(Dis)abling children in primary school spaces
This thesis examines how children are discursively (re)constructed as (dis)abled through mundane practices within mainstream primary schools, drawing upon in-depth qualitative research. Schools are conceptualised as porous local expressions of the education institution which comprise functionally specific micro-spaces (e.g. classrooms and playgrounds). Schools are viewed as a site of cultural conflict and contestation, between children and adults, who are unequally positioned in terms of power. It is revealed that within school (micro-)spaces varying expectations are placed upon children and adults which encourage particular practices. Actors within the school can contest, resist and potentially transform these 'rules', which are inherently unstable. Due to unequal relationships between children and adults within schools, it is also demonstrated that children are perceived as adults' 'becomings', with childhood viewed as a series of fixed stages of development. The organisation of children in schools reflects this discourse. However, it is also shown that conceptualisations of the 'normally developing child' are socio-spatially shifting, hence there is a variance of the 'norm' by which schools and school micro-spaces are designed. It is argued that the idea of a 'norm' of childhood development is a problematic social construct, given it is shown to conceal the diversity of children's capacities. Consequently, the education institution can be seen to be divided into general and special components, with the Special Educational Needs (SEN) institution diagnosing and treating children who fall outside of (and typically below) 'norms' of development, through an educational medical model of disability. This model is a subset of the individual tragedy model of disability (cf. Oliver, 1993a), representing disability as an 'individual pathology' and emphasising educational or medical intervention and cure. The SEN institution operates heterogeneously through porous school spaces, emphasising that (dis )ability is a sociospatially shifting construct, and this disrupts conceptualisations of disability as an essential, fixed identity positioning.