Beyond the behaviour
: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis into the school experiences of Primary age pupils who are ‘at risk’ of permanent school exclusion

  • Sophie Lobley

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Educational Psychology (DEdPsy)


Behaviour and discipline in school, and in particular school exclusion, remains a significant and complex issue in the UK. Although exclusion rates were reported to decrease following concerningly high exclusion rates recorded in the late 1990’s/early 2000’s, since 2013/14 exclusion rates have again been on the rise. In 2016/17 Primary school permanent exclusions rose from 55,740 to 64,340 (DfE, 2018). There is limited literature that explores the experiences of young people who are specifically ‘at risk’ of school exclusion, particularly within the Primary phase and therefore this study aimed to address this gap in the literature.
This study used an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis to explore the school experiences of young people aged 7 to 11 years who were identified as being ‘at risk’ of permanent exclusion (PEX) by their school. Specifically, it hoped to illuminate our understanding of how young people who are at risk of PEX experience school; the barriers, what helps them, what is important to them and how they feel in school, with the hope to better inform future practice.
Semi-structured interviews were conducted with six young people at risk of PEX from their mainstream Primary school. Four key themes emerged from analysis of the data; sense of normalcy, threats to normalcy, experience of injustice and external influencing factors. A distinct finding from this study is the notion young people who are at risk of school exclusion likely want and strive for normal school experiences. Findings also imply that there are likely several factors that cause a young person to become at risk of school exclusion. From these findings and the consulted literature, a targeted intervention model to support young people at risk of school exclusion has been developed to support pupils at risk of school exclusion to help target support where needed.
Date of Award23 Jan 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorJohn Franey (Supervisor) & Rob Green (Supervisor)

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