Artistic production and (re)production: dis-engaged young people’s educational experiences of Arts Award programmes

Howard, Frances (2019) Artistic production and (re)production: dis-engaged young people’s educational experiences of Arts Award programmes. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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A growing number of alternative qualifications have been designed to enable ‘disadvantaged’ young people to ‘catch-up’ to the mainstream. The Arts Award is one such award. Positioned as a vocationally relevant qualification within the education landscape, Arts Award’s inclusion strategy aims to afford entry to further and higher education as well as to employment. Situated within neoliberal education and cultural policy, the award is tasked with building cultural capital through universal provision. Arts Award is offered not only to elite schools and the ‘omnivorous’ middle classes, but also to young people who are deemed to have limited access to the ‘arts’.

This thesis explores what Arts Award offers to young people who are regarded as ‘dis-engaged’ from mainstream education. Ethnographic case studies, conducted in five sites, captured the experiences of the young people accessing the programme in conjunction with low-level qualifications or no qualifications at all. Three ‘vocational’ strands are explored, strands which are most associated with educating those with low economic and cultural capitals. Four key elements of Arts Award’s strategy: policy, practice, pedagogy and pathways are analysed.

The works of Pierre Bourdieu and Paul Willis are brought together and used analytically in order to develop the concept of Artistic Production and (re)production, which is applied throughout the study. This framework is used to describe opportunities for young people to be agentic and become entrepreneurial arts producers, within the constraints of the particular practices, capitals and dispositions on offer. The concept of Artistic Production and (re)production is a way of exploring a tension within Arts Award between the assimilation of common culture and the social hierarchisation of the field.

Analysis of the data demonstrated that there were both productive and reproductive logics of practice at work within the fieldwork sites. This resulted in an unequal offer for dis-engaged young people taking up the award. Arts Award’s narratives, which support the doxa of meritocracy, have led to misrecognitions about how and why the award is practiced differently in different sites. These misrecognitions include assumptions about ‘access’ equating to ‘inclusion’ and the award holding equivalent capital to mainstream qualifications. This research found that the accrual of capitals and dispositions was not universal, with a limited number of young people being able to use these to their advantage. It is argued that Arts Award acts as a gatekeeper to young people’s future arts pathways and when it is enacted through the pedagogy of poverty its potential as a programme that could engage with cultural citizenship is not realised.

This research makes a contribution to knowledge about youth arts programming and pedagogies. It questions the assumed benefit of arts programmes for ‘at-risk’ young people and the positioning of arts education within vocational programmes. Highlighting issues of equity, the study demonstrates that despite changes to the ways that young people access arts education, and the mobilisation of programmes such as the Arts Award with a commitment to social justice, there continues to be (re)production.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Thomson, Pat
McGrath, Simon
Keywords: Arts, Young People, Inequality, Social Justice, Vocational Education, Alternative Education, Youth Work
Subjects: L Education > LC Special aspects of education > LC1001 Types of education, including humanistic, vocational, professional
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > School of Education
Item ID: 55708
Depositing User: Howard, Frances
Date Deposited: 19 Aug 2020 07:27
Last Modified: 19 Aug 2020 08:00

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