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Pupils, the forgotten partners in education action zones

Whitehead, Joan; Clough, Nick


Joan Whitehead

Nick Clough


Education action zones (EAZs) involving local partnerships are one of the government's policies set up to help raise standards in pupils' performance and behaviour in areas of economic and social disadvantage. This article explores the nature of these partnerships and the fact that pupils are excluded. It reviews literature on student voice and describes interviews with 139 Year 8 pupils in two inner city zone schools to gain an insight into their perceptions about their learning. The data highlights some differences by gender and ethnicity and also the steps pupils believe are necessary if improvements are to be made. If zone schools are to live up to the promise of 'empowering people and communities', the paper argues pupils need to be included as stakeholders who shape the implementation of policy and become part of the solution to the difficulties EAZs are charged to address. The paper concludes by suggesting this will require a shift in the dominant epistemology to recognize pupils as co-constructors of learning and a shift towards more democratic forms of relations in order to encourage pupil participation and enable their voices to be heard.


Whitehead, J., & Clough, N. (2004). Pupils, the forgotten partners in education action zones. Journal of Education Policy, 19(2), 215-227.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Mar 1, 2004
Journal Journal of Education Policy
Print ISSN 0268-0939
Publisher Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Volume 19
Issue 2
Pages 215-227
Keywords pupils, partners, education action zones
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Additional Information : The paper argues that EAZs are more likely to succeed in raising academic standards and behaviour if they listen to pupils' views. Despite the policy discourse of community empowerment as a means to tackle these problems, the authors claim that few Zones have treated pupils as partners in seeking solutions to underachievement. They also describe an innovative design involving learning mentors, parent co-ordinators and inclusion workers alongside university staff in conducting interviews with pupils. Following publication, the DfES posted a digest of the research on its website. The authors presented at a joint local authority/University (Bristol and UWE) seminar. The findings also had an impact on decisions taken by the City Academy, Bristol. Whitehead was invited to join the editorial board of the International Handbook of Student Experience in Elementary and Secondary School, which includes papers on student voice for school improvement. Whitehead is responsible for 90% of this publication.

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