Managing ‘at-risk’ students: investigating the role of personal tutors in the delivery of pastoral care in further education
The thesis sets out to examine how systems of pastoral care in further education (FE) support personal tutors to meet the complex needs of students in an educational environment where performance management, compliance and accountability are priorities. The thesis is a single case study of an FE college in the North West of England, from now on to be called Buttercup college. In this study, Buttercup college is presented as a ‘risk environment’ (Kelly 2003) where systems of surveillance are ‘designed in’ (Rose 1999) and aligned to systems of care and emotional support in the management of ‘vulnerable’ and ‘dangerous’ students.
The research was designed and conducted from a social constructivist perspective. A mixed method, triangulated design supported the concurrent collection of data between July 2008 and July 2010 involving 36 teaching staff and 96 students in FE. Beck’s (1992) ‘risk society’ thesis and Foucault’s (1977, 1994) theories of power relations frame the study.
The findings reveal that pastoral care in FE is a model of emotional support, risk management and social control situated in an educational environment where risk governance has become a dominant discourse. In the context of FE, discourses of care, risk and performativity are negotiated and interconnected to reconstruct pastoral care as a policy lever. This study presents three overarching themes, ‘working to target’, ‘emotional support’ and ‘managing student need’. Through an extended ethic of pedagogical care and a high level of risk consciousness, the traditional role of the teacher/caregiver (McWilliam 2003) is changing. In Buttercup college, pastoral care is a key component in the college’s risk governance framework. The student, in need of individual support, is reframed as ‘at-risk’ and subject to risk management which aligns the work of the personal tutor with that of a professional risk-manager.
|Jun 1, 2014