analyzed the data from the questionnaire reporting back to schools how “connected to school” children feel and the most frequent barriers to participation together with what children find helps them. We interviewed school staff (24) about the utility of these data. We invited 3 schools, representing high, low and medium levels of connectedness to look in more depth at the barriers using nominal group technique, a form of structured focus group (4 with 6 pupils) that enables everyone to contribute and vote, to establish what gets in the way of participation in school activities and what pupils think would help. We analyzed the data to provide schools with a ranked set of barriers and pupil suggestions of what they would find helpful in relation to the three top barriers. Using a method that focusses on concrete examples, “Point2Point” (Porter et al 2008), we invited participants (9) from the focus groups to share with us their individual journey towards over-coming these barriers. We took the results to staff, testing the utility of the data by analysing with them the implications and pathways for change. We compared these plans to data collected in Spain. Following on from this we will evaluate the outcome of school changes using pre and post measures of the Connectedness Scale, attendance and progress data. We will compare data with our Spanish colleagues.
The study provides illustration and contrast in the way in which schools draw inferences from the data and the framing of this within value statements of how they see the school, their responses and strategies for responding to pupils that encounter barriers to learning. These can be situated against the differing levels of pupil connectedness and the dimensions of these differences. Preliminary analysis of the data has also highlighted differences between schools in the foci of their interest, which pupil groups are identified as being a concern although the policy agenda concerning attendance targets has been a recurring theme. Parallel research undertaken in Spain provides a unique opportunity to examine the utility of this approach across cultures that differ in the notion of community and the public scrutiny of performance data. Comparing schools within and across communities and nations provides initial insights into the ways in which the experienced barriers are manifestations of different cultural, political and organizational practices.
DfE (2017) Permanent and Fixed Period Exclusions in England: 2015 to 2016, https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/permanent-and-fixed-period-exclusions-in-england-2015-to-2016 Goodenow, C. (1993). The psychological sense of school membership among adolescents: Scale development and educational correlates. Psychology in the Schools, 30, 79–90. Ortega, L., Thompson, I. and Daniels, H. (under review) Staff Collaboration in Secondary Schools: A Social Network Analysis of Advice-Seeking Patterns regarding Support for Vulnerable Students. BERJ Porter, J. (2015) Understanding and Responding to the Experiences of Disability. London: Routledge Porter, J. Daniels, H., Martin, S., Hacker, J. Feiler, A, & Georgeson, J., (2012) “Supporting Schools in Identifying and Safeguarding the Needs of Disabled Children: the challenges for data collection.” Educational Review 64, 1, 77-82. Porter, J., Daniels, H.,Georgeson, J., Hacker J., Gallop, V. Feiler, A., Tarleton B., Watson, D., (2008) Disability Data Collection for Children’s Services. DCSF Porter J, Daniels,H. Martin, S. Hacker, J. Feiler, A. & Georgeson, G. (2010) Testing of Disability Identification Tool for Schools. Research Report DFE-RR025. https://www.education.gov.uk/publications/RSG/AllPublications/Page1/DFE-RR025
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