Exploring the Schooling Experiences of Turbulent Children from Low Income Families

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


This thesis studies the effects and experiences of changing schools outside of the normal periods of key-stage transition: what is known in the literature as turbulence. While there have been many quantitative studies examining the effects of turbulence on educational achievement, there have been no systematic qualitative studies. The quantitative literature has, typically, identified an educational ‘penalty’ for highly mobile or turbulent children from low income backgrounds and has used various social capital theories to explain this penalty. This longitudinal study of seven turbulent children examines their experiences of entering a new school and follows them through from primary into secondary school. Interviews with the children and some of their families are triangulated with classroom observations and school data. Since these children can be seen as ‘strangers’ to the various aspects of school, the latter is theorised in terms of social spaces. The study finds an explanation for the education penalty in terms of these children’s focus on forming friendships at the cost of their educational progress. In the absence of stable friendships, they are excluded and isolated in school. Through the process of understanding the roles of friendship in social capital formation the study criticises the work of some of the key social capital theorists, in particular, James Coleman, Pierre Bourdieu and Robert Putnam and seeks to develop a better understanding of the bases of social capital formation for school children.
Date of Award1 Dec 2010
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorHugh Lauder (Supervisor)

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