22 SES 09 C, Inclusion and Exclusion: Various comparative perspectives
Inclusion and participation in higher education is often considered through the policy discourses framed in terms of socio-economic disadvantage. Poverty, for example, is recognised as a significant contributory factor to lower rates of progression to higher education in the British context (DfE 2015a, 2015b; Morgan, 2015). Similarly, monitoring of participation along socio-economic lines is used in multiple European contexts (Riddell and Weedon, 2014). Such socio-economic indicators become proxies for inclusion and are used to justify active approaches towards inclusion.
However, children of military service families (hereafter “service children”) are seldom encompassed by such indicators. They are therefore rarely considered explicitly by higher education institutions in their strategies towards inclusion. We therefore argue that the inclusion of service children in higher education requires looking beyond questions of relative affluence. Instead it requires a systematic and critical engagement with the complexity of factors that characterise the lives of service children. This requires attention to the multiplicity of factors that represent the distinctiveness of one’s life. This necessitates the avoidance of stereotypes and misconceptions when considering how to engage with such students in education.
In the UK, approximately 4 in 10 young people from military service families do not progress to higher education, yet might have been expected to do so if part of the general population. This is despite such students apparently attaining as highly in academic terms as the general population (McCullouch and Hall, 2016). This apparent gap in progression, we argue, represents a case for considering service children as an under-represented, and therefore excluded, group in higher education.
This paper reflects on the outcomes of research funded by the Ministry of Defence in the United Kingdom to investigate the progression to higher education of service children (McCullouch and Hall, 2016). It addresses three key questions:
- What are the key characteristics of the population of service children (including numbers, progression rate to higher education, and academic attainment)?
- How are the educational journeys through and beyond schooling of service children conceptualised in the literature?
- How do children and young people from military service families conceptualise their own educational journeys through and beyond schooling?
In reflecting on the research findings, the paper focuses on the inclusion and exclusion factors that help or hinder the educational progression through and beyond schooling of children from military service families. It uses the question of young people’s progression to higher education as a starting point for exploring these factors.
The paper therefore seeks to identify possibilities for reconsidering approaches to inclusion in education that move beyond common discourses of deprivation, disability and under-attainment. In this respect it seeks to widen the debate on what it means to foster inclusion in education by drawing attention to ways in which established approaches to inclusion may fail to encompass the complex realities experienced by children who do not necessarily fit common definitions of the excluded. In this way it responds to Woodcock and Hardy’s (2017) challenge to move beyond the binary language of inclusion and exclusion and instead to “foster genuine and productive relations between people” (p.684). We therefore conclude that there is a case for the recasting of inclusion in higher education that moves beyond established categories of deprivation and special or additional needs.
Our arguments have relevance beyond the United Kingdom context. By troubling a reliance on socio-economic characteristics as a measure of inclusion, they have potential to prompt reflection on and investigation into the complexities and subtleties of inclusion in higher education in multiple national contexts.
The research comprises of: • A review of existing research, data and literature to identify: the number of children of military service personnel; what characterises a successful education; rates of progression and educational attainment; the impacts of mobility, continuity, transition and communication; financial support; and the impact of deployment. • Interviews and questionnaires exploring the perspectives of school-age children and undergraduates from military service families. Analysis was informed by the literature, secondary and primary data. This research set out to gain an authentic understanding of the experiences and views of the participants (Schwandt, 2007). Credibility was secured by taking care to ensure that the interpretations placed on the data reflected the participants’ views. As the context of the research was one that would be familiar to others who might use the findings, transferability was made possible.
We argue that there has been a tendency to over-emphasise the impact of family mobility and attainment in the case of service children. Whereas the literature emphasises the significance of disruption to learning through family mobility (e.g. Department for Education, 2013), service children appear to achieve very much the same as their non-service peers in mathematics and English both in primary education and at the end of secondary education. By contrast, our findings suggest that the psychological impact of having a parent on active service is among the most significant impact on likelihood to progress to HE. Ill health, including mental health and that of the parent, access to financial support, and access to particular study opportunities also emerged as significant factors. Factors such as this locate the inclusion in or exclusion of service children in higher education outside of socio-economic discourses of deprivation. The research also identified a range of positive qualities that these students possess. Many of the experiences unique to being a service child support the development of positive character traits and interpersonal skills. This suggests the benefits of an asset-based response to facilitating their progression. Attention is therefore required as to how the policies and practices of schools, higher education institutions and other education stakeholders include or exclude service children. This requires thinking beyond group-based conceptions of exclusion linked to socio-economic factors and academic attainment, instead addressing the breadth of factors contributing to the complexity of the individual lives of young people from military service families.
Department for Education (2013) Service children in state schools handbook. London: Department for Education. Department for Education (2015a) 2010 to 2015 government policy: education of disadvantaged children. London: Department for Education. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/2010-to-2015-government-policy-education-of-disadvantaged-children/2010-to-2015-government-policy-education-of-disadvantaged-children Department for Education (2015b) School Admissions Code. London: Department for Education. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/school-admissions-code--2 McCullouch, J. and Hall, M. (2016). Further and higher progression for service children: Research paper. Winchester: University of Winchester. Available at: http://www.winchester.ac.uk/aboutus/wideningparticipation/Documents/UoW%20research%20paper_Further%20and%20Higher%20Progression%20for%20Service%20Children.pdf Morgan, N. (2015) Extending Opportunities through the Pupil Premium, speech delivered on 1 July 2015. London: Department for Education. https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/extending-opportunity-through-the-pupil-premium Riddell, S. and Weedon, E. (2014). European higher education, the inclusion of students from under-represented groups and the Bologna Process. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 33(1), pp.26-44. Schwandt, T. (2007) The SAGE Dictionary of Qualitative Inquiry, London: Sage. Woodcock, S. and Hardy, I. (2017). Beyond the binary: rethinking teachers’ understandings of and engagement with inclusion. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 21(6), pp.667-686.
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