‘…the bullying and more exams/stress…I can’t handle it anymore. I had counselling for depression and home troubles’: exploring the influences of different Foucauldian discourse ‘stumbling-blocks’ on girls’ negotiation of the ‘academic credentials’ discourse during the examination years of secondary school – a longitudinal perspective

Helen Fisher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This article uses longitudinal case study data from 21 girls to explore the negotiation of the dominant ‘academic credentials’ discourse during the public examination years in five English secondary schools. It identifies girls who were successfully negotiating the discourse (either by prioritising it, or balancing it with their social lives), before focusing on a sub-sample of 10 girls. This sub-sample, predominantly from White British and/or lower-income families, were - to varying degrees - struggling to successfully negotiate this dominant discourse because of feelings of hopelessness; or a lack of time and/or heightened anxiety.
Using a Foucauldian theoretical framework, the data revealed how unresolved/partially unresolved ‘stumbling-blocks’ (and part-‘resistances’ which became ‘stumbling-blocks’) which were linked to other past/present discourses, were accumulating and ‘interlocking’ negatively with the girls’ current negotiation of the ‘academic credentials’ discourse. The article recommends heightened awareness of the accumulation of different discourse ‘stumbling blocks’; a reduction in the power of dominant peer-led discourses, of which settings have some control; and the use of individualised discourse profiling to encourage early intervention.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
Publication statusSubmitted - 27 Apr 2020


  • ‘academic credentials’; reformed GCSEs; lower-income families; White British; Foucauldian discourse stumbling-blocks; Foucauldian discourse ‘interlocking

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