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Rethinking truancy: An exploration of the social worlds of truanting young people

James, Philippa 2012. Rethinking truancy: An exploration of the social worlds of truanting young people. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Truancy is a phenomenon that has captured considerable attention within the UK and in countries throughout the world. Participation in education is regarded as a key mechanism of inclusion, and as such young people who truant from school are claimed to be at a higher risk of social exclusion. Truancy is presented within the current political discourse as a social and educational concern, affecting the truanting young people themselves, the wider community and the economy. Truancy has been politically and socially constructed as an act of ‘deviance’ participated in by ‘pathological’ and ‘delinquent’, ‘anti-school’ youths, commonly of lower socio-economic status. This thesis presents a sociological inquiry into the everyday reality of school truancy as enacted by the young people themselves. The study reports on a year long qualitative multi-methods study of year 9 pupils (13-14 year olds), initially drawn from three schools in Cardiff, South Wales. A range of methods were utilised, specifically selected and/or designed to appeal to the young people involved. These include: focus groups, technology-mediated communication, photo elicitation projects and observation. Retrospective, situational and prospective views and experiences relating to truancy are presented. By accessing the social worlds of the young people, data have been generated on what truancy is, who ‘truants’ are, why pupils truant, how pupils truant, what pupils do when they are truanting and some of the consequences and implications resulting from this truancy. This thesis suggests that truancy might be a widespread phenomenon. That is that large amounts of young people might engage in truanting behaviours, rather than a ‘maladjusted’ minority. Truancy is a complex, multifaceted and multi-layered activity that is undertaken by pupils from a diverse range of backgrounds and abilities. Truancy is not engaged in, only, by males, young people from lower socio-economic groups, academic ‘underachievers’ or pupils of anti-school orientation. For the majority of pupils, their behaviour when truanting is not particularly extraordinary nor anti-social or delinquent. Their truanting behaviours are often purposely and strategically ‘hidden’ from the public and institutional gaze, performed in a covert manner. The two most dominant locations where truanting behaviours took place are in the home and within the school itself. A range of sophisticated evasion and deceptive strategies are commonly deployed in order to receive authorisation for absence or to avoid detection completely. The young people articulate both ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors when discussing their reasons for choosing to truant from school but the ‘push’ factors far outweigh the ‘pull factors’, heavily implicating the institution of the school. Truancy is seen as a way for the young people to gain a sense of agency and autonomy in relation to the institution. However, the majority of pupils can be seen to embrace the institution as well as resist it. Truancy, for the majority of young people, does not therefore seem to represent full detachment or full opposition from the school. This thesis highlights how the majority of the young people in this study self-manage their truanting behaviours and educational careers, as well as make efforts to maintain a positive identity as ‘ordinary’ pupils in the eyes of others, thus minimizing the risks associated with their truanting behaviours. However, for a minority of pupils identified as ‘truants’, their truancy is more problematic. A series of factors are presented that might be seen to contribute to the tipping point that leads to this more problematic truancy and it is argued that the punitive processes that schools put in place to manage truancy might be self-defeating, intensifying the practice.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Funders: ESRC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 19 Mar 2016 23:19

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  • Rethinking truancy: An exploration of the social worlds of truanting young people. (deposited 07 May 2013 11:47) [Currently Displayed]

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