Russell, Lisa, Simmons, Robin and Thompson, Ron (2011) Conceptualising the lives of NEET young people: structuration theory and ‘disengagement’. Education, Knowledge and Economy, 5 (3). pp. 89-106. ISSN 1749-6896

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Official discourse in the UK and many other OECD countries emphasises education and training as a vehicle for social inclusion and economic growth. Accordingly, those who do not participate are seen to be at risk of long-term exclusion. However, interventions aimed at re-engaging young people not in education, employment or training (NEET) can be ineffective or counter-productive. This paper presents findings from the first year of a three-year ethnography of NEET young people in the north of England, and examines the opportunities and barriers experienced by NEET young people as they attempt to negotiate the complex territory following the end of compulsory education. Drawing on Giddens’(1984) structuration theory, we discuss young people’s actions and the narratives underlying their decisions about post-school education, work and training. The paper explores the limitations young people experience and the interplay of agency and structure for those on the margins of education and employment.

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