Making Schools Different: Alternative Approaches to Educating Young People


Edited by: Kitty te Riele

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    ‘Most people, you know, they have been in school for so many years, they just want to get on with their lives now … not more writing and learning things that nobody cares about’ (Wayne, quoted in Ball et al., 2000).

    The non-participation of a small but entrenched minority of young people in education, training or employment in the period after the end of compulsory schooling remains an intractable and worrying problem in many Western societies — estimates of the size of this group range anywhere from 10–40 per cent of 14–25 year olds. Of course the ‘problem’ is construed in different ways by different constituencies, often with little recourse to the concerns of the young people themselves. It is an educational problem, particularly as these young people have typically had an unsatisfactory experience of compulsory schooling. Educational experiences have typically done little to contribute to a robust sense of self and have often instilled an enduring sense of inefficacy rather than resilience.

    For Wayne, leaving school is not a stage in the continuity of learning — it is a break, a new beginning, an escape. An escape from the outlines of a ‘totally peda-gogised society’ and the ‘pedagogisation of life’ in which learning is an activity that is conducted endlessly, ‘in which the State is moving to ensure that there's no space or time which is not pedagogised’ (Bernstein, 2001: 377). What Wayne's comment indicates is a different ‘logic of practice’ from that which underpins ‘learning policy’. There is a mismatch between the logic and rhythms of policy and those of the lives of many young people.

    As the papers in this collection demonstrate, non-participation and its concomitant alienations is also a social problem — non-participation places young people ‘at risk’. And it is a political problem (in a variety of senses) — such young people are mostly unable to exercise the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, and fail to become subject to the increasingly hegemonic conception of the lifelong learner. The lifelong learner is a much over-burdened and over-determined social subject within current education policy and within some current versions of social theory. Lifelong learning indeed is subject to a constant stream of ‘over blown policy statements’ (Edwards and Nicoll, 2001: 104) which seek to position young people like Wayne, alongside others, as nothing less than a new kind of person, and within a new ‘ethic of personhood’; ‘an entire self must be completely made over as an enterprising individual’ (McWilliam, 2002: 292).

    But the real problem in all of this is policy itself and that the burden of policy is in fact focused in the wrong places, often on the young people themselves and their ‘motivations’ — a move which individualises and psychologises but which leaves policy itself and the institutional processes of schooling, or what te Riele calls the ‘intractability of schooling’, unaddressed. This book takes a different route and focuses on the need to ‘do school differently’ through innovations in learning, the use of time and place in different ways, and an engagement with complexity and diversity.

    Stephen J.Ball
    Karl Mannheim Professor of Sociology of Education
    Institute of Education, University of London

    About the Authors


    Kitty te Riele researches educational policy and practice for marginalized young people, including mainstream and alternative educational initiatives. She is interested in the ways schools can play a role both in marginalizing and in (re-)engaging young people. She is Senior Lecturer in Education in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), Australia where she teaches educational philosophy and professional ethics in Primary Education and in the doctoral research programme.


    Laudan Aron has over 20 years of professional experience conducting research and policy analysis on social welfare issues, including behavioural health and disability, child welfare and at-risk youth, education, employment and training, and homelessness and family violence. She has conducted studies for many US federal and state agencies and national foundations. She is currently the Director of Research at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) where she oversees all of NAMI's research activities, including its ongoing report to the nation on public mental health service systems, Grading the States.

    Kumari Beck is Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University in Canada. The primary site of her research is internationalization of higher education, in particular, the experiences of international students. Other research interests are located in the intersections of social education and the ethic of care, and include the exploration of social issues, inclusion, and relationships in advancing conceptions of social justice.

    Marie Brennan is Professor of Education at the University of South Australia, where she recently completed a five-year term as Dean of Education. She currently teaches in curriculum studies and educational policy at graduate and undergraduate levels. A key researcher in the Centre for Studies in Literacy, Policy and Learning Cultures within the Hawke Research Institute, her research interests include: political sociology of school reform, especially curriculum; democratic and participatory forms of research, including action research; teacher education; and ‘global south’ issues. With Tom Popkewitz she co-edited the book Foucault's Challenge: Discourse, Knowledge, and Power in Education.

    Wanda Cassidy is Associate Professor in the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University in Canada and Director of the Centre for Education, Law and Society, an endowed centre established to improve the legal literacy of children and youth through a programme of research, teaching, curriculum development and community-based initiatives. An important dimension of her research involves examining those values and beliefs that underpin the legal system and are instrumental in developing a just and caring society, including ethics of care, conceptions of diversity and inclusion, and notions of social responsibility.

