Encountering English Education: The experiences of newly arrived teenage migrants in monolingual English schools and colleges

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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ENCOUNTERING ENGLISH EDUCATION: The experiences of newly arrived teenage migrants in monolingual English schools and colleges

This thesis reports the findings of a study of the educational experiences of teenagers migrating to schools and colleges in an English shire county. The research engaged with students in the 14-19 age group who joined educational establishments where peers were mainly monolingual English speaking. The aim was to explore access to learning through the perceptions of new migrants.
The study was set within a context where the 2004 expansion of the European Union had caused a sudden wave of migration to the UK. This affected many schools previously unaccustomed to supporting English as an Additional Language Learners. The study explores how pre-16 year old migrants and post-16 year old migrants from a range of home countries are exposed to established English curricular and pedagogical structures. It focuses on the specific challenges for migrants joining Key Stage 4, a stage where national GCSE examinations both determine the curriculum and frame future academic aspirations.
Data were drawn from informal board game sessions with individuals and small groups of migrant teenagers in five schools and two FE colleges situated in two semi-urban towns. All the data collected were narrative and qualitative.
The data were analysed on three levels: as individual narratives; through an identification of broad themes that emerged directly from the students’ narratives and finally in the light of Amartya Sen’s capability theory as it has been applied to education by Walker, Saito and Robeyns. Analysis indicated that accessing English education involves meeting new challenges on both academic and social levels. The data found that early access was closely bound by the practicalities of individual school contexts and that internet technology enabled migrants to live in two parallel worlds: that of daytime English speaking school life and an evening life shared with home country friends.
The findings suggest that aspects of the English education system restrict opportunities for migrant teenagers to have similar choices and freedoms to those of their monolingual peers. Looking at the data through the lens of the capability approach, it is possible to identify seven capabilities of migrant equity. The thesis suggests how a discussion of these migrant equity capabilities might engage school based colleagues. It is argued that restricting the capabilities of teenage migrants affects both their short-term integration and their subsequent long term academic pathway. It concludes that current provision for 14-19 year old migrants in non-urban schools lacks the flexibility and the expertise to provide newly arrived teenage pupils with the educational access and potential achievement equal to that of English peers.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
  • Ainscow, Melvin, Supervisor
  • Stelma, Juup, Supervisor
Award date18 May 2012
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2012


  • teenage migration; KS3 & KS4;
  • access and inclusion in national curriculum


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