Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-tn8tq Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-06-19T01:19:44.506Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Chapter 6 - Excluded Lives

Questions of Agency and Transformation in Practices of Exclusion from School

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 November 2023

Nick Hopwood
University of Technology, Sydney
Annalisa Sannino
Tampere University, Finland
Get access


This chapter problematises questions of agency, transformation and motives in the context of the exclusion of young people from school. It addresses the question: in what ways might young people be agentic in processes of school exclusion and how might that agency be strengthened? In order to explore this question, the chapter draws on recent developments in cultural-historical theories of transformative agency by double stimulation and Bernsteinian insights on cultural transmission and pedagogy. Empirical data from an exploratory study of permanent school exclusions in a southern English city are used to illustrate the theoretical considerations on transformative agency that are emerging from a four-year multidisciplinary comparative study of exclusion, in all its forms, across the four jurisdictions of the UK. Data are also used to explore the concept of the categorisation of exclusions and in the context of understanding the possibilities for young people’s agency in exclusion.

Agency and Transformation
Motives, Mediation, and Motion
, pp. 139 - 161
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Bernstein, B. (1999). Vertical and horizontal discourse: An essay. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 20(2), 157–73. Scholar
Bernstein, B. (2000). Pedagogy, symbolic control and identity: Theory, research, critique (revised edition). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers Inc.Google Scholar
Blunden, A. (2013). Terminology of Marxist psychology. Scholar
Bowker, G. & Star, S.L. (1999). Sorting things out: Classification and its consequences. MIT Press.Google Scholar
Burrell, I. (2012). Plan B returns to his old school sin-bin – but this time as mentor. Scholar
Carlile, A. (2009). Finding space for agency in permanent exclusion from school. Power and Education, 1(3), 259–69. Scholar
Children’s Commissioner for England (2013). ‘Always someone else’s problem’: Office of the Children’s Commissioner’s report on illegal exclusions. Children’s Commissioner for England.Google Scholar
Coffey, J. & Farrugia, D. (2014). Unpacking the black box: The problem of agency in the sociology of youth. Journal of Youth Studies, 17(4), 461–74. Scholar
Cole, T., McCluskey, G., Daniels, H., Thompson, I. & Tawell, A. (2019). Factors associated with high and low levels of school exclusions: Comparing the English and wider UK experience. Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties, 24(4), 374–90. Scholar
Côté, J. (2005). Identity capital, social capital and the wider benefits of learning: Generating resources facilitative of social cohesion. London Review of Education, 3(3), 221–37. Scholar
Côté, J. & Bynner, J. M. (2008). Changes in the transition to adulthood in the UK and Canada: The role of structure and agency in emerging adulthood. Journal of Youth Studies, 11(3), 251–68. Scholar
Daniels, H. (2008). Vygotsky and research. Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Daniels, H., Tse, H. M., Ortega Ferrand, L., Stables, A. & Cox, S. (2019). Changing schools: A study of primary secondary transfer using Vygotsky and Bernstein. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 40(7), 901–21. Scholar
Daniels, H., Cole, T., Sellman, E., Sutton, J., Visser, J. & Bedward, J. (2003). Study of young people permanently excluded from school. Department for Education and Skills.Google Scholar
del Rio, P. & Álvarez, A. (1995). Directivity: The cultural and educational construction of morality and agency: Some questions arising from the legacy of Vygotsky. Anthropology and Education Quarterly, 26(4), 384409. Scholar
Department for Education (DfE). (2017). Exclusion from maintained schools, academies and pupil referral units in England: Statutory guidance for those with legal responsibilities in relation to exclusion. DfE.Google Scholar
Driver, J. (1997). The ethics of intervention. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 57(4), 851–70. Scholar
Emery, H., Porter, J., Daniels, H., Thompson, I. & Tawell, A. (2020). Getting the balance right: Policy recommendations for intervening upstream to prevent school exclusion in the context of Covid-19. Oxford University Department of Education.Google Scholar
Engeström, Y. (1999). Innovative learning in work teams: Analysing cycles of knowledge creation in practice. In Engeström, Y., Mietinnen, R. & Punamäki, R.-L. (Eds.), Perspectives on activity theory (pp. 374404). Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Engeström, Y. (2008). From teams to knots: Activity-theoretical studies of collaboration and learning at work. Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Engeström, Y. (2015). Learning by expanding: An activity-theoretical approach to developmental research (2nd ed.). Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Engeström, Y. (2016). Studies in expansive learning: Learning what is not yet there. Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Engeström, Y. (2018). Expertise in transition: Expansive learning in medical work. Medical work in transition: towards collaborative and transformative expertise. Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Engeström, Y. & Sannino, A. (2010). Studies of expansive learning: Foundations, findings and future challenges. Educational Research Review, 5(1), 124. Scholar
Engeström, Y., Nuttall, J. & Hopwood, N. (2022). Transformative agency by double stimulation: Advances in theory and methodology, Pedagogy, Culture & Society, 30(1), 17. Scholar
