Extending opportunities to participate in learning

Jenny Sprattpost by JENNIFER SPRATT
School of Education, University of Aberdeen

The legacy left by the IQ test is an assumption that human intelligence is an innate and immutable personal attribute, that is normally distributed throughout the population (on a bell-shaped curve). This can be seen to have far reaching effects on the organisation of education as children are categorised according to whether they are thought  to be ‘high ability’, ‘low ability’ or perhaps deemed to have ‘special educational needs’. The presumption that we can make judgements about future ‘potential’ on the evidence of current performance continues to legitimate practices of providing different educational experiences for children according to their perceived ability. Continue reading

Education and equality: A critique of the ‘poverty of aspiration’ agenda

Kim AllenJon Rainfordpost by JON RAINFORD & KIM ALLEN
University of Bedfordshire and Manchester Metropolitan University

A recent post on this blog by Penny-Jane Burke referred to the idea of ‘raising aspirations’ as a central motif of government higher education policy. This discourse of ‘raising aspiration’ endures within recent higher education policy as well as the government’s social mobility agenda and is far from new. It is not only a routine feature of national policy. It also permeates the institutional policies of the full spectrum of higher education institutions. From traditional, elite institutions such as Oxford to newer ones such as Plymouth or Bucks New University, many continue to use the term raising aspiration in promotional material. Continue reading

Respecting Young People’s Informal Learning

Jocey Quinnpost by JOCEY QUINN
Plymouth Institute of Education, Plymouth University

The framework for discussing education and social justice is often limited to the formal settings of nurseries, schools, colleges and universities. However, significant learning takes place beyond these confines: at home, in communities, at work and leisure, through activism and volunteering, in arts and popular culture, in nature and via digital media. Continue reading

Nowhere that fits: the realities of schooling for families of children with SEN

Meanu Bajwa-Patelpost by MEANU BAJWA-PATEL
School of Education, University of Northampton

One of the key aspects of an alternative policy manifesto must be a more practical and comprehensive approach to inclusion in our schools and, ultimately, our society. The Children and Families Act, which recently gained Royal Assent, outlines some changes to the special educational needs and disability (SEND) systems and evaluations of the pilot projects show some positive progress. However, the Act does not impact on the power differentials between parents and professionals within the education system and does nothing to address the lack of knowledge and understanding of SEND present within many schools and local authorities. Continue reading

The construction of student worth in policy enactments – past and present

Meg Maguirepost by MEG MAGUIRE
Professor of Sociology of Education, King’s College London

In the long-standing policies that have centred on grouping children, selecting some for ‘special treatment’ either because they have ‘learning difficulties’ or because they are ‘high ability’ or some such rhetoric of inclusion/exclusion, there is a pattern of continuity, albeit one that shifts its form and some of its practices. Let me start with some examples of these policy workings from the past to illustrate these practices. Jackson and Marsden’s study of eighty-eight working class children demonstrated powerfully ‘how savagely and sadly a school system can become a tenacious self-fulfilling prophecy, cutting talent down in the search for the chosen few’. Continue reading

Social Justice and Evidence-Based Education

Ruth Boyaskpost by RUTH BOYASK
Plymouth University

‘We all share a moral purpose – liberating individuals from ignorance, democratising access to knowledge, making opportunity more equal, giving every child an equal chance to succeed,’ said Michael Gove at last week’s Education Reform summit. This week Nicky Morgan has succeeded Michael Gove, also retaining her post as Minister of Women and adding to it responsibility for Equalities. Evidently those of us involved in the Respecting Children and Young People project share good intentions with the former and current Secretary of State for Education. Continue reading

Students’ voices, democratic schooling and inclusion

Hugh Busherpost by HUGH BUSHER
School of Education, Leicester University

Engaging with students’ voices by listening to the multiplicity of their views on learning and teaching helps teachers to construct learning communities and to tune teaching and learning activities to the social and cognitive needs of students. In giving students some ownership of the educational processes by engaging in dialogues about the limits of choice in constructing teaching and learning to achieve curriculum objectives, in particular socio-economic and policy contexts, teachers encourage students to develop positive and pro-active identities as learners. These discourses demonstrate teachers’ respect for students and help students understand educational decision-making processes, as well as allowing them the opportunity to raise critical questions about those processes, developing and enhancing their skills as citizens and preparing them for adult life. Continue reading

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