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CASE Social Exclusion Seminars

Children’s Life-histories In Primary Schooling [CLIPS]: Persevering in exclusion?

Eleanore Hargreaves (UCL Institute of Education)


Wednesday 16 June 2021 16:30 - 18:00

This event will be held ONLINE. Please register here


This presentation explores the experiences of children designated as ‘lower-attaining’ in British primary schooling. It draws on Nancy Fraser’s (2008) conceptualisation of a global shift from government via nation-state welfare structures to governance through supra-national financialised neoliberalism. Within this context, we investigate how and why ‘lower-attaining’ children persevere with hard work at school despite neoliberalism’s ‘cruel and cynical fiction’ of social mobility (Owens and de St Croix, 2020). We illustrate how weak claims are for schooling’s role in promoting social mobility, with reference to sociological research. Our vivid portrayals of children’s own words highlight how perseverance none-the-less becomes attached to their interpellated neoliberal conceptions of individual responsibilisation, which encourage children to persevere despite poor future prospects and poor experiences in schooling. Our extended interviews with 23 children over two years provide data that suggest these children fostered little desire for ‘social mobility’. They therefore experienced loneliness and blamed themselves for being inadequate in a system that assumed social mobility – via ‘higher-attainment’ - as their aspiration. Their narratives evidenced fear and humiliation as common components of their schooling experiences, to which they responded with compliance or anger. We propose that both of these impacted negatively on their creativity and collaboration within schooling.