Boundedness, Belonging and Becoming: Primary School Children's Perspectives of Education and Learning in the South Wales Valleys

Williams, Gavin (2019). Boundedness, Belonging and Becoming: Primary School Children's Perspectives of Education and Learning in the South Wales Valleys. EdD thesis The Open University.

Abstract

The impact of poverty and disadvantage on the attainment and outcomes of children is well documented. Less research evidence is available on the experiences of children living in deprived communities and their perceptions of its impact on learning and future life chances. Using a case study approach, this thesis investigates the experiences of children living in the Rhondda Valley, a post-industrial area in South Wales. Nineteen children (aged eleven) from three primary schools in the valley participated in the study using focus groups, individual interviews, photo-elicitation interviews and observation to explore their experiences and perceptions of growing up in the area and how it affected learning.

Drawing on Bourdieu’s Theory of Practice (1984), it was found that the topography and geographically bounded nature of the valley significantly affected the children’s experiences. It not only shaped the immediate formal and informal learning opportunities available but the history and culture of the area. Furthermore, the study revealed the children’s awareness of the importance of formal education for their futures. Another key finding was the role of the family in instilling a feeling of belonging to the area, and supporting the children to access informal learning opportunities within and outside the boundaries of the valley. The influence of the landscape, school, and family was clear in the children’s expressions of becoming. This aspirational habitus demonstrated agency and an ability to draw upon their experiences and look beyond the valley boundaries, thus challenging governmental policy that is often written from a perspective of cultural deficit.

The research provides new insights into the learning experiences of children growing up in a deprived area. It has implications for policy development in identifying the importance of gaining children’s views and for educational practice in highlighting the importance of the natural environment and local history for learning.

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