04 SES 09 B, Identifying And Reducing Exclusionary Pressures In Education
This paper reports our ongoing research into ‘informal’ and illegal’ exclusionary practices in English schools (Done & Knowler 2020a, 200b, Done et al, 2021). In this strand of our research, we focus on exploring the views of exclusionary practices given by Educational Psychologists, as they work with schools to mitigate the impacts of ongoing school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Educational Psychologists are an important professional group in our research, due to their nature of their work around issues such as mental health and behaviour management, and the high demand from schools for their expertise. Therefore, we understand that they are in a good postion to be able comment and reflect on the prevalence of exclusionary practices such as ‘off rolling’ and to consider strategies to mitigate the use of these strategies (Greif, Mackay & Gunter, 2019). Although the reported research is based on the legislative framework in England, the governance bodies of many countries are supplying national school data to the OECD for inclusion in its PISA rankings suggesting comparable imperatives around academic performance in other national education systems.
Our research follows our development of a conceptual framework based on a thorough review of government policy documentation, including reports from non-ministerial governmental bodies which, nevertheless, are characteristic of neoliberal education governance given their influence on government policy; the primary focus here was the discursive constitution of Educational Psychologists’ identities and formulation of novel political technologies that impacts of their work with schools (Done and Knowler, 2020). The theoretical concepts which have informed the research design and objectives include Foucault’s (1982) concepts of fabrication (as discursive constitution and subjectivation) subject formation and subjection through individualising discourses and ‘dividing practices’, and Ball’s (2003) concept of performativity (the introduction of novel signifiers and policy technologies that suggest an intensification of governmental control and a transnational discourse of economic efficiency).
We are interested in the complex relationship between economic and political rationalities and the implications for Educational Psychologists, school leaders, school-based SEN coordinators, and in proposed measures to eliminate ‘off rolling’ following a recently published government commissioned report on school exclusion in England (Department for Education 2019). The scale of illegal ‘off rolling’ is difficult to establish, however, the Family Fisher Education Trust have calculated that in 2017 approximately 22,000 students were found to have left school between grades 7 and 11 82 and could not be accounted for by, for example, transfer to ‘alternative provision’ or specialised units. Students in this group were more likely to be eligible for free school meals (FSM), have Special Educational Needs (SEN) and lower attainment at primary school. Nye (2017) identifies that schools currently have a ‘perverse incentive’ to lose pupils who would adversely affect school performance data as school league tables measure only those remaining on roll in January of Year 11 (age 16 years). In addition, in March 2018, 52,770 children were known to authorities as electively home-educated (OSA, 2017, p.34) and authorities not only reported increases of 40-70% but also concerns that home education was ‘coerced’ in many cases and therefore a form of ‘off rolling’ (p.35).
The research questions for this study are:
• How do Educational Psychologists working with schools in England understand and explain the practice of off rolling?
• What are the challenges and dilemmas surrounding this practice for Educational Psychologists?
• What is the personal and professional impact on Educational Psychologists’ involvement in cases of off rolling?
• What do Educational Psychologists say about how the practice of off rolling might be avoided in England?
Our methodological approach for this phase of our research, builds on our previous work and on suggestions that multiple studies using differing methods of data collection and analysis can facilitate the building of insights and enhance validity (Meetoo and Temple 2003; Hammond 2005). The novelty of our approach is that we continue to draw on data from varied types of participant and data sources around the same focus, in order to compare findings from each research strand and develop insights through a small scale and iterative exploration of this complex topic and the point of analysis. To date we have worked with senior leaders, parents and carers and Special Educational Needs Coordinators. Data collection in this strand of the project was via an online questionnaire and in-depth semi-structured interviews with Educational Psychologists who volunteered to be interviewed. The questionnaire contained seven questions including five vignettes, designed to elicit view and experiences of ‘off rolling’ or other types of exclusionary strategies. The questionnaire was distributed via our personal networks, to professional programmes at UK HEIs where we had existing contacts and via social media. The interviews were arranged, again drawing on our professional networks and links to training courses in England and we aimed to interview 8-10 colleagues who had time and capacity to take part, given the current COVID-.19 pressure on the educational workforce. Data was analysed by multiple coders within the research group, using a thematic analysis approach following Braun and Clarke (2006) for qualitative questionnaire data and interview transcripts. A second phase of analysis followed to support thematic syntheses across all strands of the project, translating descriptive coding into analytical themes by comparing this data set ,with our data from our work with other participant groups such as senior leaders, parents/carers and teachers (Thomas & Harden, 2008).
Our research indicates that illegal school exclusionary practices such as ‘coerced’ home education or ‘off rolling’ are potentially widespread and reflect the pressures on schools to meet academic performance expectations and manage behavioural issues in a context of inadequate school funding, increasing numbers of children with SEND, and revised school inspection criteria. Meanwhile, parents and carers often lack the capacity to contest school advice or decision-making without support and local government representatives are ill-equipped to advise schools on the legalities of specific exclusionary practices and therefore rely on Educational Psychologists to advocate for them. This places Educational Psychologists in a difficult position, especially when their involvement is peripheral. The findings of this strand are likely to complexify an ascendant governmental discourse around ‘off rolling’ and demonstrate that, from the perspective of Educational Psychologists, legal rights enshrined in law are a necessary but not sufficient condition of educational inclusion. From the perspective of head teachers, we know there is a tension between the professional autonomy which is promoted in neoliberal discourse and intensification of control effected through varied policy technologies, including those relating to inclusion. We are keen to use a cross case analysis on completion of this strand to explore the ways that Educational Psychologists exeprience this tension. We would like to develop our research beyond national boundaries in a comparative strand involving interested researchers in one or more countries outside of England. Following Hultqvist, Lindblad and Popkewitz, (2018), the objective would be to explore the interplay of internal (national) and external (transnational) pressures on school leaders relating to inclusion and academic performance management. Collaborators would be invited to follow our multi-method model so that the experiences of school leaders and parents/carers can be explored in a comparative and layered transnational study.
Ball, S. J. (2003). The teacher’s soul and the terrors of performativity, Journal of Education Policy, 18(2), 215-228. Department for Education (2019b) Timpson review of school exclusion (London, DfE). Available online at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/ attachment_data/file/799979/Timpson_review_of_school_exclusion.pdf (accessed 8 May 2019). 83 Done, E.J. and Knowler, H. (2020a) Painful invisibilities: Roll management or ‘off rolling’ and professional identity. British Educational Research Journal. https://doi.org/10.1002/ berj.3591 Done, E. J., & Knowler, H. (2020b). A tension between rationalities: ‘Off-rolling’ as gaming and the implications for head teachers and the inclusion agenda. Educational Review Foucault, M. (1982) The subject and power, Critical Inquiry, 8(Summer1982), 777–795. Hammond, C. (2005) The wider benefits of adult learning: An illustration of the advantages of multi-methd research. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 8(3), 239-255. Hultqvist, E., Lindblad, S. and Popkewitz, T.S. (Ed.s)(2018) Critical analyses of educational reforms in an era of transnational governance. Springer. Meetoo, D. and Temple, B. (2003) Issues in multi-method research: Constructing self-care. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 2(3), 1-12. Nye, P. (2017) Who’s left: three questions for the Department for Education from our work. Blog post, 31 January 2017. Available online at: https://ffteducationdatalab.org.uk/2017/01/whos-left-three-questions-for-thedepartment-for-education-from-our-work/ (accessed 5 February 2019). Office of the Schools Adjudicator (2017) Annual report September 2017 to August 2018, Available online at: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/annual-report-of-the-chief-schools-adjudicator-for-england--3 (accessed 3 February 2019)
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