• An Absence of Policy: Vocational education and special educational needs

      Atkins, Liz; Northumbria University (Routledge, 06/07/2013)
      Vocational programmes at the lowest levels have been subject to significant criticism, not least from Government sponsored reports both before and after the last election (eg. Working Group on 14-19 reform, 2004; Wolf 2011). The Coalition government has, in common with earlier administrations, focussed policy initiatives on higher level and higher status vocational education. This paper explores the tension between this reality and the rhetoric of inclusion which forms much of the narrative of education policy. It considers this in the context of the implications of vocational education policy for the most marginalised young people: those with special educational needs and the poorest post- 16 outcomes, who are engaged with vocational education at its lowest levels and who are ambivalently positioned between mainstream education and special educational provision. The paper suggests that whilst some recent policy initiatives, such as the introduction of University Technical Colleges and the proposed Technical Baccalaureatemay be successful in raising the esteem of some types of specialised vocational education, they will also reinforce different degrees of exclusion and in/equalities within vocational education. It concludes that broad vocational courses at lower levels, held in low esteem and conferring little or no educational advantage, are likely to persist in the absence of any proposals for a meaningful alternative. Finally, it calls for concerted action in terms of both research and curriculum development to which could lead to more meaningful education at this level.
    • Creating feminized critical spaces and co-caring communities of practice outside patriarchal managerial landscapes

      Duckworth, Vicky; Lord, Janet; Dunne, Linda; Atkins, Liz; Watmore, Sue; Northumbria University (Taylor and Francis, 29/01/2016)
      The experiences of five female lecturers working in higher education in the UK are explored as they engage in the search for a feminized critical space as a refuge from the masculinized culture of performativity in which they feel constrained and devalued. Email exchanges were used as a form of narrative enquiry that provided opportunity and space to negotiate identities and make meaning from experiences. The exchanges provided a critical space, characterised by trust, honesty and care for the self and for each other, that enabled a sharing of authentic voices and a reaffirming of identities that were made vulnerable through the exposing of the self as an emotional, politicised subject. Drawing on existing theoretical understandings of critical feminised spaces enabled us to create a pedagogical framework for work with students in further developing caring and co-caring communities of practice that are not alternative to, but are outside the performativity landscape of education.
    • Dis(en)abled: legitimating discriminatory practice in the name of inclusion?

      Atkins, Liz; Northumbria University (Wiley, 23/03/2016)
      This article explores tensions between the policies and practice of inclusion and the lived experiences of disabled young people in education. Drawing on the narratives of two young men who participated in a small pilot study, it utilises theoretical concepts related to disability, structure and agency, and power and control, as it explores the ways in which inclusion can create subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) forms of exclusion. Focusing on the young men's experiences of further and higher education, it is argued that inclusive practices and policies, however well intentioned, can create new and subtle forms of marginalisation through the structures and discourse intended to address exclusion. I conclude by questioning whether, in a diverse and disparate society, in which all our lives are defined by the extent to which we are more or less equal than others, inclusion can ever be anything other than an illusory concept.
    • Disabled voices from the margins : experiencing inclusion as forms of exclusion

      Atkins, Liz; Northumbria University (10/04/2013)
      This paper explores the tension between the policies and practice of Inclusion and the lived experiences of disabled young people in education. Drawing on empirical data gained from a small scale study of young people with Special Educational Needs, the paper utilises theoretical concepts around disability, structure and agency and power and control as it explores the ways in which inclusion can create subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) forms of exclusion. The arguments in the paper are supported by reference to the little storiesof the young people who participated in the study, with a key focus on the experiences of Tom, a young man who has moved in and out of Mainstream education across all phases from nursery to University. The paper argues that Inclusive practices and policies, however well intentioned, can create new and subtle forms of marginalisation through the structures and discourse intended to address exclusion. It goes on to suggest that, in this way, inclusion comes to form part of the complex and multi-layered behaviours, structures and social practices that we refer to as exclusion. It concludes by questioning whether, in a diverse and disparate society, in which all our lives are defined by the extent to which we are more or less equal than others, inclusion can ever be anything other than an illusory concept.
    • Evaluation of premiership rugby’s HITZ learning academy programme

      Defeyter, Greta; Graham, Pamela; Atkins, Liz; Harvey-Golding, Louise; Crilley, E; Northumbria University (Premiership Rugby/Northumbria University, Healthy Living Lab, 2017-06)
      N/A
    • Feminine men and masculine women: in/exclusion in the academy