Gillett-Swan, J. K. & Lundy, L. (2022) Children, classrooms and challenging behaviour: Do the rights of the many outweigh the rights of the few? Oxford Review of Education, 48(1), 95111. Scholar
Graham, S. & Thrift, N. (2007). Out of order: Understanding repair and maintenance. Theory, Culture and Society, 24(3), 125. Scholar
Grey, J. & Sime, N. (1989). Discipline in schools. In Elton, Lord (Ed.), Discipline in schools: Report of the committee of enquiry chaired by Lord Elton (pp. 222–50). Her Majesty’s Stationery Office.Google Scholar
Hacking, I. (1986). Making up people. In Heller, T., Sosna, M. & Wellbery, D. (Eds.), Reconstructing individualism (pp. 222–36). Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
Hjörne, E. (2005). Negotiating the ‘problem-child’ in school: Child identity, parenting and institutional agendas. Qualitative Social Work, 4(4), 489507. Scholar
Hjörne, E. and Säljö, R. (2004). ‘There is something about Julia’: Symptoms, categories, and the process of invoking Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in the Swedish school – A case study. Journal of Language, Identity, and Education, 3(1), 124. Scholar
Hopwood, N. & Gottschalk, B. (2020). From volitional action to transformative agency: Double stimulation in services for families with young children. Pedagogy, Culture & Society, 30(1), 3552. Scholar
Lamrahi, D., Maitland, H., Morris, C. & Petty, J. (2021). Youth voice on school exclusions. The Children’s Society.Google Scholar
Mäkitalo, A. & Säljö, R. (2002). Talk in institutional context and institutional context in talk: Categories as situated practices. Interdisciplinary Journal for the Study of Discourse, 22(1), 5782. Scholar
McCluskey, G., Cole, T., Daniels, H., Thompson, I. & Tawell, A. (2019). Exclusion from school in Scotland and across the UK: Contrasts and questions. British Educational Research Journal, 45(6), 1140–59. Scholar
Mills, M., Riddell, S. & Hjörne, E. (2014). After exclusion what? International Journal of Inclusive Education, 19(6), 561–7. Scholar
Morselli, D. & Sannino, A. (2021). Testing the model of double stimulation in a change laboratory. Teaching and Teacher Education, 97, 103224. Scholar
Nuttall, J. (2020). Formative interventions and the ethics of double stimulation for transformative agency in professional practice. Pedagogy, Culture & Society, 30(1), 111–28. Scholar
Parsons, C. (2003) School exclusion: The will to punish. British Journal of Educational Studies, 53(2), 187211. Scholar
Raby, R. (2005). What is resistance? Journal of Youth Studies, 8(2), 151–71. Scholar
Reay, D. & Wiliam, D. (1999). ‘I’ll be a nothing’: Structure, agency and the construction of identity through assessment. British Educational Research Journal, 25(3), 343–54. Scholar
Sannino, A. (2015a). The emergence of transformative agency and double stimulation: Activity-based studies in the Vygotskian tradition. Learning, Culture and Social Interaction, 4, 13. Scholar
Sannino, A. (2015b). The principle of double stimulation: A path to volitional action. Learning, Culture and Social Interaction, 6, 115. Scholar
Sannino, A. (2016). Double stimulation in the waiting experiment with collectives: Testing a Vygotskian model of the emergence of volitional action. Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science, 50(1), 142–73. ScholarPubMed
Sannino, A. (2022). Transformative agency as warping: How collectives accomplish change amidst uncertainty. Pedagogy, Culture & Society, 30(1), 933. Scholar
Sannino, A. & Engeström, Y. (2018). Cultural-historical activity theory: Founding insights and new challenges. Cultural-historical Psychology, 14(3), 4356. Scholar
Sannino, A., Engeström, Y. & Lemos, M. (2016). Formative interventions for expansive learning and transformative agency. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 25, 599633. Scholar
Schuller, T., Hammond, C. & Preston, J. (2004). Reappraising benefits. In Schuller, T., Preston, J., Hammond, C., Brassett-Grundy, A. & Bynner, J. (Eds.), The benefits of learning: The impact of education on health, family life and social capital (pp. 179–93). RoutledgeFalmer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Schwartz, S., Côté, J. & Arnett, J. (2005). Identity and agency in emerging adulthood: Two developmental routes in the individualization process. Youth and Society, 37, 201–29. Scholar
Stetsenko, A. (2019). Radical-transformative agency: Continuities and contrasts with relational agency and implications for education. Frontiers in Education, 4(Article 148), 113. Scholar
Thompson, I., Tawell, A. & Daniels, H. (2021). Conflicts in professional concern and the exclusion of pupils with SEMH in England. Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties, 26(1), 3145. Scholar
Tsjeng, Z. (2021). Top Boy’s Jasmine Jobson: From ‘the most difficult child in Westminster’ to Netflix. Scholar
Valdebenito, S., Eisner, M., Farrington, D. P., Ttofi, M. M. & Sutherland, A. (2018). School-based interventions for reducing disciplinary school exclusion: A systematic review. Campbell Systematic Reviews, 1.Google ScholarPubMed
Virkkunen, J. (2006). Dilemmas in building shared transformative agency. Activités, 3(1), 4366. Scholar
Vygotsky, L. S. (1931). The history of the development of the higher mental functions. In Rieber, R. W. (Ed.), The collected works of L.S. Vygotsky. Vol. 4 (pp. 2782). Plenum Press.Google Scholar
Vygotsky, L. S. (1987). The collected works of L.S. Vygotsky. Vol. 1: Problems of general psychology, including the volume Thinking and Speech. Plenum Press.Google Scholar
Wertsch, J. V. (2007). Mediation. In Daniels, H., Cole, M. & Wertsch, J. V. (Eds.), The Cambridge companion to Vygotsky (pp. 178–92). Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Willis, P. (1977). Learning to labour: How working class kids get working class jobs. Saxon House.Google Scholar
Yaroshevsky, M. (1989). Lev Vygotsky. Progress Publishers.Google Scholar

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats