Gender & Education

C&S SIGN Seminar

Date & time: 15th November, 12-1.30pm

Location: Middlesex University – Town Hall, Committee Room 3


“Who cares?” Care, gender and secondary schools: The interesting example of the ‘sin-bin’…

Dr John Barker (Middlesex University)

A breadth of education and other social science literature explores gendered professional identities, practices and spaces across a range of UK educational institutions (e.g. Dillabough et al, 2009, Ioana, 2010, Gallagher, 2013). One key aspect of this has focused on the links between gender, care and early years settings and primary schools. In comparison, much less attention has been given to the role of caring within secondary schools (see Laurent, 2013, Gillies and Robinson, 2013 as important exceptions). Drawing upon research conducted within West London at an in-school Seclusion Unit, this paper seeks to identity the significance of gender in exploring everyday caring practices in schools. In doing so, the paper draws upon a growing Geographies of Education literature to explore how caring is produced and regulated within particular classroom spaces, and how everyday caring practices are inextricably linked to and embedded within broader institutional agendas and processes

John Barker is a Senior Lecturer in Education Studies/ Early Childhood Studies in the Department of Education at Middlesex University. John has an international reputation for delivering high quality research and consultancy for a range of organisations, including UK central government, local authorities and the voluntary sector. His research track record includes more than a dozen externally funded research projects. John has an impressive range of publications in high quality Social Science journals. John has specialisms in:

  • Children, youth and mobility, exploring journeys to school, evaluating transport innovation, and considering mobility decision making processes and aspirations amongst children and families.
  • Children, childcare and play, undertaking a range of projects exploring early years and childcare provision, exploring the experiences of children, parents and labour market influences.
  • The Geographies of Children, Youth and Families, including the Geographies of Education.
  • Research methodologies, including ethics, qualitative methods, visual methods and ‘children centred’ methods.

Adult Female Role Models in Jaqueline Wilson books Aimed at Tweens

Claire O’Donoghue (Middlesex University)

With over 100 published titles, Jacqueline Wilson is one of the most prolific children’s authors alive. Her books are particularly popular with and aimed at tweenie girls although there are some aimed at older teens. Wilson does not shy away from difficult issues; fractured families, domestic abuse, abandonment, mental illness, poverty and homelessness all feature in her work. The placing of the child heroine narrator in difficult domestic circumstances is a world away from the happy and functional, decidedly middle-class settings of the majority of best-selling, non-fantasy genre children’s books of previous generations (e.g. Enid Blyton, Arthur Ransome). This refusal to rose-tint childhood has been criticised by those who see these matters as inappropriate fare for childhood reading; either corrupting or depressing (e.g. ex Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe). This paper argues that far from reinforcing negative stereotypes by normalising dysfunction, Wilson’s stories empower their young readers through the subtle way in which life choices and different potential adult role models are presented to the child reader. Wilson’s normalisation of dysfunction does not overtly condemn it; however, Wilson never presents dysfunction as an inevitable and sole option for a girl-child’s life trajectory. The dysfunctions in her books can be traced as a map of pitfalls that girls and women have to navigate through pro-active, life-affirming personal choices in line with the goals of 2nd wave feminism. This message is given through the exploration of the repeated tropes throughout her books: The value of education, toxic versus supportive friendships / romantic partners, information about sex, ways of motherhood. These themes will be explored in relation to modern-day-setting stories from the 1990s and 2000s.


This event is free to attend and open to all, please sign up here:

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