Further education and mental health during the pandemic: the moral impasse of meritocracy

Jonathan Gadsby, Rob Smith*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    1 Citation (SciVal)


    Since 2010, government policy in England has positioned further education almost exclusively as employment-orientated training for school leavers whilst also imposing severe budget cuts. During this period, values-based pedagogies that foreground social justice for students, many of whom come from low-income households, have been undermined. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, there is evidence that the mental health and well-being of further education students has suffered but little is known about the pandemic?s effects on teachers. This paper presents analysis of primary research data drawn from interviews with a small sample of further education teachers and managers in the English West Midlands about their mental health and well-being during the pandemic. The paper frames the research data by acknowledging that both mental health nursing and further education teaching are currently riven by contradictions with an epistemological basis anchored in meritocratic and neoliberal policy. Using Lefebvrian theory, our analysis suggests that for further education staff, the pandemic has sharpened the tensions experienced in an already precarious professional role. Key findings were that the further education funding regime drove a ?business as usual? management attitude during the pandemic, and an intensification of work and the erosion of pedagogical practice negatively affected staff?s mental health.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalResearch Papers in Education
    Publication statusPublished (VoR) - 24 May 2023


    • further education
    • Lefebvre
    • Mental health
    • meritocracy


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