05 SES 04, Dropout Prevention, Exclusion and Alternative Provision
Within global contexts of international economic competitiveness, the importance of academic credentialing has taken on a new importance for many governments, particularly in the developed North. The ‘knowledge economy’ (Dolfsma and Soete 2006) of developed nations requires educational capital and highly skilled workers to fuel national prosperity. Therefore, the need for the retention of students to senior high school and beyond has become an international priority (OECD 2011). This is indeed the case for nations in Europe, as revealed in various EU documents (see for example, European Scrutiny Committee, 34th Report, Session 2010-2012).
This paper focuses on research conducted in the UK and Australia in respect to school completion. In the UK, as in Australia, efforts to raise school completion levels have corresponded with significant growth in the alternative educational sector. According to one UK government white paper, Back on track (2008), at least 47000 young people were in alternative forms of education at the time of publication. This is perhaps an underestimation as it has also been claimed that ‘the true number is at present unknown’ (Ogg and Kaill 2010, p. 14). As is the case in Australia, there is a lack of coordinated data in England that provides information on alternative sites, their students and their programmes (Thomson and Russell 2009; te Riele 2007). We suggest that in some cases the rationale behind some students’ referrals to alternative education works to pathologize young people without taking into account some of the school based factors that may have contributed to challenging behaviours. Further, we would suggest that alternative education sites may be used to get rid of ‘problem’ students. In a report, Improving Alternative Provision (2012), conducted for the UK government by Charlie Taylor, the Government’s Expert Advisor on Behaviour, he is critical of the ways in which some British schools avoid taking responsibility for the young people referred to alternative education and for failing to determine the quality of the programmes to which they are sending them
We too are concerned with the way in which alternative forms of education can be used to deny young people a quality education, although we would suggest that alternative education programmes should be as concerned with quality pedagogy and curricula as mainstream schooling ought to be. However, drawing on evidence from our data, it is clear that many young people, often highly marginalized within their communities, would not be in any form of education if some of these sites did not exist. Moreover, the data clearly show that once they have enrolled in an alternative site, some such young people may reengage in meaningful ways with education, experiencing academic success and a sense of belonging to a school, often for the first time in their lives. As such our research questions are linked to what lessons these sites have for the mainstream sector in respect to retaining young people through to high school completion, particularly marginalized young people, in education.
Dolfsma, W. and Soete, L. (Eds.) 2006. Understanding the dynamics of a knowledge economy. Cheltenham: Edgar Elgar. OECD. 2011. Education at a Glance 2011: OECD Indicators. OECD Publishing. European Scrutiny Committee, 34th Report, Session 2010-2012. London: UK Government. Gallagher, E. (2011). The Second Chance School International Journal of Inclusive Education, 15 (4), 445-459. Tom Ogg, T. and Kaill, E. 2010. A New Secret Garden? Alternative Provision, Exclusion and Children’s Rights. London: CIVITAS Back on Track: A strategy for modernizing alternative provision for young people (2008) London: Department for Children, Schools and Families. Thomson, P., and Russell, L. 2009. Data, data everywhere – But not all the numbers that count? Mapping alternative provisions for students excluded from school. International Journal of Inclusive Education 13, (4), 423–38. Te-Riele, K. 2007. Educational Alternatives for Marginalized Youth. The Australian Educational Researcher 34, (3), 53-68. Taylor, C. 2012. Improving Alternative Provision. London: UK Government.
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