      Atkins, Liz; Vicars, Mark; Northumbria University (Emerald, 31/03/2016)
      The purpose of this paper is to draw on concepts of female masculinityto interrogate how hegemonic gendering discourses, forms and performances are inscribed in neoliberal narratives of competency in higher education in the Western Hemisphere. Drawing on individual examples, the authors consider how these narratives are omnipresent in the sector, and systematically act to exclude those who do not conform. In doing so, the authors draw extensively on bodies of literature exploring gender/identity, and neo-liberalism. In particular, the paper draws on the work of Halberstam (1998, 2011), and of Drake (2015).There are comparatively few women in senior positions in Higher Education and the authors argue that as gendering institutions they reproduce hegemonic gendering discourses. The authors find that hegemonic gendering discourses are instrumental in maintaining and privileging specific forms and perceptions of masculinity and femininity as inscribed within and reproduced by perceptions of professional competency. There are comparatively few women in senior positions in Higher Education and the authors argue that as gendering institutions they reproduce hegemonic gendering discourses. The authors find that hegemonic gendering discourses are instrumental in maintaining and privileging specific forms and perceptions of masculinity and femininity as inscribed within and reproduced by perceptions of professional competency. This paper examines neo-liberal practices from a more nuanced perspective than some traditional polarised critiques which regard gender as a binary. In doing so, it contributes to debates on masculinity, but more importantly, opens discussions about the implications of gendering discourses for the role of the few women in senior positions in higher education institutions globally.
    • From Marginal Learning to Marginal Employment? the Real Impact of Learning Employability Skills

      Atkins, Liz; Northumbria University (Sage, 01/01/2013)
      This article explores notions of employability in the context of the experiences of those young people who leave the English education system at 16+ with few or no academic credentials. The article contests the conflation of employability skills' with inclusionin policy discourse, arguing that the real impact of such programmes is to inculcate attitudes and behaviours consistent with low-pay, low-skill work in already marginalised young people. It draws on empirical evidence from two studies which suggest that what young people really want are real, practical skills which are directly transferable to the world of work and which would fulfil the promise of high-pay, high-skill work in a knowledge economy. The article concludes that in a world where many young people are increasingly marginalised in terms of both education and employment, only an education which provides the skills the young people aspire to and which has real exchange value in the labour marketplace can confer any real advantage to them. Current approaches to employability skills education, far from achieving this, are little more than an exercise in social control resulting in new forms of class and labour (re)production, as already marginalised young people are socialised into particular forms of casual and low-pay, low-skill employment.
    • Getting Qualified in Woodwork: Young peoples reasons for choosing VET programmes in the UK

      Atkins, Liz; Northumbria University (NCVER, 10/07/2014)
      This paper reports on a qualitative study carried out in the UK during summer 2010 on behalf of City and Guilds Centre for Skills Development (CSD). The study formed part of a wider, international project which aimed to explore young people's perceptions of vocational education and training (VET), and as such is of significance in the Australian context: it also formed part of the evidence for the influential Wolf Review of Vocational Education which reported to the UK government in 2011. The study found that serendipity, contingent events and influence of significant others are most influential in choice of vocational programme and that young peoples understandings of possible career paths vary in sophistication, differentiated by age, programme level and subject area. Perceived attractiveness of VET was closely associated with societal perception of their courses (which the young people considered to be negative) suggesting that, in the UK, pre-Coalition policy (before May 2010) has been unsuccessful in addressing issues of parity of esteem, despite considerable policy investment in the VET sector. The paper explores the implications of these findings for the English models of Vocational Education in the context of current Coalition policy. It concludes that whilst some recent policy initiatives, such as the proposed introduction of University Technical Colleges may be successful in raising the esteem of some forms of specialised VET, broad vocational courses at lower levels will continue to be held in lower esteem and to confer little educational advantage on those young people, largely drawn from working class backgrounds and displaying multiple exclusionary characteristics, who pursue them.
    • Going further and higher together

      Atkins, Liz; Northumbria University (06/06/2014)
    • Great Expectations: youth transitions in troubled times

      Atkins, Liz; Northumbria University (BERA, 01/09/2014)
      This paper draws on an empirical study conducted in the UK to explore some of the issues surrounding young people on the lowest level VET programmes and make suggestions about ways in which the learner experience at this level might be enhanced. UK policy perception of young people undertaking low level VET programmes in Further Education (FE) colleges tends to characterise them within a deficit model of social exclusion, disaffectionand disengagement(Colley, 2003:169). Many have special educational needs (Atkins, 2013a). They have been the focus of multiple initiatives in both the context of the New Labour 14-19 agenda, and more recently in the Coalition governments response to the Wolf Review of Vocational Education (2011). These initiatives have largely consisted of the provision of routes through a range of VET opportunities, allegedly to enable young people to engage with the knowledgesociety (Bathmaker, 2005). This paper problematises these notions of opportunity, drawing on the little storiesof four young people to argue that the rhetoric which permeates Government documents fails to consider the significance of young peoples social and educational positioning. Finally, the paper considers the implications of these issues in terms of future practice, policy and research in the UK context.
    • Its in their nature to nurture: a comparison of PCE mentors perception of their role and the emerging national requirements

