A case study of boys’ ‘underachievement’ within the English school system

Collins, Tina (2017) A case study of boys’ ‘underachievement’ within the English school system. Doctoral thesis (EdD), University of Sussex.

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Abstract

This thesis focuses on the ways in which ‘underachievement’ is constituted for boys identified as ‘underachieving’ at Stone Acre, a non-selective school in a selective Local Authority in England. It explores how performance pressures, the school processes of the curriculum, selective grouping practices and teachers’ understandings of gender all shape boys’ experiences of learning. It argues that these layers also interconnect with school type and ethos. In seeking to bring these less visible readings of the policy frameworks and school level processes by which gendered learning outcomes occur, to the surface, this study contributes to the debate around boys’ ‘underachievement’ in the English school system.

The research was conducted as a case study and adopted elements of an ethnographic approach. It is grounded in the work of Connell (2012, p.1677) who understands masculinities as being continuously produced in interaction with social structures and the body as encountering ‘gender regimes’. Data were gathered through a five-stage process that involved paired interviews with six boys in Year 10 (age 15) and identified at the start of the research as ‘underachieving’ against the key performance benchmark: attainment at GCSE level. Additional data were collected from other sources including observations of the boys during lessons and individual interviews with eleven teachers.

A key conclusion of the study was that boys identified as ‘underachieving’ against key performance indicators are not learning in a gender-neutral space. Some teachers were found to have essentialist understandings of masculinities that were powerful in shaping the spaces in which the boys learned. Accountability pressures were identified as having contributed to the creation of a regulatory system that shaped the practices of teachers in both positive and negative ways. Stone Acre’s school ethos and school-based approaches to teaching and learning were also found to have mitigated the boys from some of these pressures. Looking beyond the boys towards the system within which boys identified as ‘underachieving’ experience their learning, this thesis demonstrates the complex, shifting and contextualised nature of the factors involved and the need for more structural readings of these.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Education and Social Work > Education
Subjects: L Education > LC Special aspects of education > LC0065 Social aspects of education > LC0189 Educational sociology > LC0212.9 Sex differences in education
L Education > LF Individual institutions (Europe) > LF0014 England
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 16 Jun 2017 09:30
Last Modified: 16 Jun 2017 09:30
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/68657

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