‘A Road Less Spoken’ The experiences of Youthreach participants
KeywordsAdult & Community Education
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AbstractThis study explores the experiences and perspectives of early school-leavers in the West of Ireland as they try and progress their education through the further education provision of Youthreach. This research addresses the gap that exists in the current literature on early school-leaving by presenting the voices of participants, which offer unique and rich insights into this complex phenomenon. This study broadens the scope of thinking about early school-leaving by looking through the lenses of care, respect, recognition and mental health. The participating early school-leavers have not abandoned education and they are not viewed as dropouts; they have ambitions for the future and are interested in achieving their educational goals. The acknowledgment of the voices of the participants is at the heart of this study and is reflected in the choice of methods. It is a qualitative investigative study focusing on the educational experiences of participants within four Youthreach centres in the Western Area Network. The study employs a combination of arts-based collage creation and individual semi-structured interview methods used to elicit the rich data. As a means of triangulation, questionnaires from coordinators within the network were gathered to establish their perceptions on the prevalence of mental health issues within the centres. The participants’ stories reveal that their mainstream schooling experiences had a damaging effect on their mental health. The findings show that Youthreach centres have become a necessary recovery space for many of the early school-leavers and serve an important role in the education system. The findings highlight the necessity for the creation of educational provisions that have care and respect as central concepts. The findings also reveal that participants’ opportunities in rural areas are impeded by structural and resource factors. There also exists a degree of socially constructed embarrassment or shame about being a Youthreach attendee. The thesis concludes that there is valid knowledge for educators and policy makers in the voices of these participants. Their voices should be listened to and their needs recognised. The thesis further concludes that students should not have to feel ashamed for attending Youthreach programmes and that, one way to achieve this is for Youthreach centres to be recognised as a viable and valid alternative to mainstream schooling.
McHugh, Kathriona (2014) ‘A Road Less Spoken’ The experiences of Youthreach participants. PhD thesis, National University of Ireland Maynooth.