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Inclusion for the Excluded: Applying Critical Realism Within an Alternative Provision Academy for Excluded Primary School Pupils

Fielding, c. J (2020) Inclusion for the Excluded: Applying Critical Realism Within an Alternative Provision Academy for Excluded Primary School Pupils. Doctoral thesis (EdD), Manchester Metropolitan University.


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This study took place in an alternative provision academy for 40 primary school children in the north of England. All the children attending the centre had either been permanently excluded or were at serious risk of permanent exclusion from their mainstream primary schools due to their challenging behaviour. Many of the children had been observed to cease this challenging behaviour quickly on entry to the centre. The aim of this study was to develop the researcher’s understanding of the underlying mechanisms affecting this cessation of challenging behaviour and charts the change in both the researcher’s developing understanding and his practice. A three-cycle, first-person action research model was used in combination with critical realism, and a hermeneutic approach was taken to consider the place of the researcher as the professional at the heart of the process. In following this novel methodological approach, the aim of this study was also to offer an explicit example of applied critical realism being used in an educational setting. The study was instrumental in developing practice within the centre through a set of emerging social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) principles which also provided the basis for the training of student teachers and professionals from other settings. As the study moved through repeating cycles, the researcher proposed an emerging model which applied the theory of social domains to a centre for excluded primary school children. The study supports the view that a child’s challenging behaviour may be seen as the outcome of a failing environment rather than because of a flaw in the child. It concludes by suggesting that political and educational leaders raise questions about the enabling and constraining effects that their wider policies have on the ability of schools to meet the needs of children with social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) needs.

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