Between Marginalisation and Agency. Primary School Teachers’ Narratives in London and the Position of Children with Migrant Backgrounds

Federico Farini,

Angela Scollan


Based on qualitative interviews with primary school teachers in Greater London, this article explores teachers’ narratives to uncover how children with migrant backgrounds (CMB) are positioned in the contexts of their learning experience. In particular, the article utilises the analytical category of trust to argue that the position of CMB in teachers’ narratives is related to the form of teachers’ trust. When trust is based on categorical inequalities, CMB are often considered untrustworthy partners construction of the learning and teaching experience. Trust based on categorical inequalities becomes a form of trust in distrust and CMB are positioned in the children’s needs paradigm where decision-making is reserved to teachers who act for them and on their behalf. When trust is based on personal relationships, CMB are positioned as agents who are capable to voice their interests, bringing about consequential changes in the contexts of their experiences. CMB are positioned in the children’s interests paradigm, where agency is expected and promoted as a right of children who are socially constructed as agents who can make a difference with their choices.

Słowa kluczowe: trust, agency, inequality, self-determination, narratives, primary education

Alanen, L. (2001), Conceptualizing Child-Adult Relations, London: Routledge.

Alanen, L. (2009), Generational order, in: J. Qvortrup, W. Corsaro M.S. Honig (Eds.) The Palgrave Handbook of Childhood Studies, Basingstoke: Palgrave, pp. 159–174.

Amadasi, S. and Iervese, V. (2018), The Right to Be Transnational: Narratives and Positionings of Children with a Migration Background in Italy, in: C. Baraldi T. Cockburn (eds.), Theorizing Childhood. London: Sage, pp. 239–262.

Bae, B. (2012), Children and teachers as partners in communication: Focus on spacious and narrow interactional patterns, International Journal of Early Childhood, 44(1), pp. 53–69.

Bamberg, M. and Georgakopoulou, A. (2008), Small Stories as a New Perspective in Narrative and Identity Analysis, Text & Talk, 28, pp. 377–396 

Baraldi, C. (2014), Children’s participation in communication systems: A theoretical perspective to shape research, Soul of Society: A Focus on the Lives of Children and Youth, 18(18), pp. 63–92.

Baraldi, C. (2015), Promotion of migrant children’s epistemic status and authority in early school life, International Journal of Early Childhood, 47(1), pp. 5–25.

Baraldi, C., Ballestri, C., Conti, L., Farini, F., Iervese, V. A. Scollan (2018), SHARMED, Shared Memories and Dialogue. Final Research Report. Retrieved August 19, 2019, from

Baraldi, C., Corsi, G. (2017), Niklas Luhmann. Education as a Social System, London: Springer.

Baraldi, C., Farini, F. (2013) Trust and Facilitation. in: Warming, H. (Ed.) Participation, Citizenship and Trust in Children’s Lives, London: Palgrave Macmillian, pp. 132–153.

Baraldi, C., V. (Eds.), (2012), Participation, facilitation, and mediation. Children and Iervese young people in their social contexts. London/New York: Routledge.

Baraldi, C., Iervese, V. (2014), Observing children’s capabilities as agency, in: D. Stoecklin, J.M. Bonvin (Eds.), Children’s rights and the capability approach. Challenges and prospects, Dordrecht: Springer, pp. 43–65.

Baraldi, C., Iervese, V. (2017), Narratives of memories and dialogue in multicultural classrooms: new challenges. Narrative Inquiry, 27(2), pp. 398–417.

Besozzi, E. (2014), Citizenship/Citizenships: old and new issues for education policies. Italian Journal of Sociology of Education 6(1), pp. 184–218 

Bjerke, H. (2011), It’s the way to do it. Expressions of agency in child-adult relations at home and school, Children, Society, 25(2), pp. 93–103.

Bjork-Willen, P. (2008), Routine trouble: How preschool children participate in multilingual instruction, Applied Linguistics, 29(4), pp. 555–577.

Britzman, D.P. (2007), Teacher education as uneven development: Toward a psychology of uncertainty, International Journal of Leadership in Education, 10(1), pp. 1–12.

Buber, M. (2004), I and Thou. New York: Continuum.

Colombo, M. (2012) From the side of the children. The challenge of childhood studies to sociology of education. Italian Journal of Sociology of Education 4 (3), pp. 138–144.

