Disaffected Boys and the Achievement Gap: ‘the wallpaper effect’ and what is hidden by a focus on school results

Amanda Nuttall, Jonathan Doherty

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    7 Citations (Scopus)


    This article reports on a teacher inquiry project in a primary school that serves disadvantaged communities on the outskirts of a de-industrialised city in the north of England. Of particular concern is a small group of white British boys in receipt of free school meals, who are identified by the school as disaffected and as a consequence vulnerable in terms of their educational achievement. The focus of the teacher inquiry was to identify the contributory factors that prompted these boys’ disaffection, described here in patterns of disruption and disengagement. The article argues for teachers to problematize and take into account the social context of schooling and considers the complexities of these boys’ lived experiences and the ways these impact on their learning and achievement. In developing this argument, the article draws on the work of Johnson (Using data to close the achievement gap. How to measure equity in our schools. Corwin Press Inc., Thousand Oaks, 2002) and Johnson and La Salle (Data strategies to uncover and eliminate hidden inequities. The wallpaper effect. Corwin Press Inc., Thousand Oaks, 2010) in regard to the ‘other data’ that needs to be generated to show factors which perpetuate poor student performance and which hide real issues of inequity: ‘the wallpaper effect’.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)800-815
    Number of pages16
    JournalThe Urban Review
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - 3 Dec 2014


    • Boys’ achievement
    • Closing the gap
    • Data
    • Disadvantage
    • Educational attainment


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