Newly appointed Swansea University lecturer wins Society for Educational Studies book prize

A newly appointed Swansea University lecturer has been granted a prestigious award by the Society for Educational Studies.

Dr Michael R.M Ward, a social scientist who is based in the College of Health and Human Sciences, has won a highly commended prize for his ethnographic book From Labouring to Learning: Working-class Masculinities, Education and De-Industrialization, which was published in 2015 by Palgrave Macmillan.

In the book, Ward explores how economic changes and the growing importance of educational qualifications in a shirking labour market, particularly affects marginalized young men. Over a two and half year period, Ward followed a large group of young working-class men living in a de-industrialized community in the South Wales Valleys. The young men were shadowed from their last week of compulsory schools, through their post-16 educational pathways, and up until some of the young men started university. Ward spent time as an active participant in school lessons, playgrounds, assemblies, dinner halls and parents evenings in order to understand their school lives. In order to provide a more meaningful and deeper understanding of their lives, as the young men grew older, Ward also followed them beyond the school gates. Other regions of their lives included ‘hanging out’ in the cars they drove, the fast food places they ate in, the pubs and nightclubs they drank and danced in, university open days,  and their places of work. Ward was also invited to attend sports events, to go to social occasions such as shopping, the cinema and 18th birthday parties. On one occasion this also included a visit to a lap dancing club.

From Labouring to Learning challenges commonly held representations that often appear in the media and policy discourses which portray young men on the margins of society as feckless, out of control and educational failures and lacking aspiration. Ward shows that for a group of young men in a community of social and economic deprivation, expectations and transitions to adulthood are shaped through the industrial legacy of the region. This legacy has an impact on class and gender codes and what it means to be a man and what behaviour is deemed acceptable and what is not. This then plays a huge part in educational decisions making and future life chances.

The prize was awarded for the books quality of research, the originality of analysis and argument and the way it connected theoretical and academic considerations in educational studies, with implications for educational policy and practice. Ward was also applauded for his quality and accessibility of writing.

The award was announced in the Times Higher Education newspaper on 10th November 2016.