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Sunderland Repository records the research produced by the University of Sunderland including practice-based research and theses.

Applying the lens of Paulo Freire to evaluate exclusion from school in England

Martin-Denham, Sarah (2023) Applying the lens of Paulo Freire to evaluate exclusion from school in England. Doctoral thesis, UNSPECIFIED.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)


This PhD by publication applies the lens of Paulo Freire to 12 published works (Appendix 1 – appended separately), to evaluate exclusion in mainstream schools in England. This commentary responds to the nature and practice of exclusion.
Suspension and permanent exclusion remain a local and national concern. This led me to question risk and protective factors for exclusion, seeking new knowledge to inform policy and practice. Limited research to date triangulates the lived experiences of children and young people (CYP), caregivers, educators, and health professionals. The body of work presented here contributes substantial evidence of the lived experiences of those exposed to school exclusion, with evidence of impact on policy, practice and research methods.
This commentary brings together individual publications that collectively discuss school exclusion. Publication 1 highlighted higher than average Social, Emotional and Mental Health (SEMH) needs as well as Autism in the City of Sunderland, while publication 12 explored the wider impact of school exclusion on CYP with Autism and the family unit. Publication 2 is the most extensive study in England to date, detailing 174 semi-structured interviews from 53 schools in a Northeast city accounting for 55 CYP, 41 families, 78 health and education professionals (Appendix 2, Table 1). Publications 3 and 6 examine the managed moves process, informing policy discussions and practice. Publications 5 and 8, and 9 and 11 explore headteachers’ (HT’s) positions and reasonings for preventative measures for school exclusion and why CYP are excluded. Publication 5 explored the overuse of the category ‘other’ as a reason for school exclusion in the school census return, leading to its removal in 2021. Publications 4, 7 and 10 provided ’invaluable’ evidence to the Health and Social Care Independent Review of Drugs, revealing that schooling can be a risk factor for drug use and use of weapons.
Publications 1-4 employed the metaparadigm of phenomenology and dialectical pluralism, combining interpretivist and positivist approaches. Publications 5-12 adopted standalone methods of either descriptive statistics (publications 5-6), or the philosophical approach of
hermeneutics and phenomenology, using interpretative phenomenological analysis (publications 7, 10 and 12) or thematic analysis (publications 8-9 and 11).
A retrospective thematic analysis was employed to identify concepts and provide coherence. This allowed interrogation and reframing of current understandings and for the aim and objectives for this submission to emerge. Objectives one and two seek to determine protective factors that buffer, and risk factors that increase, the likelihood of school exclusion. Objective three evaluated the impact of exclusion on CYP and their family.
Protective factors that ‘buffer’ the likelihood of exclusion include enduring relationships, being ‘in the know’, ‘working it out’ and ‘doing the right thing’. Risk factors that increase the likelihood of exclusion include ‘free rein’, being ‘under the radar’, ‘sink or swim’, ‘set up to fail’ and ‘challenging times’. The impacts of school exclusion included ‘hanging by a thread’, ‘snowball effect’ or ‘new beginnings’. These themes indicate a general position of what Freire calls ‘banking education’, in which ‘the teacher knows everything and the students know nothing’ (1970, p. 73). This commentary emphasises the need for alternative approaches.
England's current mainstream education system appears unsuitable in meeting all CYP's needs, as Freire highlighted more than five decades ago. These missed opportunities to include and effectively support all CYP's needs can often lead to inequalities, disadvantages, and short and long-term repercussions for the CYP and their family. The current education system in England focuses on reintegrating CYP into mainstream schools rather than, as Freire (1970) suggested, transforming the structures that, for many, were the underlying cause of the exclusion. Freire would argue that denying children access to equitable resources is a form of dehumanising oppression, preventing them from becoming fully human. Children cannot liberate themselves from their oppression but require Government directives to mandate inclusive environments within all school communities, to address the oppression and marginalisation of further generations of children.

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Depositing User: Nicola Jackson


Item ID: 16272

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ORCID for Sarah Martin-Denham: ORCID iD

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Date Deposited: 16 Jun 2023 14:01
Last Modified: 11 Jul 2023 08:00


Author: Sarah Martin-Denham ORCID iD

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