Exploring narratives of exclusion from school: how adolescent boys and educationalists negotiate schooling, family and gendered discourses

Banner, Jack (2015) Exploring narratives of exclusion from school: how adolescent boys and educationalists negotiate schooling, family and gendered discourses. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


This thesis explores constructions of masculinity, deviancy and educational failure through an examination of policy and the discursive accounts provided by teenage boys, all of whom had been excluded from school, and educational practitioners working with such boys. This topic is of interest because the exclusion of boys with behavioural problems has been of significant concern to schools and policy makers for some time. Although the numbers of exclusions has reduced recently it remains a significant social justice issue because permanent school exclusion is directly related to deviancy and unemployment and disproportionally affects those who are already disadvantaged, such as the poor working-class and those with special Educational Needs.

This thesis contributes to understanding how boys’ peer interactions contribute towards perpetuating particular myths about masculine behaviour and its domination over females and alternative masculinities. It shows how some boys through drawing on discourses of hegemonic masculinity and gender binary asymmetries construct themselves in ways that contribute towards school confrontation. The voices of practitioners show how they contribute towards tensions and how education policy is considered as prohibiting staff from working effectively with some boys.

Consideration was given to literature discussing the social construction of parenting, childhood, and children’s "needs". Literature regarding the persistence of the role model discourse as both a cause and solution to boys’ problem behaviours in school is also investigated. Literature examining hegemonic masculinities was drawn on to further understand how it is performed and enforced through peer interaction, resulting in problematic behaviours which dominate particular constructions of masculinity.

The theoretical framework used for this study draws on the work of Foucault (1970, 1977, 1980) who theorised that people construct truth through the dominant discourses which they draw on. It also explains how and why power is afforded to one discourse at the expense of another. The methodology adopted for this research utilizes this theoretical framework. 35 narrative interviews were undertaken and examined using discourse analysis as discussed by Gee (2011) and Taylor (2001). The data collected was contrasted with literature to further understand the discourses respondents employed in their discursive constructions.

This thesis exposes the challenges that boys and practitioners face as they negotiate the dominant masculine discourses at large in both school and home. It also shows that respondents’ understandings of masculinity rely on outmoded discourses of masculinity, essentialist gender binaries and constructions of childhood, which contribute towards problem behaviours in school. Tensions in school are also exacerbated by policy discourse and practitioners’ constructions of childhood. However, these normative discourses are challenged by respondents’ acknowledgment of alternative versions of masculinity and the coexistence of gender heteroglossia.

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