Walking the Black Country tightrope: the development of white working-class males’ expectations toward (non) participation in higher education
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AbstractOver the last 25 years, a noted disparity in the levels of educational attainment between white working-class males and their more affluent counterparts, has been a common feature of discussion within research and educational policy in the UK. In more recent times, this discourse has widened to highlight a similar disparity in the rates of white working-class males accessing Higher Education. This study seeks to increase understanding of how, against such a backdrop, the white working-class males participating in this research accessed, accrued and mobilised available social, cultural and economic resource to form expectations for their future in education and work. In particular, the inquiry focused on how the participants’ expectations were negotiated in relational engagement with their specific social, geographic and historical context. Taking place at a school located in a small Black Country town, the research employed a qualitative approach to facilitate a richness of understanding. It analysed findings from semi-structured interviews with staff at the school, alongside data provided by several core participants and members of their social networks, to address three overarching research questions. Firstly, it investigated how the school’s staff deployed practices to develop the future orientations of students in alignment with certain educational and career trajectories. Secondly, the research examined how the study’s core participants drew upon social, cultural and economic resources when deciding what was ‘possible’ for their future in education and work. Finally, the study engaged with key individuals within the core participants’ social network, exploring how their experiences in education and work influenced the future orientations of those individuals who constituted the primary focus of the research. Mobilising the theoretical tools of Pierre Bourdieu (1977), alongside Hodkinson and Sparkes’ horizons for action (1996), the study contests notions of an ‘aspirational defecit’ amongst white working-class males in education. Instead, the study’s findings illustrate how future educational expectations are shaped in a relational engagement with intergenerational experiences of education and work in a de-industrialised Black Country town.
PublisherUniversity of Wolverhampton
TypeThesis or dissertation
DescriptionA thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the University of Wolverhampton for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
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