Stories of educational engagement among young people with complex families

Stream: Children and participation
Date: Tuesday, 10 September 2019
Time: 3.45 pm – 5.05 pm


To successfully engage in education, young people need access to a range of material, educational, cultural, relational, and psychological resources. This paper presents findings on the resourcing and resourcefulness of young people with families in complex circumstances for whom the resources required for education are not readily accessible. We examine the education system by analysing the meaning young people make of their schooling trajectories. We draw on findings from a three-year study conducted by the Social Policy Research Centre, UNSW Sydney in partnership with Uniting, NSW Family & Community Services (FACS) and Mission Australia. Forty-four young people with complex service needs were interviewed as part of the research. Biographical narrative interviews were used to elicit rich and complex data about the significant events in the young people’s lives and how they made sense of these events through a biographical ‘story’. It was a longitudinal study. The researchers returned a year after the first interviews to learn from young people how their resourcing stories had changed over time. Many of the young people discussed their early schooling and learning with enthusiasm but found it difficult to continue with this engagement over time when their lives outside school were extremely difficult, stressful and even dangerous. We consider the barriers and enablers of educational engagement and how schooling policy can better support these young people.


Jennifer Skattebol (Presenter), SPRC
Jennifer Skattebol explores issues of economic inequality and how they are experienced by children and their families. She is interested in how constructions of family are lived and experienced and how the nexus of the family is a site where inequalities and power focus, operate, are resisted and transformed. This work includes consideration of how young people manage tensions between family and school (and other services) and how services might be more responsive to the needs of disadvantaged citizens.