    Ann Chinnery is Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University in Canada. Her research addresses philosophical and ethical issues in teacher education, especially recent theoretical shifts in thinking about rights and responsibilities; the practical complexities of classroom dialogue in pluralist democracies; and preparing teachers for work in increasingly diverse classrooms.

    Stephen Crump is Pro Vice-Chancellor and Director of the Central Coast Campuses and Professor in Education at the University of Newcastle. Stephen is chief investigator for an Australian Research Council project on interactive distance e-learning. He has (co-)authored 200 publications on educational policy, leadership, curriculum and organizational development. He led two major reports and an Australian Research Council (ARC) project on Vocational Education and Training for the New South Wales (NSW) and Commonwealth governments as well as a Taskforce into NSW matriculation certificate reforms.

    Jann Eason is Principal of the Macleay Vocational College in Kempsey. This is an education and training facility for marginalized youth in a socially and economically depressed region of NSW. Macleay Vocational College is the brainchild of the local community. Macleay Vocational College was Jann's first appointment as a Principal in 2001 after 24 years experience as a secondary teacher. She was charged with designing and building this purpose-built education and training facility. In 2006 Jann was selected by Teaching Australia for the first round of the Leading Australia's Schools programme.

    Kathleen Ferguson was Research Fellow on the Assessing New Learning Spaces project at the Faculty of Education, Monash University. She is now lecturing in the Socrates Programme in the Department of Sociology at the University of Warsaw, Poland. Kathleen has a PhD in Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies, and postdoctoral fellowship in Geography, University of Durham. Her research interests focus on embodied perception, cultural critique and ‘hospitality industry’ training.

    Katherine Hodgetts is a postdoctoral research fellow in the Centre for Studies in Literacy, Policy and Learning Cultures at the University of South Australia. Her research applies discursive methods to the analysis of masculinity construction, educational gender equity and teachers' negotiation of gendered identities. Katherine's work on the ARC Linkage Project ‘Pathways or cul de sacs? The causes, impact and implications of part-time senior secondary study’ investigated students' negotiation of community, home, work and study commitments.

    Alison Mackinnon (Emeritus Professor) has written widely on educational issues in both historical and contemporary contexts. She has an abiding interest in the ways in which class and gender shape educational opportunities. She is the author of several books, including Love and Freedom: Professional Women and the Reshaping of Personal Life (1997) which won a New South Wales Premier's Literary award. She is a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia.

    Meg Maguire is Professor of Sociology of Education at King's College London. Much of her work is concerned with social justice and policy in urban settings. She is lead editor of the Journal of Education Policy. Meg's latest books are Becoming a Teacher: Issues in Secondary Teaching (2007, 3rd edition, edited with Justin Dillon) and Education, Globalization and New Times (2007, edited with Stephen Ball and Ivor Goodson).

    Frans Meijers was educated as a sociologist of education at the Catholic University of Nijmegen and earned his doctorate at the University of Leiden on vocational education policy 1945–75. After 20 years of working with the universities of Nijmegen, Amsterdam and Leiden, he set up his own company specializing in research and advice regarding ‘career learning’. He is currently also part-time lecturer for ‘Pedagogy of vocational development’ at the Haagse Hogeschool (The Hague).

    Linda Milbourne is programme director for Youth, Voluntary and Community Sector Studies in the Faculty of Lifelong Learning at Birkbeck College, London. Her research focuses on changing social and education policies, with a particular interest in community based services, inter-agency working and initiatives addressing social exclusion. Her current work explores concepts of active participation and community engagement, questioning whether recent youth schemes are generating new spaces for diverse groups of young people.

    Eleanor Ramsay is Adjunct Professor in the Hawke Research Institute for Sustainable Societies at the University of South Australia. Her work traverses both educational research and public policy leadership, with a particular focus on gender matters. In the past she has worked as a teacher, a senior manager in public schooling authorities in two Australian states, a Pro Vice-Chancellor in a university, a trade union official and an educational activist.

    Terri Seddon is Professor of Education at Monash University. Her research focuses on education (lifelong learning) and work. She is currently examining the way changes in work and society are diversifying learning spaces and what this means for continuity and change in educational work, with special attention to post-compulsory and adult education, training and in-place learning. She has strong links with European research and is actively engaged in local and transnational partnership work. Her books include Context and Beyond (1993); Pay, Professionalism and Politics: Reforming Teachers? Reforming Education? (1996) and Beyond Nostalgia: Reshaping Australian Education (2000, with Lawrie Angus).

