‘It’s annoying. It's horrible’: Unacknowledged or unmet needs leave students struggling and anxious.

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference Paperpeer-review


With the relentless increase in the number of converter academies, the already fragmented secondary school system is fracturing still further. Since branching points, partitions and choice are all known to contribute to inequalities, the urgency to fully understand the roots and effects of marginalisation has never been greater. What can be done to pre-empt individual students from becoming marginalised and disengaged? What measures have shown some success with reengaging these hard to reach students? What are the implications for best practise within schools and the ramifications for system structures?

Through an ethnographic study in a secondary school setting, this project will shed further light on instances of disengagement, by giving a voice to marginalized students. The student participants are pupils who have spent some time being removed from the mainstream classroom setting, to work in a withdrawal unit, most commonly following a period of sustained low-level disruption. The research is primarily drawn from semi-structured interviews, with additional participant observation, as well as some small group or one-to-one teaching by the researcher within this unit. The data gathered was analysed through a process of constructivist grounded theory.

Analysis of emergent categories indicates that students experience many barriers within the secondary education system. The focus here is on factors which impact on wellbeing. Specifically, these students indicate that when any formal recognition of an additional barrier to learning – such as SEND - is late in coming, this lack of diagnosis and associated potential support leaves its mark, seeing students not only floundering in class but also negatively impacting issues of their own learner identity, self-esteem and wellbeing. Furthermore, those with literacy learning needs and dyslexia, see examinations as a particular cause of anxiety.

The research offers insight into what it is to be a student who feels that their voice is not heard within the secondary education system. Through poignant first-hand telling of their experiences, these marginalized students suggest that when learning or behavioural needs go unrecognised or unaddressed, there are very real consequences for their wellbeing. In terms of minimizing harmful consequences for wellbeing, these students go on to illustrate edifying instances where their learning needs have indeed been effectively met and the associated barriers largely overcome. Examinations though remain unbending obstacles within the current performativity driven UK system.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jul 2018
EventA Child's World: New shoes New direction -
Duration: 11 Jul 201813 Aug 2018


ConferenceA Child's World


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