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Pupils or prisoners? Institutional geographies and internal exclusion in UK secondary schools

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A growing interest in the geographies of schooling has led to an exploration of a variety of school spaces. An increasing number of secondary schools offer internal fixed-term exclusions so that temporary removal from school is not seen as ‘time off’ for students. This particular strategy has led to the creation of a new type of space in schools. Drawing upon research undertaken in a London secondary school, this paper explores the geography of these new secluded spaces. We highlight that the configuration of physical space in Seclusion Units and the regulation of spatial practices create highly controlled and segregated spaces of punishment. We explore the powerful transformative effects of these spaces to change students' behaviour, social interaction and attitudes to learning. However, rather than simply creating docile subjects, we recognise that domination is never complete and we explore the extent and the limit of student resistance to the discipline and control of the Seclusion Unit.

Keywords: discipline; exclusion; punishment; school; young people

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Centre for Human Geography, School of Health Sciences and Social Care, Brunel University, Uxbridge, Middlesex UB8 3PH 2: School of Sport and Education, Brunel University, Uxbridge, Middlesex UB8 3PH, Email:

Publication date: September 1, 2010


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