The political construction of social inclusion through Further Education policy (1997 – 2007)

Williams, J. (2009) The political construction of social inclusion through Further Education policy (1997 – 2007). Ph.D. thesis, University of Kent.


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This thesis explores ‘social inclusion’ as a political construction of the New Labour government between 1997 and 2007. The process of construction is frequently situated within policy from the Further Education (FE) sector. A critical discourse analysis of government documents, and interviews conducted with key policy makers, exposes the underlying ideologies and politics which were involved in the process of constructing social inclusion.

The analysis reveals three dominant constructions of social inclusion that have emerged between 1997 and 2007.

Most significant as a result of its recent emergence and pervasive impact, is the analysis of a psychological construction of social inclusion. This model constructs those labelled socially excluded as psychologically vulnerable; perhaps as a result of learning difficulties; a lack of self-esteem or selfconfidence; or low aspirations. FE is presented as bringing about social inclusion through offering young people guidance and support as well as raising the aspirations and self-esteem of students.

A social model constructs inclusion as the development of social capital between individuals and communities, primarily through participation in FE. This thesis does not seek to laud the social model as a more positive alternative to educational instrumentalism but instead examines how a focus upon the act of participation allows for FE to become a process of social modification, which results in subject specific content being replaced with participation in any activity.

An instrumental model equates social exclusion with unemployment and social inclusion with getting people re-engaged with the labour market. FE comes to be concerned with meeting the needs of the economy and providing unemployed people with the skills for employability they need to enter the workplace. This construction continues to dominate FE discourse and practice. Paradoxically, attempts to enhance employability skills, build social capital or to raise levels of self-esteem primarily through “pre-vocational” learning and training may reinforce social exclusion as those attending FE receive little in the way of high level knowledge or technical skills.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
Depositing User: Mr Andrew Hudson
Date Deposited: 22 Jul 2013 16:00
Last Modified: 21 Sep 2016 10:59

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Last edited: 29/06/2016 12:23:00