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[Dis]ordered spaces: The contested landscape of rights, policy and gendered spaces in primary schools

Project Description

Rights in childhood are often perceived as unproblematic and normatively positioned as protective and participatory. However, in a landscape where the rights of trans* and gender non-conforming groups are receiving an increasing focus, rights are once again revealed as being contested, controversial and conflictual. The space of the school toilet and its binary structure is seen as emblematic of wider social and institutional gender regulation. The challenges faced by children and schools in managing toilet spaces and the increasingly contested rights represented by those who access this space, is the focus of this PhD research. This study will encompass a critical analysis of existing policies and guidance for schools, identify and evaluate competing rights discourses of those involved and highlight the perspectives of children and teachers on how conflicting rights to gendered toilet and changing spaces are managed within their schools.

For more information on the supervisors for this project please go to:
Primary Academic Supervisor: Dr Sarah Richards:
Secondary Academic Supervisor: Dr Sarah Coombs:

Type of programme: PhD

Start date of project: January 2020

Mode of study: Full-time

Length of studentship: 3 year funded period

Location: Ipswich Campus

Funding Notes

The University of Suffolk are pleased to offer this project as a fee waiver scholarship. The cost of your PhD fees will be covered by the University, however living costs will need to be considered and accounted for by the candidate. UK/EU only.

First degree: Sociology, Social Policy, Childhood Studies. 2.1 in first degree, and/or MA.


i) Richards, S. & Clark, J. (2018) ‘(Dis)ordered Spaces? Managing the Competing Rights of Children in the Gendered Space of the School Toilet’. Open Access Journal of Reproductive System and Sexual Disorders

ii) Clark, J. Passive, Heterosexual and Female: Constructing Appropriate Childhoods in the Sexualisation of Childhood Debate Sociological Research Online 18(2):3

iii) Richards, S., Clark, J., and Boggis, A., (2015) ‘Ethical Research with Children: Untold Narratives and Taboos’ Palgrave

iv) Clark, J. and Richards, S. (2017) The cherished conceits of research with children? Does seeking the voice of the agentic child in participatory methods deliver what it promises? Sociological Studies of Childhood and Youth, Vol. 22, Emerald Publishing (in association with the ASA)

v) Richards, S. and Clark, J. (2018) ‘Research with Disabled Children’ in Boggis, A. (ed) Disabled Childhoods London: Palgrave Macmillan

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