Unruly School Spaces: an ethnographic exploration of Year Eight student experiences of space, gender and well-being in a South Wales secondary school

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This thesis explores the ways in which one Year Eight class in a South Wales secondary school experiences space, gender and well-being in their daily school lives. Using space as a conceptual tool, the thesis uses qualitative and ethnographic methods to explore the ways in which children in Valley School may be involved in ongoing and iterative spatial negotiations within the course of the school day. It looks at the specific school spaces that these children occupy in the school, during different times of the day, and looks at the ways in which these spatial negotiations inform their gendered subjectivities and their sense of well-being in the school. The thesis draws on Doreen Massey’s theorisations of space, as well as feminist ethnographic and qualitative research literature to help formulate understandings of the children’s experiences of space, the importance of space in childhood, and the ways in which experiences of space and gender may be entangled, particularly in the school environment. Using this literature and the data corpus, I developed two descriptive, analytic concepts with which to thematically analyse the data generated for this thesis – the idea that the children are involved in ‘nomadic negotiations of space’ and the sense that these negotiations play out in an unruly atmosphere, which is specific and particular to Valley School. I also draw links between the macro educational policy landscape of South Wales, institutional pressures in Valley School and the micro everyday spatial and gendered practices of the children who study in Valley School. I aim to reframe the experiences of children living in a deprived area of South Wales, with significant socio-economic disadvantage, by using space as a conceptual lens through which to view their social practices, and I hope to inform educational research, policy and practice in Wales with these findings.
    Date of Award21 Jul 2018
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Open University
    SupervisorProfessor Mary Jane Kehily (Supervisor) & Dr Peter Redman (Supervisor)


    • Education
    • Children
    • gender
    • Space
    • ethnography

    Cite this