Davies, B, Harré, R. (1990), Positioning: The discursive production of selves, Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, vol. 20, no. 1, pp. 43–63.

Davies, B.,, Harré, R. (1999), Positioning and personhood. In R. Harré, L. van Langenhove (eds.), Positioning theory: Moral contexts of intentional action, Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 32–52.

Farini, F. (2011), Cultures of education in action: Research on the relationship between interaction and cultural presuppositions regarding education in an international educational setting, Journal of Pragmatics, 43, pp. 2176–2186.

Farini, F. (2019), The paradox of citizenship education in Early Years (and beyond), The case of Education to Fundamental British Values, Journal of Early Childhood Research Faulkner, P. (2015), The Attitude of Trust is Basic, Analysis, 75, pp. 424–429

Farini, F., Scollan, A. (Eds.) (2019a), Children’s Self-determination in the Context of Early Childhood Education and Services: Discourses, Policies and Practices, Amsterdam: Springer Nature. 

Farini, F., Scollan, A. (2019b), In, out and through digital worlds. Hybrid-transitions as a space for children’s agency, International Journal of Early Years Education, 28 (1): 36.

Friesen, J. W. (2013) Personal, Cultural, and Educational Implications of Language Loss/ Transformation: A Canadian Context. Northwest Journal of Teacher Education, 11 (2).

Garcia, E. (1994), Understanding and meeting the challenge of student cultural diversity. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Gergen, K.J. (1997), Who speaks and who replies in human science scholarship? History of the Human Sciences: 10, pp. 151–173.

Giddens, A. (1991) Modernity and Self-Identity. Self and Society in the Late Modern Age. Cambridge Polity.

Harré, R. (2012), Positioning theory: moral dimensions of social-cultural psychology, in: J. Valsiner (Ed.) The Oxford Handbook of Culture and Psychology, pp. 191–206. New York: Oxford University.

Hawley, K. (2014), Trust, Distrust and Commitment. Noûs 48: pp. 1–20.

Harris, F., Kaur, B. (2012), Challenging the notions of partnership and collaboration in early childhood education: A critical perspective from a whãnau class in New Zealand, Global Studies of Childhood, 2 (1), pp. 4–12.

Heritage, J., and Raymond, G. 2005. “The terms of agreement: Indexing epistemic authority and subordination in talk-in-interaction, Social Psychology Quarterly, 68 (1), pp. 15–38.

Holdsworth, R. (2005), Taking young people seriously means giving them serious things to do, in: J. Mason, T. Fattore (Eds.), Children taken seriously. In theory, policy and practice. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Holland, S., O’Neill, S. (2006), We had to be there to make sure it was what we wanted. Enabling children’s participation in family decision-making through the family group conference. Childhood, 13(1), pp. 91–111.

James, A. (2009), Agency, in: J. Qvortrup, G. Valentine, W. Corsaro, M. S. Honig (Eds.), The Palgrave handbook of childhood studies, Basingstoke: Palgrave, pp. 34–45. 

James, A., James, A. (2008), Key concepts in childhood studies, London: Sage.

James, A., Jenks, C., Prout, A. (1998), Theorizing childhood, London: Polity Press.

Karoly, L. A., Gonzales, G. C. (2011), Early care and education for children in immigrant families, The Future of Children, 21(1), pp. 71–101.

Kelman, H. (2005), Building trust among enemies: The central challenge for international conflict resolution. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 29, pp. 639–650.

Kitchen, W.H. (2014) Authority and the teacher, London: Bloomsbury.

Kjørholt, A. T., Qvortrup, J. (Eds.), (2012), The modern child and the flexible labour market. Early childhood education and care, Basingstoke: Palgrave.

Khawaja I., Lerche Mørck, L. (2009), Researcher Positioning: Muslim “Otherness” and beyond, Qualitative Research in Psychology, 6 (1–2), pp. 28–45.

Lansdown, G. (2004), Participation and young children. Early Childhood Matters, 103, pp. 4–14. 

Lansdown, G. (2005), Can you hear me? The right of young children to participate in decisions affecting them (Working Paper 36), The Hague: Bernard Van Leer Foundation.

Lawy, R., Biesta, G. (2006), Citizenship-as-practice: The educational implications of an inclusive and relational understanding of citizenship, British Journal of Educational Studies, 54(1), pp. 34–50.

Linde, C. (2001), Narrative and social tacit knowledge, Journal of Knowledge Management, 5(2), pp. 160–170.