      Wallace, Sue; Atkins, Liz; Northumbria University (01/09/2006)
      This paper explores the ways in which subject specialist mentors perceive their role and thereby their professional development needs - in terms of their responsibility for the observation of teaching practice in post-compulsory education settings. It suggests that their role as the mentors perceive it is not consistent with, or limited to, that which is implied in the emerging model of post-compulsory teacher training. Its findings further suggest that the training available for professionals undertaking this largely unpaid role is both limited and variable and that there is minimal engagement with the support which is available. The paper argues that a lack of coherence has led to an inequitable situation where students on post-compulsory Initial Teacher Training (ITT) courses receive variable support which impacts on their student experience and professional development. The investigation, based on a range of initiatives, resources and approaches developed during 2005/2006 as part of a DfES pilot study involving Nottingham Trent University (NTU), Lincoln College and Stamford College, makes recommendations for developments in local and national practice, and in government policy.
    • Learning on the margins: Experiencing low level VET programmes in a UK context

      Atkins, Liz; Northumbria University (AVETRA, 23/04/2014)
      This paper draws on an empirical study conducted in the UK to explore some of the issues surrounding young people on the lowest level VET programmes and make suggestions about ways in which the learner experience at this level might be enhanced. UK policy perception of young people undertaking low level VET programmes in Further Education (FE) colleges tends to characterise them within a deficit model of social exclusion, disaffectionand disengagement(Colley, 2003:169). Many have special educational needs (Atkins, 2013a). They have been the focus of multiple initiatives in both the context of the New Labour 14-19 agenda, and more recently in the Coalition governments response to the Wolf Review of Vocational Education (2011). These initiatives have largely consisted of the provision of routes through a range of VET opportunities, allegedly to enable young people to engage with the knowledgesociety (Bathmaker, 2005). This paper problematises these notions of opportunity, drawing on the little storiesof four young people to argue that the rhetoric which permeates Government documents fails to consider the significance of young peoples social and educational positioning. Finally, the paper considers the implications of these issues in terms of future practice, policy and research in the UK context
    • Nothing changes: Perceptions of vocational education in a coalition era

      Atkins, Liz; Flint, Kevin; Northumbria University (Taylor and Francis, 25/06/2015)
      This paper explores young people's perceptions of vocational education and training (VET) in England. It draws on interview and focus-group data from a funded project. Parallel studies were carried out in The Netherlands, South Africa and England. This study reports on the English project. It found that serendipity, contingent events and influence of significant others are most influential in choice of vocational programme and that young peoples' understandings of possible career paths vary in sophistication, differentiated by age, programme level and subject area. Perceived attractiveness of VET was closely associated with societal perception of their programmes (which the young people considered to be negative). The paper considers the implications of these findings in the context of recent major policy initiatives in England. It concludes that, while some recent policy initiatives, such as the introduction of University Technical Colleges may be successful in raising the esteem of some forms of elite and specialized VET, broad vocational programmes at lower levels, and short courses associated with 'employability' and 're-engagement', will continue to be held in lower esteem and to confer little educational advantage on those young people, largely drawn from working-class backgrounds, who pursue them.
    • Professionalism in vocational education: international perspectives

      Atkins, Liz; Tummons, Jonathan; Northumbria University (Taylor and Francis, 18/12/2017)
      This paper explores notions of professionalism amongst vocational teachers in the UK and Australia, through an analysis of voluntarism/regulatory frameworks and professional body frameworks. In terms of empirical evidence, the paper reports on data drawn from a documentary analysis of government policy documents, standards for the education of teachers, and regulatory frameworks in both countries. It is located within a broad range of literature exploring contemporary concepts of professionalism amongst vocational teachers.
    • Reflective practice for VET teachers

      Atkins, Liz; Brennan Kemmis, Ros; Northumbria University (David Barlow Publishing, 01/10/2014)
    • Research Methods for Social Justice and Equity in Education

      Atkins, Liz; Duckworth, Vicky; Northumbria University (Bloomsbury, 21/02/2019)
      Research Methods for Social Justice and Equity in Education offers researchers a full understanding of very important concepts, showing how they can be used a means to develop practical strategies for undertaking research that makes a difference to the lives of marginalised and disadvantaged learners. It explores different conceptualisations of social justice and equity, and leads the reader through a discussion of what their implications are for undertaking educational research that is both moral and ethical and how it can be enacted in the context of their chosen research method and a variety of others, both well-known and more innovative.
    • Researching with, not on: engaging marginalised learners in the research process

