Smyth, John and McInerney, Peter (2013) Making ‘space’: young people put at a disadvantage re-engaging with learning. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 34 (1). pp. 39-55. ISSN 0142-5692

Young people who disengage or disconnect from school are often demonised within the media and the wider public imagination, from a largely individualized and pathological positioning. Policy explanations and responses are often unhelpful in their focus on a range of ‘deficit’ attributes – poverty, poor parenting, dysfunctional families, low familial achievement, aspiration and motivation, and other ‘at risk’ categories. This paper offers a different explanatory framework that foregrounds the experiences of some young people who had disengaged from school and resumed learning under a very different set of conditions to the ones that had exiled them from schools in the first place. Using a socio-spatial framework, the paper explores the notion of ‘relational space’ as it was appropriated and reclaimed by these young people, in explaining how they saw themselves as constructing viable and sustainable learning identities for themselves.

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