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Reports Part of series: Learning for all: BERA Small Grants Fund research reports

Images from the edges

Girls’ experiences of being at risk of permanent exclusion

The exclusion of girls from full-time education is a significant and growing issue. Data show that permanent exclusions for girls increased more rapidly than for boys from 2014–2019 (Agenda, 2021). With girls more likely to experience self-exclusion, informal exclusions and off-rolling, and a paucity of research on girls and exclusion, this project used a range of visual approaches to gather the experiences of girls at risk of permanent exclusion from mainstream schooling. The study was supported by BERA’s 2022/23 Small Grants Fund and intended to answer the following questions:

  • What are the experiences of English girls (aged 11–17) at the margins of education?
  • What are their challenges and what resources do they use for support?
  • Which systems are their resources and challenges located in?

Report summary

This project aimed to gather the experiences of girls who were at risk of permanent exclusion from mainstream schooling. It utilised a range of visual approaches to collect data aimed at empowering participants and enabling them to control the agenda. Access to participants became a significant challenge and although the aims of the project were ambitious, simply collecting data overshadowed all other aims. The aim when developing the project from this pilot, and for allied projects, would be to form long-term links with a number of schools who work to subsequently shape and develop the study.

The images selected by girls were useful in providing a starting point for discussion, and the mapping exercise promoted a deeper reflection on the key resources and challenges experienced and how these interacted. Girls were unable to prepare images before meetings and this element could be developed in a sequence of visits to school or over a longer period of data collection such as a full or half day.

From the data collected at this stage – which is still ongoing – it appears that key challenges highlighted by previous studies continue to resonate, particularly around image, feeling listened to, having a voice and relationships with teachers. Resources participants drew on to support themselves focused largely on their friendships.

Although there are no quick or simple interventions that could ameliorate the multiple issues that are reported to impact on girls’ marginalisation, it could be suggested that a programme to develop social skills and to navigate friendships and relationships could be of significant benefit for girls and schools.


Profile picture of Emma Clarke
Emma Clarke, Dr

Senior Lecturer at University of York

Dr Emma Clarke leads a postgraduate primary initial teacher education course, having taught in mainstream primary schools for almost 18 years. Her interests include research methodologies, approaches to managing behaviour, and challenging...