“What if you don't feel ‘disadvantaged’ and you’re being called that?”: an exploration of young people’s perspectives on the ‘disadvantaged’ label in an English secondary school

Jones, Alexandra Rachael

April 2021

Thesis or dissertation

© 2021 Alexandra Rachael Jones. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

In education policy, the term ‘disadvantaged’ is used to label young people who face socio-economic inequity and thus, in schools where policy is enacted. This thesis argues that the ‘disadvantaged’ label is problematic as it implies that young people are the problem to be fixed in an otherwise well-functioning education system and fails to acknowledge the role wider social inequalities play in their socio-economic disadvancement – a construct and alternative term to ‘disadvantaged’ that the thesis proposes to use as a lens through which to view the reality of the setbacks young people face. Using a socially critical approach, the study seeks to develop understandings of how being labelled in education policy as ‘disadvantaged’ is perceived by the young people who are labelled as such. Based on qualitative research in an English secondary school utilising semi-structured interviews and participatory tools, this study explores how the ‘disadvantaged’ label is understood from the perspectives of young people who are very often the subjects of ‘disadvantaged’ policy rather than valued agents. The voices of the young people involved offer important insights into how the ‘disadvantaged’ label may confer shame and stigma on to them, including implying that they are to blame for their own marginalisation through deficit narratives. The study proposes that opportunities should be created for young people to have agency in how they are described and also offers understanding on the implications the ‘disadvantaged’ label has for schools that are enacting policy.

Department of Education, The University of Hull
Jones, Lisa; Ploner, Josef; Holmes, Andrew
Qualification level
Qualification name
3 MB
QR Code