Luhmann, N. (1982) The Differentiation of Society. New York: Columbia University Press.

Luhmann, N. (1988), Familiarity, confidence, trust: Problems and alternatives, in: D. Gambetta (Ed.), Trust: Making and breaking cooperative relations, Oxford: University of Oxford, pp. 94–107.

Luhmann, N. (1991) Risk: A Sociological Theory, Berlin: de Gruyter. 

Markstrom, A. M., Hallden, G. (2009), Children’s strategies for agency in preschool. Children and Society, 23, pp. 112–122.

Matthews, H. (2003), Children and regeneration: Setting and agenda for community participation and integration. Children, Society, 17, pp. 264–276.

Mehan, H. (1979), Learning lessons. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Mercer, J. and Littleton, K. (2007), Dialogue and development of children’s thinking, London/New York: Routledge.

Meighan, R and Siraj-Blatchford, I. (1997) A sociology of educating, London: Continuum.

Moghaddam, F., Harré, R. (2010), Words of Conflict, Words of War: How the language we use in political processes sparks fighting, Santa Barbara: Praeger.

Moosa-Mitha, M. (2005), A difference-centred alternative to theorization of children’s citizenship rights. Citizenship Studies, 9, pp. 369–388.

Moss, P. (2009), There are alternatives! Markets and democratic experimentalism in early childhood education and care, The Hague: Bernard Van Leer Foundation.

Parsons, T., Bales, R. F. (1965), Family, socialization and interaction process, Glencoe: Free Press.

Pascal, C., Bertram, T. (2009), Listening to young citizens: The struggle to make real a participatory paradigm in research with young children, European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 17(2), pp. 249–262.

Percy-Smith, B. (2010), Councils, consultation and community: Rethinking the spaces for children and young people’s participation, Children’s Geographies, 8(2), pp. 107–122.

Qvortrup, J. (1990), Childhood as a Social Phenomenon An Introduction to a Series of National Reports, Vienna: Eurosocial Report, 36/1990.

Riessman, C.K. (1993), Narrative analysis. Newbury Park: Sage

Rogers, C. (1951), Client-centred therapy: Its current practice, implications and theory, Boston: Houghton Mifflin

Rosenwald, G.C., and Ochberg, R.L. (eds.) (1992), Storied Lives: The cultural politics of selfunderstanding. New Haven: Yale University Press

Seele, C. (2012), Ethnicity and early childhood. International Journal of Early Childhood, 44(3), pp. 307–325.

Shapiro, S. (2002), Toward a critical pedagogy of peace education. In G. Salomon, B. Nevo (Eds.), Peace education: The concepts, principles, and practices around the world , Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum, pp. 63–72.

Sinclair, J., Coulthard, M. (1975), Towards an analysis of discourse. The English used by teachers and pupils, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Somers, M. (1994), The narrative constitution of identity: A relational and network approach. Theory and Society, 23 (5), pp. 605–649

Tilly, C. (1998), Durable inequality, Berkeley: University of California Press.

Valentine, K. (2011), Accounting for agency, Children, Society, 25, pp. 347–358.

Vanderstraeten, R. (2000), Autopoiesis and socialization: On Luhmann’s reconceptualization of communication and socialization, British Journal of Sociology, 51(3), pp. 581–598.

Vanderstraeten, R. (2004), The social differentiation of the educational system. Sociology, 38(2), pp. 255–272.

Vanderstraeten, R., Biesta, G. (2006), How is education possible? Pragmatism, communication and the social organisation of education. British Journal of Education Studies, 54(2), pp. 160–174.

Walsh, S. (2011), Exploring classroom discourse: Language in action, New York: Routledge. 

Wehmeyer, M. L., Shogren, K. A., Little, T. D., S.J. Lopez (2017), Introduction to the self-determination construct, in: M. L. Wehmeyer, K. A. Shogren, T. D. Little,, S. J. Lopez (Eds.), Development of self-determination through the life-course, Amsterdam: Springer, pp. 3–16.

Wyness, M. (1999), Childhood, agency and education reform. Childhood, 6(3), pp. 353–368. 

Wyness, M. (2014), Childhood. London: Polity.

Kwartalnik ukazuje się w sposób ciągły on-line.
Pierwotną wersją czasopisma jest wersja elektroniczna publikowana w internecie.