It is not new news that every year a significant number of young people are eased out, pushed out and kicked out of school. Along the way to permanent exclusion, and the likelihood of becoming a ‘NEET’ statistic, these young people may well have yelled out, acted out, and have walked out of the school gates, vowing never to return. The school system attributes their behaviour variously to: faulty neurological functioning; impaired cognitive/emotional capacity; inadequate parenting; feral peers and/or disconnected and depressed communities. Expert knowledges and specialist staff are brought to bear on these young people in order to ‘support’ them to learn to regulate themselves within the school. Continue reading Ensuring and assuring an educational entitlement for the ‘hard to reach and teach’.
The history of English education is very much a history of social class and the 1944 Education Act, the wartime government’s response to the great evil of ignorance, did little to interrupt that history, rather it brought about a very modest loosening of the relationship between social class and educational opportunity. This was partly in relation to the raising of the school leaving age and partly by allowing some working class students access to grammar schooling via the 11+ examination system. Continue reading Education, justice and democracy: the struggle over ignorance and opportunity
Respect was, is, and always will be the cornerstone of any meaningful attempt at dialogue. It is therefore apposite that BERA has put respect at the heart of designing a future we have not yet realised. It is also pertinent that the voice of the young should take centre stage in this endeavour. Try as we may, we are not young people and we cannot know what they are thinking, experiencing and feeling unless we make serious efforts to really listen to them. Sometimes when we attempt to engage in debates about young people, often polar views are presented: if only youth would listen to the sage advice of experience there would be no problem. Continue reading Respecting Young People: Learning from the Past
Increasing the representation of women in STEM education and employment has been a long-term policy goal of both the Labour and Coalition governments. They have been motivated by concerns over equity in the STEM workforce and about maintaining national economic competitiveness. Initiatives to increase women’s participation in STEM began before these policies with feminist activism in the 1980s. The approaches developed there have continued, within organisations such as WISE (Women Into Science and Engineering), alongside corporate and policy schemes. Continue reading Gender and STEM
Background – the issue
Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) are widely recognised as crucial for the UK’s economic prosperity[i]. It is broadly accepted that there is a need to increase the number of people studying and working in (STEM) at all levels[ii]. Although debates remain over how many future scientists the economy needs[iii], there is substantial concern, particularly from government and employers, about a growing STEM skills gap. Continue reading Social Class, Ethnicity and STEM Participation
Girls remain largely absent from educational discourse, eclipsed by an ongoing media and policy obsession with the ‘boys underachievement debate’. The concern is now on the lower achievement of boys, particularly African Caribbean and white working-class boys and, more recently, in the wake of the Trojan Horse fiasco in Birmingham, the threat of Islamic extremism among Muslim boys. The ‘post feminist’ complacency that there has been an overall improvement in the performance of girls in schools, which is seen at the expense of boys, masks the real educational difficulties faced by girls from working-class minority ethnic backgrounds. Continue reading Are girls losing out? Educational issues for Muslim, black and minority ethnic migrant girls
A critical interrogation of policy texts suggest that the way in which education policymakers understand young people’s lives is often problematic – tending to value them largely for their future contribution to society, and stressing the importance of duty rather than more questioning, critical and creative contributions that young people may make. In this short article, I suggest that, in the run-up to the 2015 election, politicians need to be pushed to articulate their understanding of ‘youth’ more clearly and encouraged to place more value on the diversity of contributions young people can make – in the here and now – to wider society. Continue reading Education policymakers’ understanding of young people
The school curriculum has been a central issue for social justice since the start of state education. From the distinct curricula of class-divided Victorian schools, the move towards a common currriculum has been uncertain and problematic. Even after 1945 divisions were continued, posited on the myth of genetic intellectual differences.
The spread of comprehensive schools, and the school leaving age raised to 16, created new possibilities around the 1970s. Innovations supported by LEAs and the Schools Council emphasised more investigative and engaged approaches to learning and a greater connectedness to daily life. Bridges were built from young people’s experience to high-status knowledge. Continue reading Social justice: a common curriculum
A socially just educational system is one premised on the maxim that a good education is the democratic right of all rather than a prize to be competitively fought over. It is also one which seeks to value and enhance children’s well-being as well as their intellectual growth. Yet, current education policy has intensified educational cruelties in schooling. There are many examples but my research has focussed on two in particular. First, testing regimes in primary schools has shown that assessment procedures have powerful effects on how students come to see themselves as learners. Continue reading Socially just education
More than forty years ago, Basil Bernstein rightly pointed out that ‘education cannot compensate for society’. Then, in 1997, an early critic of New Labour’s attainment targets argued that a serious programme to alleviate child poverty would do far more for school attainment than any modest intervention in schooling itself. Yet politicians still seem to expect schools to equalise life chances in a stratified society. Continue reading Schools, society and social justice