Hard to teach, hard to reach, hard to justify: the challenge of participatory research with vulnerable young people

Abstract

The poor outcomes for looked after children (LAC) are well-documented: for example, a young person from a care background is 10 times more likely to be given a statement of special education need (SEN) than their peers (DCSF, 2009). Concern to address this inequity led to the New Labour government, charities and Research Institutes commissioning a range of large-scale studies (e.g. Harker et al 2003, 2004) to try to provide solutions, and these studies led to changes in policy and practice such as the introduction of Virtual Schools for LAC (Berridge, 2009). Large-scale studies which assume generalizations can be made about childhood or about categories of children have been criticised for failing to recognize the unique nature of children’s experiences (e.g. in Christensen and James, 2008). Over the course of the last two decades, there has also been a range of smaller-scale studies aiming to give young people from a care background a voice by engaging them in participatory research (e.g Dearden, 2004). This article presents the challenges of participatory research with young people who may not be motivated to cooperate. It suggests some possible responses to the difficulty of giving a voice to those who are most marginalized, and addresses ethical issues raised.

Lamond, C. (2011) Hard to teach, hard to reach, hard to justify: the challenge of participatory research with vulnerable young people. Educationalfutures, [online] Vol. 1(4). Available at: http://educationstudies.org.uk/?p=557 [Accessed 18 Nov, 2017].