      Atkins, Liz; Northumbria University (Taylor and Francis, 15/02/2013)
      This paper discusses practical and methodological issues arising from a case study exploring the hopes, aspirations and learning identities of three groups of students undertaking low-level broad vocational programmes in two English general further education colleges. Working within a social justice theoretical framework the paper outlines the participative approach which was adopted as part of the research process from the initial development of interview questions to the early data analysis. It explores the advantages and limitations of the approach in the context of the broader methodology and the social justice theoretical framework arguing that, despite the intention to collaborate with the participants, the ultimate control over the study was vested in the researcher, raising questions around the nature and extent of empowerment through the medium of research. The paper draws two key conclusions. In social justice terms, the young peoples contribution was limited by their lack of previous experience of any type of research and, to some extent, by difficulty with the written word. Despite this, the participative approach was effective in demonstrating value and respect for the young participants and provided an opportunity for them to make their voices heard from beyond the model of disadvantage and disengagement in which government policy seeks to confine them. Further, in purely methodological terms, the approach provided insights which could not have been obtained by researching on, suggesting that it provides a useful means of exploring the lives and identities of marginalised youth.
    • Teaching Higher Education Courses in Further Education Colleges

      Tummons, Jonathan; Orr, kevin; Atkins, Liz; Northumbria University (Sage, 30/05/2013)
      As the number of higher education (HE) courses offered in further education (FE) settings increases, so does the need for teachers and trainee teachers to develop their teaching skills. This text is written for all teachers and trainee teachers in FE. It considers what it means to teach HE in FE and how an HE environment can be created in an FE setting. The text covers day-to-day aspects of teaching including planning and assessment, giving guidance on the unique needs of HE students. Chapters on research and quality assurance support the reader in developing some advanced teaching skills. This is a practical guide for FE teachers and trainee teachers as the sector adapts to the needs of education today.
    • Teaching in the VET sector in Australia

      Atkins, Liz; Brennan Kemmis, Ros; Northumbria University (David Barlow Publishing, 01/10/2014)
      Teaching in the VET sector is a complex and highly rewarding vocation. This book provides the reader with an in depth exploration of both the theory and the practice of teaching in this sector. Each chapter invites the reader to reflect on their own practice and offers practical examples and case stories to assist the teacher to develop their own professional expertise. The chapters have been written by highly acknowledged VET researchers and teachers and all the chapters have been reviewed by people with high levels of respect and credibility in the field. This book provides the new teacher or trainee teacher with an overview of the VET sector in Australia and introduces the reader to some of the issues that are part of our VET environment. The book explores some of the dimensions of teaching and the diverse range of learners that are characteristic of any VET classroom, workshop or enterprise setting where teaching is taking place. The book also introduces the reader to some of the major learning theories that are relevant in VET and provides practical guidance on the implications of theory for VET practice. High quality assessment is critical to the credibility of VET and the book includes a chapter where this controversial area is made accessible to the reader. Language Literacy and Numeracy are now an embedded feature of VET teaching and the chapter on this topic discusses different views of LLN and encourages the reader to interrogate their own skills and apply their learning to the their teaching. eLearning is increasingly part of VET teaching and this is discussed in detail. Similarly engaging with industry is fast becoming a significant part of the role of the VET teacher and the rationale and the practical and day to day implications for this development are explored.The act of teaching is investigated and this chapter brings together many of the themes raised elsewhere. Finally the reader is introduced to the benefits of reflective practice through an exploration of some of the ways that teachers can evaluate the effectiveness of their own teaching.
    • The Odyssey: School to work transitions, serendipity and position in the field

      Atkins, Liz; Northumbria University (Taylor and Francis, 15/02/2016)
      Little work on the significance and implications of decision-making has been undertaken since that led by Hodkinson in the 1990s and the experiences of young people on vocational programmes and their reasons for undertaking them remain under theorised and poorly understood. Drawing on the narratives of two young men who participated in a City and Guilds Centre for Skills Development (CSD) study, this paper explores the relationship between their positioning in fields and career decision making. It argues that social positioning is significant in its relationship to decision making, to the way in which young people perceive and construct their careers and to the influence of serendipity on their transitions. Drawing on a range of international studies, it also explores the implications of these findings in terms of young people's future engagement with the global labour market, giving consideration to (dissonant) international perceptions of VET as contributing to economic growth whilst addressing issues of social exclusion and promoting social justice.