A Foucauldian Discourse Analysis of Educational Psychologists' Accounts of their Understanding and Enactment of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child

  • Laura Goodfellow

Student thesis: Phd


The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is a key international legal instrument setting out children's civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. As a document the UNCRC, internationally, informs policy, practice and research becoming a normative framework for the protection, provision and participation of children. However, implementation of the UNCRC at local levels in the UK still requires further development. Through a Foucauldian Discourse approach, this doctoral thesis explores educational psychologists' (EPs') accounts of their understanding and enactment of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. This includes a review of the legislative and organisational context of educational psychology, alongside a Foucauldian Discourse Analysis of accounts of practice from EPs working in an English context. Analysis highlighted that the UNCRC was known to EPs, but its status as a document underpinning and explicitly influencing practice within the profession contested. EPs drew on commonly deployed discourses of children's rights, notably participation, consultation, views and voice to narrate their understanding and enactment of the UNCRC, demonstrating the strength of participatory practices, but also indicating how work is still required in progressing the development of the UNCRC. EPs are faced with particular practice dilemmas in navigating between constructions of children's needs and how these both inform and limit children's rights practice. Nevertheless, EPs also offered critique of these practices signifying the scope within the educational psychology profession to incorporate and further enhance rights-informed practice. While the claims made are subject to the conditions which constructed this doctoral research, the critique of discourses of children's rights which dominant EPs' practice illuminates the ways in which the UNCRC is subject to institutional and practice discourses in constituting how it is understood and enacted in a specific but key professional practice context.
Date of Award1 Aug 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorErica Burman (Supervisor) & Carl Emery (Supervisor)


  • Discourse Analysis
  • Foucault
  • Advocacy
  • Educational Psychology
  • Children's Rights
  • United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child
  • Participation

Cite this