Secondary school realities

Woods, Peter E (1979). Secondary school realities. PhD thesis The Open University.



This is a symbolic interactionist account of certain aspects of life in a rural Secondary Modern School. A study of its subject choice system suggested two broad group perspectives among the pupils, one supportive of, the other rather indifferent towards school. These perspectives were reflected among the parents to some degree, along social class lines. There was considerable teacher direction, behind a rhetoric of choice. The many-sided nature of pupils' interests and reactions among curriculum, school and teachers was revealed. Three major categories of pupils’ existence ere examined — ’working’, ’having a laugh’, and ’being shown up'. All of those are shown to have a rational base and to be the product of complex negotiations.

Teacher realities at the school are also categorized into three major, and highly contrasting areas of activity, namely ’surviving’, ’being professionals’, and ’being persons’. Much of the teacher’s classroom activity appears to have ’survival’ as the major goal, often under cover of ’teaching’. In other instances, for example when writing school reports, teachers act as 'professionals’, articulating ideal models of pupils and their expertise as teachers. In the staffroom, however, school matters are often viewed through a different perspective, not out of character with that employed in the private, as opposed to public sphere of life. As with the pupils, laughter is a key element.

The thesis points to the effects of institutional forms upon the individual and upon relationships, over and above the considerable influence of external forces.

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