Gender and Special Education: What Makes Boys So 'Special'?

Smith, Roy. 2000. Gender and Special Education: What Makes Boys So 'Special'?. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This study is concerned with those pupils registered as having 'special educational needs' within mainstream schools and also those who attend special schools of non normative designations and seeks to explain the over - representation of white working class boys amongst such populations. The processes of identification and subsequent allocation to non normative special categories are argued to be both class and gender biased and to represent the placement of pupils so identified along a continuum of exclusion, being an indication of their failure in conventional terms. An approach is developed which attempts to make the link between such failure and wider social and educational processes, viewing schooling as a form of cultural politics and seeing such politics as being intimately linked to wider structural relations. To this end the work of Pierre Bourdieu is employed. The aim of the research is to test and also to develop Bourdieu's theories of social and cultural reproduction and particularly his concept of habitus and its gendered embodied nature, as a means of illuminating the processes involved in the generation of these differential outcomes. The study takes the form of qualitative in-depth semi structured interviews with teachers from eight schools, five special and three mainstream, in order to generate detailed contextualised knowledge of the processes by which pupils may have been identified as having special educational needs within mainstream schools and then possibly allocated to special schools and of the assumptions perceptions and understandings of those teachers in special schools at the 'receiving end' of these processes. The resultant data is analysed using a conceptual framework provided by Bourdieu's theories.

The study is placed within the context of the recent history I politics of special educational practices through a consideration of legislative and other developments of the past twenty years or so which are argued to have led to an increase in exclusionary pressures despite the rhetorical emphases throughout most of this time firstly on Integration and latterly on inclusion.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


gender, special education, white working class youth, Pierre Bourdieu



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Date Deposited:

09 Jul 2020 14:54

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 12:51


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