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A view from a PRU: An ethnographic study of pupil referral unit practice in Wales

Smith, Philip ORCID: 2019. A view from a PRU: An ethnographic study of pupil referral unit practice in Wales. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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This is an ethnographic study of a Welsh Pupil Referral Unit (PRU). PRUs have historically been characterised by low rates of pupil attainment and have been of marginal interest in terms of policy and research. In an attempt to mitigate this neglect, the Welsh Government has committed to improving PRU practices and the academic outcomes of learners, through a number of policy changes. It is against this canvas of recent policy changes, that the thesis explores the professional roles and identities of teachers and the educational experiences of pupils, through a number of qualitative methods including interviews, observations and participatory methods. Drawing on theories of pedagogy, recontextualisation and an enactment approach to policy, the study highlights how these changes in policy have reframed professional roles and identities within the setting. However, the data also indicates that professionals working within the PRU actively resist policy that does not align with their professional beliefs and values. The thesis illustrates how through exerting agency, teachers adopted hybrid professional roles, based on a social pedagogy which accommodated both the pupils’ social needs and academic learning. By giving the marginalised young people a voice, the data suggests that the PRU was able to offer pupils a positive and supportive educational experience, where a sense of belonging led to improvement in the pupils’ wellbeing and social learning. Whilst endorsing recent policy initiatives focusing on the educational outcomes of children in PRUs, the study cautions against the dangers of narrow metrics of educational attainment recontextualising the social pedagogy within PRU practice. The thesis not only has direct relevance for educational policy in Wales but contributes to wider debates about the role of alternative education settings in relation to inclusion in education, children’s rights and the value of alternative provision more generally.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Children’s Social Care Research and Development Centre (CASCADE)
Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
L Education > L Education (General)
Funders: ESRC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 29 September 2020
Last Modified: 07 Nov 2022 11:17

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