Care in the Leaving Certificate assemblage: an ethnography to identify and trace affective flows and their impacts in the Leaving Certificate year at an all-boys school

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Kealy, Annemarie
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University College Cork
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The Senior Cycle of second-level education in Ireland is organised around a series of examinations introduced by a colonial government in 1878 and now known as the Leaving Certificate Examination (LCE). More recently, the Code of Professional Conduct for Teachers (Teaching Council, 2007, 2012, 2016) named care as an ethical value underpinning teaching. This thesis, then, is about the interplay of care and the Leaving Certificate Examination in one academic year- 2013-14. An ethnographic study was undertaken at St. Raphael’s boys’ school in Southern Ireland. It included observation of Leaving Certificate students and their teachers in academic classes. Teachers, including the principal, were interviewed separately while students participated in individual interviews and focus groups. That methodological process is detailed in Chapter 5. Building on feminist humanist, structuralist and poststructuralist understandings of care in education, affect theory conceptualises Leaving Certificate Examination (LCE) policy, practice and experience. Rather than a terminal local school event, LCE is conceived as an assemblage of local, national and international force relations shaping human and non-human bodies about the examination. It is explained in Chapter 4 as a Leaving Certificate Assemblage (LCAS). Assemblage identifies how multiple, interconnecting, and shifting force relations – and the bodies, materialities, and affects associated with these - shaped what was cared about and what kinds of students could be cared for. These force relations or flows are defined as policy, temporality, material, ghosted, and media flows. Their impacts on assemblage bodies are discussed in three findings chapters – Chapters 6, 7 and 8. They focus separately on (1) the affective environment of the Leaving Certificate Assemblage, (2) teachers’ becoming, and (3) three student bodies-Stephen, Thomas, and Kyle- and their becoming. Overall, four key LCAS concerns were identified. These were the LCE, suicide prevention and well-being promotion, order and scarcity. These are discussed in the concluding Chapter 9. These findings are significant. They capture the complicated interaction of national and international policies with institutional and individual ethics, desires and practices as they enfold and manifest in particular moments of experience. They suggest that intentional care for educational endeavour requires decisions about (1) how learning and well-being aims can be better negotiated and articulated to increase the second-level system’s capacity to care for all students and teachers in the present and into the future; (2) how financial funding to resource comprehensive care for students and their teachers can be achieved and maintained to support the learning and well-being of all; (3) the nature of the order that best supports students, teachers and schools and how that might be achieved in ways that also promote learning and well-being.  
Leaving Certificate , Care , Affect theory , Ethnography , Boys secondary school , Affective impact , Feminist research , Education policy , Wellbeing , Suicide
Kealy, A. 2022. Care in the Leaving Certificate assemblage: an ethnography to identify and trace affective flows and their impacts in the Leaving Certificate year at an all-boys school. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.