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Author: Emily Lau

This is a study of a school-based volunteering programme; an ethnography of six girls enrolled onto the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme (DofE) at their secondary school in a deprived coastal community in the United Kingdom. Building on voluntary sector research into young people’s volunteering and feminist research into the systematic gender inequalities created by school structures, this article explores how often young people were coerced into school-based volunteering and how, in this case, the coercion was gendered. The researcher observed how the school’s prefect group, based on relations with school leaders and teachers, were recruited onto the DofE and then divided by gendered norms that ensured the girls and boys volunteered with different motivations and were incentivised and rewarded differently. Classed and gendered constructed identities, reinforced by school structures and practices, were evident in gendered school duties and caring responsibilities given to the girls. This article raises important considerations for voluntary sector–school partnerships that aim to empower and improve student opportunities. In this study, rather than challenge and empower young people, school-based volunteering served to reproduce societal classed and gendered inequalities.

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