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  • SCHOOL OF PSYCHOLOGY

    Doctorate in Educational Psychology (DedPsy)

    Thesis Research Project

    Rachael Kenny

    2018

    Fixed Period Exclusion: Exploring the Experience of Primary

    Aged Pupils Attending a Specialist Setting

  • Abstract

    Government data indicates that Fixed Period Exclusion (FPE) rates in primary schools are not in-

    keeping with an overall national trend of reduced rates of exclusion across the country. Moreover,

    pupils with identified Special Educational Needs and/or Disability, particularly those identified to

    have Social Emotional Mental Health Difficulties (SEMH), previously categorized as ‘Social

    Emotional Behavioural Difficulties’, remain disproportionately represented in the exclusion data.

    Although research has explored the phenomenon of exclusion from the perspective of secondary aged

    pupils, the voices of their primary school counterparts remain limited within the literature. Thus, this

    research explores the lived experience of FPE from the perspective of primary aged pupils, who

    attend a specialist provision for SEMH in England. Semi-structured interviews were completed with 7

    pupils in Years 5 and 6, in order to explore their experience. Interpretative Phenomenological

    Analysis was conducted in accordance with guidelines from Smith Larkin & Flowers (2009). The

    experience of FPE was interpreted from the pupils’ sense-making. The Superordinate IPA themes

    included: ‘Relationships’, ‘Attribution’ and ‘Managing change’. ‘Relationships’ captured the

    importance of both the adult- pupil relationships and peer relationships. There was observed polarity

    within the adult-pupils relationships, which appeared to be positively or negatively impacted by the

    adults behaviour management and communication styles, and the level of practical and emotional

    support that was provided. Peer relationships were also noted to be important in the pupils’

    narratives, as they appeared to provide a sense of belonging and security. ‘Attribution’ was a further

    superordinate theme emerging from the analysis, capturing the internal and external attributions held

    by the pupils that underpinned how they made sense of their school exclusion experience. ‘Managing

    change’ was the final superordinate theme identified; this describes how the pupils coped with their

    exclusion, the emotional impact of that exclusion and the effects of the exclusion processes.

    Recommendations for future research are made and the implications of the results are discussed in

    relation to educational psychology practice. This research highlights the value of educational

    psychologists (EPs) listening to pupil voice and considering their exclusion experience using an eco-

    systemic framework; this generates thinking about the broader systemic factors which are at play for

    excluded pupils and those at risk of exclusion. Additionally, findings highlight the need for further

    training to promote nurturing environments and better emotional support for excluded pupils’ that

    EPs are well placed to provide. Moreover, they would also indicate that clear guidance developed by

    EPs and implemented by schools in relation to the processes and effects of exclusion, with an

    emphasis on the involvement and communication of pupils and their families, would be beneficial.

  • Summary

    Part one provides a review of the available literature relating to school exclusion; this has been

    split into 2 sections. Firstly, the researcher aims to provide context for the reader in part 1A. This begins

    by broadly considering school exclusion, including exploration of: available definitions, underpinning

    legislation, the impact of school exclusion and the prevalence of school exclusion both nationally and

    locally. The researcher also considers the disproportionate representation of pupil groups within the

    exclusion data. Part 1A proceeds to focus upon the rights of Children and Young People (CYP) to

    access education and contribute to debates around matters relating to them. In part 1B, the researcher

    provides a summary of findings from available research, which gives voice to the perspective of CYP

    who have experienced school exclusion. An appraisal of methodological approaches utilised in the

    literature in review is also offered. Finally, part 1B identifies gaps in the available literature and

    subsequent research questions are proposed.

    Part two is an overview of the qualitative study, which aimed to explore the lived experience

    of primary school pupils who had experienced a Fixed Period Exclusion. This section includes an

    overview of the context of school exclusion and highlights findings from relevant literature, in a bid to

    provide a clear rationale for the current study. An outline of the research methodology is provided,

    including the researchers ontological and epistemological positioning, adopted research methods and

    ethical considerations. Qualitative research findings are presented and discussed in relation to existing

    literature, psychological theory, implications for educational psychology practice and possible future

    research.

    Lastly, part three offers a critical appraisal of the researcher’s professional development. A

    reflective and reflexive narrative of the research process is provided, exploring the philosophical

    underpinnings, decision-making processes and the contributions to knowledge; ultimately providing a

    critical account of the research practitioner.

  • Acknowledgements

    Firstly, I would like to thank all of the pupils who volunteered to be part of this research; your

    perspective was enlightening, and I thank you for your openness when reflecting upon your

    experiences with me. I would also like to thank the school staff and parents who recognised the value

    in this project.

    Next, to my research supervisor, Dr Dale Bartle, thank you for your guidance and encouragement

    throughout this research journey. Your calmness was a constant in my regular moments of disarray.

    Also, thanks to my friends, who remained present when I became increasingly absent.

    To my colleagues who shared valuable wisdom and limitless support, whilst reminding me to not

    become lost in my work, thank you.

    I am especially thankful to my family (Mum, Dad and Gary), for your unwavering belief in my

    abilities and endless encouragement and support (and dog sitting). I wouldn’t have made it to this

    point without you- I am forever thankful.

    Finally, thank you to Christian; you made me believe that my goals were reachable and provided

    infinite patience and support whilst I pursued my career… you put me first and I am endlessly

    grateful.

  • Table of Contents

    PART ONE: Major Literature review ................................................................................................ 1

    1.1 Overview of the Literature Review ......................................................................................... 1

    PART 1A ................................................................................................................................................ 2

    1.2 School Exclusion Defined ............................................................................................................. 2

    1.3 History of School Exclusion and Underpinning Legislation ........................................................ 3

    1.4 The Impact of School Exclusion ................................................................................................... 3

    1.5 Prevalence of School Exclusion .................................................................................................... 4

    1.5.1 National Context .................................................................................................................... 4

    1.5.2 Local Context ......................................................................................................................... 7

    1.6 Vulnerability to Exclusion ............................................................................................................ 7

    1.6.1 Social Emotional Mental Health Difficulties ......................................................................... 8

    1.7 The Rights of CYP ...................................................................................................................... 11

    1.8 Pupil Voice.................................................................................................................................. 12

    1.9 Benefits of Eliciting the Voice of CYP ....................................................................................... 14

    1.9.1 Enlightenment for Adults ..................................................................................................... 14

    1.9.2 Empowerment for CYP ........................................................................................................ 15

    PART 1B .............................................................................................................................................. 16

    2.1 In

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