    Helen Stokes is a Research Fellow at the Youth Research Centre at the University of Melbourne. She has undertaken research and evaluation work in a number of education and youth areas in Australia including school to post-school transitions, school engagement (including the role of the arts), vocational education and training and early school leaving. International work has included a study of the situation of young people in Bhutan for the Youth Development Fund and the Ministry of Education in Bhutan.

    Kylie Twyford works at the University of Newcastle as the Senior Research Associate on the Australian Research Council Linkage project, ‘Interactive Distance eLearning for Isolated Communities: Opening our Eyes’. The project is investigating satellite delivered lessons provided to students in isolated homesteads and remote communities in Australia. Kylie previously worked for many years as a distance education teacher and manager in the vocational education and training sector (VET). Her area of research interest is in ICT in distance education and its influence on student motivation, participation and retention.

    Johanna Wyn is Professor of Education and Director of the Youth Research Centre at the University of Melbourne. Her books include Rethinking Youth (1997, with Rob White), Youth, Education and Risk: Facing the Future (2001, with Peter Dwyer), Youth and Society: Exploring the Social Dynamics of Youth (2007, with Rob White) and Youth Health and Welfare: The Cultural Politics of Education and Wellbeing (2009).


    As the editor, I would like to thank Jude Bowen at SAGE for supporting this book from our very first meeting, and all authors for their contributions to make the book a reality. Several chapters draw on (funded) research projects, which are listed below.

    Chapter 7 The research was funded by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. The research team included principal investigator, Dr Heesoon Bai, Dr Wanda Cassidy, co-investigator, and Dr Kumari Beck (then a doctoral student/research assistant), all from Simon Fraser University's Faculty of Education. Details of the study and further information can be obtained from the authors.

    Chapter 8 Examples are drawn from two Australian research projects: Project A: ‘Alternative education for marginalised youth: negotiating risk and hope’, funded through a grant by the University of Technology Sydney, carried out by the author, 2006–08.

    Project B: ‘Changing schools in changing times: stabilising and sustaining whole school change in communities experiencing adverse conditions’, an ARC-Linkage project with the NSW Department of Education and Training, 2005–08. The project is led by Debra Hayes of the University of Sydney and team members include Narelle Carey, Ken Johnston, Ann King, Rani Lewis-Jones, Kristal Morris, Chris Murray, Ishbel Murray, Kerith Power, Dianne Roberts, Kitty te Riele and Margaret Wheeler.

    Chapter 11 We want to thank the Australian Research Council (ARC), the European Union Commission, Victorian Department of Education and National Council for Vocational Education Research for funding the projects on which this chapter is based.

    Chapter 12 The data reported on in this chapter comes from research (ARC LP0562535) led by the author as chief investigator and includes Brian Devlin (second chief investigator) and Amy Hutchinson, Charles Darwin University in the Northern Territory; Kylie Twyford, University of Newcastle, Australia, and Alan Anderson, Southern Cross University, NSW, Australia. The views expressed are my own and represent interim findings not yet endorsed by the industry partners.

    Chapter 13 An earlier version of this paper was presented at the annual conference of the British Educational Research Association, Institute of Education London, September 2007. This paper is drawn from an Australian Research Council funded Linkage Project ‘Pathways or cul-de-sacs? The causes, impact and implications of senior secondary part-time study’, 2005–07 (LPO455760), conducted from 2005–07 with early work commencing in 2004. We are grateful to the ARC and peer reviewers for the project, to our research assistants over the project, Dr Lynette Arnold, Dr Katherine Hodgetts and Dr Kirrilly Thompson who have each come in at critical times to ensure that the work of the university chief investigators was able to be kept on track. Chief investigators on the project are: Professor Eleanor Ramsay, Professor Marie Brennan and Professor Alison Mackinnon from the University of South Australia, with partner investigators from the Department of Education and Children's Services: Wendy Engliss; Judith Lydeamore, Tanya Rogers, Bev Rogers (at different times); the Premier's Social Inclusion Unit, Dr Jan Patterson; and the state senior secondary curriculum authority, SSABSA: Dr Jan Keightley, then Dr Paul Kilvert. Our PhD student, Rochelle Woodley-Baker, has also been active in ensuring that gender issues and young people as agents in their own lives remained on the agenda.

    Chapter 15 The research on Aboriginal education for this chapter was funded, in part, by the Department of Justice Canada, Youth Justice Fund. Principal investigator was Dr Wanda Cassidy, in association with Focus Foundation of British Columbia.

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