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Inclusion across borders: young immigrants in France and England

Welply, O.

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Globalisation and migration have brought new challenges to education in the past decades, raising questions about how schools can promote inclusion within contexts of increased diversity (Vertovec and Wessendorf, 2009). The concept of inclusive education itself remains contested with different meanings across national contexts. This makes a comparative focus on inclusion particularly relevant to understanding different languages of inclusion and the ways in which these are articulated across national and institutional contexts. This article examines these challenges to inclusive education through a comparative lens, by looking at the identity narratives of children from immigrant backgrounds in primary schools in France and England. Drawing on data from a cross-national ethnographic study which investigated the experiences of 10 and 11 year old children of immigrants in two primary schools (one in France and one in England), it investigates the way children negotiated linguistic, ethnic, cultural and religious differences as part of their identities in school. It explores the interplay between the children’s representations of school as an institution (formal spaces), children’s collective narratives of ‘difference’ and ‘Otherness’ (social imaginary in informal spaces) and children’s individual forms of positioning (identity narratives). This article shows how, despite contrasting approaches to inclusive education (“indifference to differences” in the French school and recognition of differences in the English school), children’s experiences of inclusion/ exclusion presented strong points of convergence across countries. It was less dependent on school approaches to inclusion than on children’s capacity to understand “contextual clues” (Gumperz and Roberts, 1990) and implicit expectations from teachers and school values. This holds implications for thinking about the mechanisms of inclusive education and their implementation across institutional contexts.


Welply, O. (2020). Inclusion across borders: young immigrants in France and England. Forum for international research in education, 6(1), 40-63.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 18, 2019
Publication Date 2020
Deposit Date Oct 18, 2019
Publicly Available Date Jan 23, 2020
Journal Forum of International Research in Education
Publisher FIRE
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 6
Issue 1
Pages 40-63


Published Journal Article (231 Kb)

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Reproduction, posting, transmission or other distribution or use of the article or any material therein, in any medium as permitted by a personal-use exemption or by written agreement of FIRE: Forum for International Research in Education, requires credit to FIRE: Forum for International Research in Education as copyright holder (e.g., FIRE: Forum for International Research in Education © 2018). This is roughly equivalent to a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-NoDerivs License (CC BY-NC-ND).

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