Perceptions and experiences of students’ everyday life within an alternative education provision: An ethnography
In recent years the number of students transitioning out of mainstream education and into forms of alternative education has increased (Welsh Government, 2022). Cumulatively such rationales relate to mainstream schools not meeting the needs of students that are unlikely to contribute to the school’s finances or status (Pennacchia and Thomson, 2016). Within the UK, a form of alternative education deemed more supportive and better able to meet the needs of disengaged students is alternative education provisions. However, some contest the effectiveness of such provisions in relation to students’ outcomes (e.g., O’Connor, 2012; Department for Education, 2018b). Yet, such research has largely relied on adults’ perspectives (e.g., parents and teachers) even when specifying an exploration of student experiences (Gobourn, 2022). The current research therefore utilised student voice to conceptualise students daily lived experiences within an alternative education provision. To achieve this, ethnographic methods including reflections, observational fieldnotes and individual interviews were adopted. Observations included attending one South Wales alternative education provision for 603.5 hours over two academic years. During data collection, seven students were attending the provision, although one student opted out of the interview. A reflexive thematic analysis identified five themes relating to students’ experiences which included lacking awareness of alternative education provision, the importance of the right people, a preference for alternative education provision over mainstream schooling, greater outcomes by attending alternative education provision and a series of barriers and challenges to the daily operations within the provision. Implications for practice from these results include raising awareness of alternative education provision to students who may benefit from attending. Additionally, future directions for research are outlined relating to factors students highlighted as important throughout their educational experience. To address the criticisms and challenges of ethnography, a reflexive account is presented which provides novel approaches to conducting ethnography with similar samples.
Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarship (KESS-2)
- School of Education and Social Policy