McInerney, Peter and Smyth, John (2014) ‘I want to get a piece of paper that says I can do stuff’: youth narratives of educational opportunities and constraints in low socio-economic neighbourhoods. Ethnography and Education, 9 (3). pp. 239-252. ISSN 1745-7823

The persistent failure of contemporary policies to improve school retention rates and close the achievement gap between students from low and high socio-economic (SES) backgrounds should be a matter of grave concern. In this article, we set out to show what it means to be educated in a context of disadvantage from the perspectives of young people attending a senior secondary public school in regional Australia. Acknowledging that youth are experts in their own lives, we draw extensively on student narratives of the funds of knowledge and opportunity structures that support and/or constrain education and employment opportunities in low-income neighbourhoods. Although young peoples' stories of hope and agency go some way to undermining the deficit thinking about these students and their families, we argue that the realisation of their aspirations requires institutional support and policies that address the systemic causes of educational disadvantage.

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