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There have been growing concerns in England about increasing numbers of students, many of whom have Special Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND) or come from disadvantaged backgrounds, who experience education disaffection and failure (Farouk 2017; DfE 2017; Perraudin and McIntyre 2018; Edwards 2018). Moreover, there have been increasing calls for research that works collaboratively with students and other stakeholders (ie parents and school leaders) to address these issues (see Edwards and Brown 2020). This article explores students’ and their parents’ experiences in relation to school exclusion. Drawing on participant action research methods three former excluded students and their parents who successfully re-engaged their education were trained to carry out interviews with five recently excluded secondary school students and their parents. Findings from the interviews stand juxtaposed to political discourses that view exclusion as being influenced by poor parenting or student deviance. Rather, our findings illustrate a spiral of disillusionment, educational disengagement, fractured relationships between students, parents and teachers that emerges as our participants encountered a series of life events that coincided with the educational processes in schools. We consider these findings and, in line with Freire (1972; 2005), we propose a dialogic and relational intervention that enables excluded students to collaborate with their parents and school leaders to make meaningful changes to their own and their schools’ practices in order to help them re-engage with their education.
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