The Society for Social Work and Research

2013 Annual Conference

January 16-20, 2013 I Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina I San Diego, CA

Socially Excluded Pupils Become Increasingly Disengaged From School Over Time: Evidence from an English Panel Study

Friday, January 18, 2013
Grande Ballroom A, B, and C (Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina)
* noted as presenting author
Jennifer M. Threlfall, MSW, Doctoral Student, Washington University in Saint Louis, St. Louis, MO
Purpose  Students who are engaged in school have higher levels of motivation and educational attainment; they are less likely to play truant or to drop out of school (Fredericks et al., 2004). Recent policy shifts in England, toward focusing on broader psychological and emotional outcomes of schooling, have led to increased interest in the concept and its antecedents. Peer victimization, including social exclusion, has been theoretically associated with declining levels of school engagement (Buhs et al., 2006). Despite this, few British studies have used longitudinal data to consider the effects of peer victimization, specifically exclusion, over time. This study addresses the following questions: (1) how do levels of school engagement vary over time in English young people? and (2) do school engagement trajectories vary according to the frequency of experiences of social exclusion?

Method  Data were drawn from waves 1-3 of the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England (LSYPE), a panel study first administered in 2004. At wave 1 participants were in Year 9 (ages 13 and 14); waves were administered yearly thereafter. Participants at wave 1 (N = 13, 539) were 86% White, 51% male, and 9% had experienced social exclusion in the past 12 months. A longitudinal mixed effects model was constructed using the R statistical package. The final model included time as a random effect, and person level demographic predictors including ethnicity. The independent variable of interest was the young person’s estimate of the frequency of their social exclusion over the past year, and was entered as a time varying level 1 predictor. The outcome variable, school engagement, was assessed using 10 LSYPE items that have been used to measure school engagement in previous research (Foliano et al., 2010). A bootstrapping approach was used to produce empirical confidence intervals.

Results  The demographic model shows that school engagement declines over time (b= -0.57; t = -6.54; 95% CI [-1.02, -0.56]). The rate of decline was the same for all students, although Asian and Black students had higher levels of engagement at the beginning of the study. For students who report an increase in the frequency of social exclusion over the previous year, we can expect a downwards shift in engagement scores (b= -0.61; t = -17.8; 95% CI [-0.63,-0.27). A positive interaction between time and social exclusion indicates that the decline in engagement is more rapid for students who experience exclusion more frequently (b= -0.22; t = -5.2; 95% CI [-0.39, -0.19]).

Conclusions and implications  English students who experience social exclusion are not only less engaged in school, but their engagement decreases at a sharper rate than that of their peers. Social workers should be aware of the increasingly detrimental effects of ongoing social exclusion on pupils’ engagement in schooling and seek to provide early intervention. This study also indicates a continuing need for British education policy to focus on the social experiences of schooling as determinates of broader educational outcomes.