Young people not attending school

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The aims of the research are to identify some of the main reasons, why some young people are more likely than others to exclude themselves or to be excluded from schools. Also to identify examples of good practice and how these may be used to prevent some pupils from being excluded.


The reasons for my interest in this subject are based mainly on my professional concerns which came from a variety of sources such as my observations and daily contact with young people who for a variety of reasons were not attending school because of exclusion by the school or by their own choice.

Although over the years I have been instrumental in developing some effective programmes using youth work based strategies and approaches that has assisted in developing the potential of some young people, Who could be said to be the most disadvantaged and socially excluded in terms of opportunities my frustrations remain in the sense that for every one young person that develops and moves on in life, there is another two that are in a never ending cycle. My work on the streets presents these challenges on a daily basis and from my point of view those young people who are excluded for what ever reasons, seem to be in the greatest need due to the dangers of involvement in activities that in many cases may be a matter of life or death. Prior to the Education Act 1986 many groups who were affected by the issue of exclusion were very concerned about the lack of accountability by the Local Education Authorities. Before 1986 exclusion was not governed by statute and local education authorities were expected to define their procedures at local level, which meant it was very difficult to accurately account for who was excluded and for what reasons.

Although the 1986 Act changed the discretionary arrangements and laid down a set of procedures for excluding pupils from school, the issue of race and gender monitoring remained unresolved. Research suggests when discussing the issue from a historical perspective that " by the mid to late 1970s there were many factors forcing a review, forcing 'race' onto the educational agenda and the ten years from around 1978 to 1988 saw rapid and challenged change" (Gaine, 1995, p33).

After many periods of study and reflection I come to the conclusion that in order to improve the service that I could deliver, I had to begin to further develop my own theoretical analysis which would in turn improve and develop my practice.

I locate my summary within what Freire (1970, p48) termed critical liberation dialogue where he claims that "it is only when the oppressed find the oppressor out and become involved in the organised struggle for their liberation that they begin to believe in themselves, this discovery cannot be purely intellectual but must involve action". My actions are to attempt to do something that may in the short and long term, contribute towards the issues as they affect some young people in particular.


My direction of approach which I employed with the intention of researching and examining is the rise in exclusion of pupils in general, and black males of African Caribbean heritage in particular, meant that a great deal had to be taken into account and applied, in order to complete the process of exploring and analysing the issues

commenting on this particular issue research suggests that "an educational system does not exist in an historical vacuum, it is an integral part of a specific social structure, further, it is not a homogeneous whole, but composed of different classes, cultures and communities"(Modgil et al, 1986, p20). It is also on these lines that the basis of examining the various perspectives on the issues will be explored using the approach based on semi structured interviews. The interviews were carried out over a five week period between March and April 2011 with the following groups of individuals.

A) Young people who are or were excluded from school.

B) Teachers in primary and secondary school.

C) Youth workers who have some experience of working with young people who at some stage were excluded from school.

I intentionally went about the task in a very structured manner the questions that were to be asked during the interviews were derived at after an lengthy process of informal discussions with members of the three defined groups who were to play an important role in the interviews.

Those who I had engaged in discussion with did not take part in the interview. Their contribution was that of assisting in defining the key issues that should be explored, , and what should be included in terms of relevance. This process allowed for new areas of learning that gave some direction as to how the key issues may be explored. For example Verma and Bayle (1979, p51) debating the issue of race, education and identity within the context of cultural difference between teachers and pupils suggests that the basis for such proposition is that racial similarity results in a presumed understanding of the child that persons from another group cannot hope to share, The questions were therefore constructed in order to gain the opinions of the three groups were derived at through a consultation process. The questions were constantly restructured in order to meet the aims of gathering useful knowledge about the topic and issues associated. The issues of in-equality based on race and class along with examples of good practice were to form the basis of the interviews. The pilot run that took place also allowed for similar and dissimilar views to be explored.

This particular approach is consistent with May (1997, p98) where he claims that "having decided upon the nature and types of questions to be used, the process of actually wording the question is of central importance

wording of the questions the process of reaching this stage consisted of doing the following:

Developing the idea of researching the topic based on my own observations, as a detached youth and community worker. Which grew into a real concern regarding what was happening to some of the young people after a period of exclusion.

Before continuing to develop a variety of perspectives regarding the issues through informal discussions. That became more focused over the past two years, allowed for some clearer insights on what were the major issues as they relate to the young people that I was in contact with.

