Children and the Transformation of Schools: Enabling Participation through Intergenerational Work

Crook, Deborah Jane (2017) Children and the Transformation of Schools: Enabling Participation through Intergenerational Work. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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This study places children’s participation at the core of school practice, challenging narrow interpretations of participation and education. Previous research, reinforced by the UNCRC (1989), indicates that schools must be more ready to listen and involve children, highlighting the benefits of voice but in practice limiting it to consultation. There is scarce research that considers children’s participation in schools as essential to education itself or as integral to democracy. Yet children flourish in schools with good relationships where teachers value what they say.
This research in two English primary schools used group inquiry and intergenerational work to build children’s participation. During Phase 1 children interviewed adults and worked in intergenerational focus groups to consider the purpose of schools. Overwhelmingly, good relationships dominated school purpose, experience and hopes for the future. Phase 2 extended this through a series of workshops that integrated participation and education through National Curriculum inspired inquiry.
The findings suggest that intergenerational work is a catalyst for children’s agency, repositioning children so they can shape classroom spaces for richer, more trusting relationships. In turn, through recognition of their selves in relation to, and with others, understanding of their situation and possibilities, children were able to work together, and with adults, to co-construct knowledge which takes account of temporal frames of reference and is more meaningful. This change in space and purpose also gave new meaning to the teacher’s roles, moving away from policy controlled authoritarianism, repositioning them as mentors.
The study shifts focus away from preconceived outcomes, to the process of participation itself, providing significant insight into how rights based education can be made to work in schools.

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