School factors contributing to successful academic and personal outcomes for low SES students

Author: Judith Redden

Redden, Judith, 2019 School factors contributing to successful academic and personal outcomes for low SES students, Flinders University, College of Education, Psychology and Social Work

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This study is designed to answer the question: what is the role of schools in fostering educational and personal success for students from low socioeconomic backgrounds? The study sets out to examine the proposition of how schools might contribute to successful educational outcomes for students from low SES groups when schools adopt the constructive interventionist approach promoted by Karmel (1973), Sahlberg (2015) and other researchers. These researchers claim that it is important to look beyond the personal and social limitations of such students’ lives and instead focus on considering school-based policies and practices aimed at enabling students’ positive identity formation leading to personal and academic success.

This thesis begins with a critique of a prevailing deficit view regarding the educational success of students from low SES backgrounds. It argues that focusing on the personal limitations, barriers and challenges that are perceived to prevent students from low SES backgrounds from achieving educational success is neither productive nor enabling of social change. This thesis seeks to build on research that offers a more productive and interventionist paradigm based on a premise that schools have a significant role to play in providing measures to assist students to overcome the limitations they face. Following on from this argument, the initial stages of the study consider what constitutes success and focuses on educational models and research that were based on principles of social justice and equity.

The study itself uses a case study of a single inner-city, private girls’ school to identify more precisely the impact of the values and actions that schools might consider implementing to assist student success. The school selected had a deliberate, well-established strategic approach to inclusiveness and student success. Through a process of monitoring progress and attendance and intervening to support students and address their challenges, the school had evidence of a proven track record of success for all students, including those who came from low SES backgrounds. In seeking to identify which school factors had best contributed to students’ success, the data for this thesis draws on the perceptions and experiences of school leaders and other staff, as well as a representative group of graduates from the Year 12 cohort in 2012 who came from low SES backgrounds. The participants in the study responded to the main research question, namely, ‘From your experience, what school factors have contributed to success for students from low SES backgrounds?’

The study concludes with a review of the insights and issues arising from the research, a discussion on the research implications for the school studied, whether the findings of the research can have meaning for other schools or institutions and recommendations for further research.

Keywords: social justice, equity, school ethos, low SES students, teacher quality, student pastoral care

Subject: Education thesis

Thesis type: Professional Doctorate
Completed: 2019
School: College of Education, Psychology and Social Work
Supervisor: Janice Orrell