This then lead to the generating of new areas of learning that assisted in developing the general themes as they relate to the research that was to be undertaken.

The conclusion that I derived at was that in attempting to examine and evaluate the issues as I had now come to understand them, was going to have a large bearing on how I went about the next stage of the study. As a black male I was drawn to placing a large emphasis on a particular black perspective that was African Caribbean orientated.

This was primarily based on the notion of inequality that allowed for the generating of a wide range of ideas within the chosen areas of the research.

This approach is consistent with Robson (1995, p274) where he claims that "while the main interest has probably continued to be in the field of mass communications, content analysis has more recently been used in a variety of psychological and sociological areas. In particular the approach discussed here can be readily adapted for use in the analysis of qualitative interviews".

The Research Question

The question of if there is a in depth reason to the school drop out rate, is what is of interest to me, but more so the reasons why. This question is in correlation with Silverman ( 2004, p378)when explaining the need for such a matter to be looked at from the insiders point of view rather than a statistical numerical aspect.


The interview took place during the March and April months of 2011, this was partly due to the time that the groups would be available. Prior to this period the participants from all three groups were very busy, and could not commit their time.

As part of the process I decided to use the suggestion of Mason(1996, p50) where it is suggested that "if you wish to derive data from a interpretative sense, then you would be wanting to read the interviews for what you think they mean, or possibly for what you think you can infer about something outside the interview interaction itself".

Bearing these suggestions in mind I decided to carry out the interviews by using the approach of May (1997, p111) who when commenting on semi structured interviews aimed at obtaining qualitative information

In relation to the information generated through this process May (1997, p111) also suggests that "qualitative information about the topic can then be recorded by the interviewer who can seek both clarification and elaboration on the answers given". This approach is in line with Nachmias and Nachmias (1982, p188) where he states that " the questions their wording and their sequences define the extent to which the interview is structured".

In relation to validity in terms of the topic that was researched Mason (1996, p147) suggests that "judgements of validity are in effect judgements about whether you are measuring or explaining, what you claim to be measuring or explaining".

In attempting to explore the issue of school exclusion in general and as it relates to pupils of African Caribbean background especially young men the approach of adopting a semi structured qualitative interview format was used. Where prompting and the opportunity to engage in a two way conversation gave clear indications from the tape recording of the interviews and the transcript that the adopted approach produced meaningful and relevant information.

The wording of the questions as they related to the topic, was different from those for the youth workers and teachers. On this issue of qualitative interviews and the wording of the questions Mason (1996,p43) suggests that "you will find you are asking yourself the following questions about substance and style, scope and sequence and if you are well prepared you will have thought about how to handle these in advance. This is consistent with the approach that I took, because it suited the overall aim of developing two separated questionnaires".

On the issue of bias within the approaches taken to carry out the research, Mason (1996, p42) suggests that "you may have a particular view of research ethics and politics which means that you believe interviewees should be given more freedom in and control of the interview situation than is permitted with 'structured' approaches. You may want to suggest that qualitative interviewing is more likely to generate a fairer and fuller representation of the interviewees perspectives".


By bearing this in mind the approach that I took allowed for the perspective of all the participants to be included within the questionnaire. This included issues of race, gender and class as they relate to the topic of exclusion and under achievement within schools.

Ethical issues

From the data generated through the research undertaken I will be focusing on the various themes and issues raised and discussed, and as the analysing of the research is based on a data lead qualitative approach using content analysis. The reason for deciding to construct two separate questionnaires was due to a very clear understanding of the appropriateness of the approach. These were associated with wanting to make sure that the language used was relevant to the participants especially the young people. In relation to the approach that I took Mason (1996,p43) suggests that "working out how to ask questions means both how to phrase them, or what word".


The interviews covered a time span of between fifteen minutes to half an hour, those undertaken with the youth workers took the longest. Although the interview with the young people took on average ten to fifteen minutes they had a varied perspective of what was the issues for them, on observation more time was taken before answering the questions

Budget and Resources




£12.50 (week fare ticket)



Expected Outcomes

In undertaking the research on the topic of school exclusion as it relates to all young people in general and black male pupils of African Caribbean heritage in particular. I very soon became aware of how complex the various issues associated with education were. In the present political climate where one of the emphasis is placed on effecting changes within the education system from a national and local level. My chosen area of research became one where there was a great deal of discussion taking place, on many aspects of education including those related to exclusions.