Reid, James (2011) Childhood defined by utility: the impact of agency in primary education practice. In: SEPD Research Conference, 29 March 2011, University of Huddersfield. (Unpublished)

That father engagement, either directly with their children or with the professionals who work with their children, leads to positive outcomes including educational outcomes is beyond doubt. Whilst there have been significant advances in ensuring engagement between father’s and professionals the situation overall remains patchy particularly in child welfare and early educational contexts. The consequences for many children are lost opportunities and experiences as childhood is in part defined by professional utility and agency.

Drawing on an ongoing ethnography in a primary school this workshop considers preliminary findings of teachers and teaching assistants in engaging with fathers. Despite a willingness to welcome and work with fathers, there are barriers to engagement including; stereotypes, workplace culture in the form of practice wisdom, and the prescriptive nature of practice that does not permit the practitioner to fully take into account all of the relevant features within a situation. Such utility favours a biological definition of childhood, one which is determined by agency, statute, working practices and culture, by knowledge and skills, and the prevailing social and political priorities of the day and unheeded it does not necessarily support positive outcomes for children.

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