05 SES 11 A, Examining “Vulnerability” and “Fragility” in Children and Young People and their Experiences of Education
This paper examines the prevalent, enduring and pernicious effects of talk of “low” aspirations on “vulnerable” young people and their ability to realise their aspirations. It is divided into two parts. In the first part, using a theoretical framework drawing on strengths-based and co-constructed research approaches (Boyle et al, 2010; O’Neill, 2003) to it examines how deficit discourses of “low aspirations” (Harrison & Waller, 2018), vulnerability (Emmel, 2017), defeat and inadequacy (Crossley, 2018) have been absorbed into social and education policy for disadvantaged children and young people in England, and the consequences for those targeted for support. In the second part, it draws on the findings of two mixed methods research projects exploring “vulnerable” young people’s perspectives on their experiences. In the first project, groups of young people aged 12-15 involved in community groups in a small English city co-designed research into aspects of their own communities in order to explore their sense of investment in their local areas, what they would improve, and their plans for the future. Data analysis included the outcomes of their research (films, posters, poems) and interviews with them about their experiences. In the second study, young people aged 13-16 in a second disadvantaged town in Northern England were interviewed in three schools about their experiences of education and their aspirations for the future These interviews were triangulated with interviews with school leaders. The findings emphasise young people’s interest in their communities and the importance they place on being able to express their views and being listened to and suggest the need to reject and the negative discourses which are so often used to characterise them. They also address the challenges school leaders face in creating systems and processes to listen and respond to "vulnerable" young people when COVID-19 has forced them to reconceptualise vulnerability.
Boyle, D., Slay, J., and Stephens, L. (2010) Public services inside out: Putting co-production into practice. London: NESTA Crossley, S. (2018). Troublemakers: The construction of ‘troubled families’ as a social problem. Bristol: Policy Press. Emmel, N. 2017. “Empowerment in the relational longitudinal space of vulnerability.” Social Policy and Society, 163 (3): 457-467. Harrison, N. and Waller, R. (2018) Challenging discourses of aspiration: The role of expections and attainment in access to higher education, British Educational Research Journal, 44(5), 914-938. O'Neil, D. (2003) Clients as researchers: The benefits of strengths-based research, in Munford, R. and Sanders, J. (eds.) Making a Difference in Families: Research that Creates Change. Sydney, Australia: Allen & Unwin, 113-129.
00. Central Events (Keynotes, EERA-Panel, EERJ Round Table, Invited Sessions)
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