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Fathers in prison, children in school: the challenge of participation

O'Keeffe, Helen Veronica Josephine (2015) Fathers in prison, children in school: the challenge of participation. PhD thesis, UCL Institute of Education.

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Abstract

It is estimated that there are over 200,000 children in the United Kingdom affected by parental imprisonment each year. Research indicates that these separations are likely to have profound consequences for both parent and child; indeed it is now accepted that in most cases, continuing family contact is a major positive force in the process of rehabilitation and in the well-being of the children of prisoners. There is a growing field of research developing in relation to the families and children of prisoners, highlighting good practice in how schools and other support groups can work with this group to ensure they are full involved in school life. This research however does not consider the extent to which imprisoned fathers are informed about or able to participate in the education of their primary school aged children. This study seeks to examine the facilities and systems in place to allow fathers to keep abreast of the academic progress of their primary school aged children, to participate in their education and therefore be involved in a crucial part of their development. Semi-structured interviews are carried out with three groups of stakeholders– 5 headteachers of primary schools, 10 mothers of the children of male prisoners and 10 male prisoner fathers. The data from these interviews is then analysed and the key themes identified both within stakeholder groups and between them. The study reveals that ‘fatherhood’ is developing; and demonstrates that our social expectations of the role and responsibilities of fathers is moving in an increasingly ‘participatory direction’. There is no work which explores the issues surrounding parental participation by imprisoned fathers in the education of their children. Schools demonstrated that whilst they have developed policies directed to meeting the needs of a wide range of pupils and families, children of imprisoned fathers are, with rare exceptions, neglected. Mothers have a pivotal role to play in any policy directed towards imprisoned fathers’ involvement. Whilst realistic in their expectations, they are not unwilling to facilitate participation and they recognise the potential benefits for their children – not least for the legitimacy it can bring to the school experience. Imprisoned fathers were very positive in their attitudes to the prospect of increased levels of involvement. The study highlights that the barriers to a policy initiative in this field are significant; in addition to the obvious resource implications, the responses of the headteachers interviewed clearly demonstrate considerable hesitation at the prospects of classroom teachers engaging directly (even if remotely) with imprisoned fathers. To have any real prospect of success, the teaching profession would be required to embrace the enterprise and acknowledge its obligations to children whose special needs and indeed rights, have been overlooked.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Subjects: Departments > Children, Families and Health
Depositing User: Mr Julian Zerfahs
Date Deposited: 14 May 2015 15:43
Last Modified: 14 May 2015 15:43
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