Voices of Disaffection: Disengaged and disruptive youths or agents of change and self-empowerment?

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This article presents findings from research conducted into school disaffection in the north of England. Bourdieu's concept of capital is utilised to explore the perspectives of 14- to 16-year-old girls undertaking vocational learning as a strategy for re-engagement. Data emanate from semi-structured interviews in which social and linguistic capital in school is identified as a privileged feature of a select few. Thus, within the field of education, capital facilitates student empowerment, whereupon the lack of such can lead to marginalisation, disaffection and, subsequently, disengagement. However, voice is presented as a powerful mechanism for challenging the existing inequities of compulsory schooling in England by validating unacknowledged capital, recognising agency, and thus facilitating the self-empowerment of disaffected young people. Schools are encouraged to rethink their political stance to consider the potentially detrimental impact of a discourse that validates the dominant sociocultural capital and empowers only those students whose individual dispositions align with institutional practices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-60
Number of pages18
JournalBritish Journal of Special Education
Issue number1
Early online date9 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - 25 Mar 2018


  • Bourdieu
  • student voice
  • disaffection
  • alternative learning environments
  • empowerment


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