'Why not just live for the moment?’ Poverty, schooling and the future lives of excluded girls and boys

Jean Kane* (Corresponding Author), Education in the North

*Corresponding author for this work

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School policy and practices are firmly rooted in the orthodoxy of the school improvement movement (SIM) which has dominated policy and practice in Scottish education and elsewhere in the UK for decades. The SIM has offered the possibility of better educational outcomes for pupils without the need to tackle the deeply intractable problem of social class and educational inequality. For a wider public, school improvement messages allowed economic, social, and cultural factors to be marginalized in educational debates, sometimes even to be characterized as mere excuses for educational failure. And yet, official statistics are very clearly structured by those factors, for example, by poverty (as indicated by free school meal entitlement). Drawing on data from a recently-completed PhD project, this paper considers schooling in relation to the wider lives of excluded pupils, focusing on the impact of economic disadvantage. The relationship between poverty and exclusion from school is probed and the impact of both on girls’ and boys’ constructions of their futures is considered. Two questions are addressed here: -
• How does poverty contribute to exclusion from school?
• How is the future constructed by girls and boys experiencing both poverty and
exclusion from school?
The material deprivations of poverty were found to undermine pupils’ engagement with schooling, as did social and emotional pressures arising from poverty. Girls’ and boys’ constructions of their futures arose from the circumstances of their present lives, and for the most part were not shaped by experience of school. The secondary schools in the study had highly developed systems of pupil support but structural inequality had ensured that children and families were differentially positioned to schooling and had limited the scope of schools in fostering some pupils’ engagement. Nevertheless, increased participation, particularly in curriculum planning, was found to be a worthwhile and realistic aim for schools seeking to minimize school exclusion
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages21
JournalEducation in the North
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2008


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