Who are you? The construction of identities: discourses on race and gender in school exclusion

  • Jane Johnson

Student thesis: Doctor of Counselling Psychology


Background: School exclusionary policies, whilst a way of managing behaviour in schools, often perpetuate wider social injustices (Department for Education [DfE], 2020). Statistics related to school exclusion indicate negative disproportionalities based on race and gender. This is critical as it is shown that there are longer term impacts on the individual that go beyond studying at school. It is this perceived social injustice that engages my interest from the perspective of counselling psychology. Rationale and aim: The aims of this research are to explore young people’s discourses on race and gender in the context of school exclusion based on analysis of the construction of two imaginary identities by young people of colour within a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU). It aims to raise awareness that the disproportionality relating to race and gender within school exclusion cannot be explained credibly by the individual deficit model which pathologises behaviour and it therefore aims to identify the apparent issues of social injustice (Commission on Young Lives, 2022). Methodology: The research analysed secondary data generated from an arts project, contained within a documentary called ‘Beneath the Hood’ (Lee, 2004). Specifically, the study offers a discourse analysis of six poems that were written and performed as raps by young people who were excluded from mainstream school and are now studying in a PRU. Analysis: The four main discourses identified were: Racism – colonialism, construction of structural injustice and the subversion of power; Masculinities and Femininities – the construction of gender; Familial relationships; and Containment – discourses of space and place. Discussion and Conclusion: Within institutions there is an enactment of control through policies and pedagogy that are embedded with Whiteness, power and oppression. This is invested in education at an institutional and societal level which only serves to hinder and impact the individual far longer than their exclusion and education. In relation to education and counselling psychology there is a reflection on social justice informed practice and policy interventions.
Date of Award1 Aug 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorLaura Winter (Supervisor) & Erica Burman (Supervisor)


  • counselling psychology
  • secondary data
  • critical discursive psychology
  • race
  • School exclusion
  • gender

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