Disenfranchised boys’ reflections on their urban schooling experience: “What a waste!”

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


    This paper draws on an inquiry into the engagement and attainment of a sample of white British boys aged 9 – 11 years old in a case study urban primary school in the north of England. All of the boys are officially labelled ‘disadvantaged’ and eligible for Pupil Premium funding. Under current policy directions, including high-stakes testing as the sole measure to describe school improvement, teachers at the school report growing pressure to increase standards and attainment for all students. Of particular interest is Ofsted’s suggestion that white British boys from low socio-economic backgrounds continue to perform less well compared to other groups, resulting in a growing emphasis for urban schools to ‘close the gap’ for disadvantaged students (Wilshaw, 2014). Given this policy pressure and staff concerns about these boys’ behaviour, engagement and attainment, this sample group of boys are highlighted as ‘vulnerable’ and subjected to numerous interventions in efforts to improve attainment as measured by standardised testing.
    The main focus of the inquiry is to engage the boys in a reflective discourse around their perceptions of attainment and engagement and in doing so explore their identities as learners (Renold, 2001; Beaton, 2015). Data that reveals the realities of school as experienced by these boys, when compared with their teachers’ reflections on the boys’ attainment and engagement, is instructive. Tensions between the two positions reveal how teachers would be better equipped to meet the diverse needs of these boys if they developed an awareness of locally sensitive and contextually specific issues. Indeed, a critical reading of extant school data alongside a range of ‘other’ qualitative data raises concerns around the extent to which the school fails to recognise and respond to the particular needs of these boys. A critical social analysis is constructed in order to reject a ‘deficit’ model of this group and to develop an understanding of the complex interplay between poverty, schooling and these boys’ identities as learners.
    The paper conclusion is twofold: firstly, it is suggested that the School Development Plan provides a key opportunity to grow a socially-situated and responsive curriculum and approach to the local community (Comber and Kamler, 2004; Wrigley, Lingard and Thomson, 2012); this is then juxtaposed to the importance of teachers engaging with critical reflections on educational disadvantage and structural inequality as a tool to challenge the effects of poverty on education and move towards a model based on social justice.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusUnpublished - Sept 2016
    EventBritish Educational Research Association Conference - University of Leeds, Leeds, United Kingdom
    Duration: 13 Sept 201615 Sept 2016

    Academic conference

    Academic conferenceBritish Educational Research Association Conference
    Abbreviated titleBERA Conference 2016
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
    Internet address


    Dive into the research topics of 'Disenfranchised boys’ reflections on their urban schooling experience: “What a waste!”'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this