Tackling the 'difficult' subject: An ethnographic exploration of sexual learning in secondary schools

Haste, Polly. 2009. Tackling the 'difficult' subject: An ethnographic exploration of sexual learning in secondary schools. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis examines the different ways in which staff in secondary schools engage pupils around issues of sex, sexuality and relationships. Using material from a one- year ethnographic study in an area of London, it addresses the question of why sex education is such a 'difficult' practice and how we are to account for the problems and inadequacies of current provision. The study is framed within a policy and political climate that has expanded the opportunities as well as the pressures for schools to address the emotional, health and welfare needs of its pupils. New policy initiatives have meant that teacher-led formal sex education now occurs alongside other forms of learning and support facilitated by non-teaching staff. This thesis draws on contemporary literature on sexuality and schooling to examine the significance of these shifts and to explore the factors that constrain or enable communication about sex in different contexts within the school. The first two chapters outline the theoretical and methodological framework for the study. The following empirical chapters are divided into three sections. Chapters 3 and 4 examine the experiences of teachers alongside those of other members of staff with responsibility for addressing issues of sexuality with pupils. These chapters consider professional roles and expectations related to sex education and the factors that determine how and whether staff are able to achieve their goals. Chapters 5 and 6 focus on pupils' accounts of sex education and pupil behaviour in the classroom. Drawing on insights from psychoanalysis, these chapters explore the adolescent needs that lie behind pupils' accounts of SRE and their resistant behaviour in the classroom. Chapters 7 and 8 move away from the classroom and the teacher/pupil dynamic to focus on some of the alternative ways in which issues of sex and sexuality are addressed in schools. They look at pupils' communication practices in non-traditional school settings and at how pupils use these settings to experiment with different forms of subjectivity. In the concluding chapter I argue that the insights gleamed from these alternative spaces forces us to re-examine some of the key assumptions behind sex education as a 'difficult' practice.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):

https://doi.org/10.25602/GOLD.00028963

Keywords:

sex;, sexuality; relationships; education; psychoanalysis; subjectivity

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Sociology

Date:

2009

Item ID:

28963

Date Deposited:

06 Jul 2020 15:53

Last Modified:

06 Jul 2020 15:53

URI:

http://research.gold.ac.uk/id/eprint/28963

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