Education policies in England: exploring the relationship between the focus on attainment/achievement in the school-environment and adolescents’ mental health

PhD Thesis


Di Emidio, D. 2023. Education policies in England: exploring the relationship between the focus on attainment/achievement in the school-environment and adolescents’ mental health. PhD Thesis University of East London School of Psychology https://doi.org/10.15123/uel.8w573
AuthorsDi Emidio, D.
TypePhD Thesis
Abstract

This study investigated the influence of the secondary school-environment on adolescent mental health (MH). Late adolescents (16-18-years-old) experience multiple contributors to their MH, particularly the pressure of high-stakes examinations engendering an emotionally charged, performance-based learning environment. These pressures. associated with transitioning and the greater responsibility for the future, reflect prevailing neoliberal values of competition, responsibilization and individualism.

I studied the school-environment using a Critical Theory approach and ethnographic and participatory methods. Student-participants from a sixth-form college co-researched the study topic alongside teachers, parents and college-leaders. In this way, different ‘roles’ and lived experiences came together in a democratic platform to critically explore the relationship between education and MH.

The study shows that late adolescents are grappling with introspection (e.g., self-esteem, self-doubt) and therefore managing different layers of recognition which include an ‘intimate estrangement’ that influence their well-being, their subjectivity, and MH. Subjectivity, and modes of subjectivation, helped explain a complex relationship with the self, revealing the influence of compulsory education environments on MH. Co-produced findings provided reflexive opportunities for participants to reconsider their status as service-users and stakeholders in school and mitigate a pervasive sense of ‘crisis’ through participatory action for change.

The study’s findings can help policymakers to: (i) inform education policy for more precise definitions and inclusive approaches to define MH; (ii) monitor how schools and colleges engage with young people’s MH in the face of school environment and policy demands; (iii) assess through participatory consultations how students perceive MH related policy to adjust in implementation.

The impact of educational policy on MH is critical as policy is often ideological and polyvalent and intersects with educational life during adolescents’ transition to adulthood. Policies constitute modalities of being (subjectivities) by imagining the ‘good life’ for all; they should thus also recognise students as stakeholders to be involved in their development, as people able to make authentic choices and hold critical views about educational success and failure.

KeywordsAdolescence; Mental Health; well-being; Subjectivity
Year2023
PublisherUniversity of East London
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.15123/uel.8w573
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Publication dates
Online09 Aug 2023
Publication process dates
Completed25 Jul 2023
Deposited09 Aug 2023
Copyright holder© 2023, The Author
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