Author Archives: Gary Walsh

Neoliberalism and the family: a question of ethics⤴

from @ curriculum for equity

Reclaiming Schools

by Pam Jarvis, Reader in Childhood, Youth and Education, Leeds Trinity University

tiger-mum-2

Long before my university post, and even before I was a classroom teacher, I was a young mother in Thatcher’s Britain. In my mid-twenties, I had three small children, including twins, with less than three years between them, Thatcher’s policy for children under five was that they were their parents’ responsibility, so as we had no family close by to share childcare, I became a sort of stay at home mum until my oldest daughter was ten. I say ‘sort of’ because I started my first degree with the Open University, and began teaching adults in community education on a very part time basis directly after graduation.

It is difficult to communicate how different things were then; as L. P. Hartley says in The Go Between (1953)

‘the past is a foreign country; they do things differently there’.

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Curriculum for equity: the journey so far⤴

from @ curriculum for equity

Curriculumforequity_hashtag

by Gary Walsh

The intention of this post is to summarise some of the insights shared on the Curriculum for Equity platform to date and to suggest some themes to focus on going forward.

I created the Curriculum for Equity website and Twitter account towards the end of 2015. Part of the motivation for doing it was a frustration that in Scotland we seem to be constructing an understanding of equity in education that is framed in terms of academic attainment at the expense of other issues. While attainment is important, I am concerned that this is a very narrow understanding of equity that could divert attention away from vital precursors to equity such as social justice, rights and democracy.

In their literature review, Woods et al (2013) describe the tendency of education policy makers to construct this narrow understanding of equity:

“…policy on school leadership and equity has, in fact, been implemented by governments as a means to identify and exclude factors that inhibit national education performance, which is measured through PISA to produce performance league tables for international comparison (OECD, 2010). The standards agenda is, arguably, incompatible with the account of equity as the reduction of social injustices that affect people’s lives… [it] creates a spurious meritocracy that favours the interests of middle class pupils.” (Woods et al 2013, 16)

The idea of the website Twitter account then is to share relevant research, news articles and other bits of content that are relevant to educational equity in the wider (and arguably, correct) sense.

Each of the website’s contributors have outlined some of the approaches and ways of thinking that are needed to achieve equity in education.

Dr Avis Glaze emphasised the importance of teacher quality among other key components. Ken Cunningham CBE cautioned against the language of ‘closing gaps’ and the risk it poses of leading us down various rabbit holes. George Gilchrist reminded us of the social factors and broader structures (including educational ones) that can disadvantage some learners. Jackie Brock challenged us to be ambitious and realise that innovative community partnership approaches and support for a range of other practical measures are needed, including learning through play in the early years, support for parents and teachers, building on successes and reducing bureaucracy. Mandy Davidson reflected on her role as a teacher and the importance of relationships in achieving equity. Ed Cadwallader suggested that the ambition of achieving equity is actually a form of ‘social engineering’ and that we should not be afraid to consider it as such.

All of these perspectives informed my recent piece for the website, in which I suggested that we need to reconsider the meaning of equity and the role of values in our education system, and that we should actively challenge the politicisation of education and other forms of systematic injustice.

What is particularly encouraging is that many of the contributions and indeed the principles guiding Curriculum for Equity can be located in relevant research. For instance, Smyth (2004) outlines the idea of a ‘socially just school’, which is reminiscent of some of the website contributions. They are schools that

  • articulate their purposes;
  • advance a concern for social injustice;
  • continually (re)focus around learning;
  • pursue a culture of innovation;
  • enact democratic forms of practice;
  • are community minded;
  • display educative forms of leadership; and
  • engage in critical literacies

While this initially looks hopeful, Smyth notes that this is not an easy fix: he finds that progress in schools that use this approach can be hampered by two related factors. The first is when schools are operating within a neoliberal policy arena, which itself is a direct cause of social injustice and can undermine the efforts of schools. The second is when teachers and school leaders have a limited understanding of what social justice actually involves, despite their commitment to the rhetoric of social justice, thereby limiting their abilities to enact approaches that could help to achieve it.

Regarding the latter, Smyth’s concern is when teachers are compelled, often by policy makers, to adopt an understanding of social justice that locates the ‘deficit’ in pupils themselves rather than in policy or the education system. His research suggests that this can result in teachers focusing on approaches that aim to compensate for the perceived cultural or psychological deficits of disadvantaged children and young people (’emotional intelligence’ is given as an example). The aim of such interventions is to increase the abilities of children and young people to ‘decode the system’ and become ‘successful consumers and entrepreneurs of schooling’, thereby allowing them access to the kind of relationships and social capital that are needed for success – something that their more privileged peers tend to be able to do without much effort.

In other words, achieving equity and social justice is understood in terms of ‘fixing the kids’ and not ‘fixing the system’. In such cases, school curricula tend to be designed around the needs of the education system instead of the needs of children and young people.

If we were to lead the equity drive by taking systemic, cultural, social and political factors into account, challenging them where necessary, that would mean something very different to focusing purely on the ‘poverty-related attainment gap’, which risks presenting the abilities of children as the problem. It would challenge us to tackle the opportunity gap and to ask critical and potentially uncomfortable questions such as:

  • Why do we continue with ability grouping in Scotland when research strongly suggests that it can add to the disadvantage experienced by many children?
  • How can we better connect educational research and educational policy in Scotland? Evidence suggests that doing so may improve educational equity.
  • What do we do if policy makers succumb to the lure of a ‘market-based’ education system? Evidence suggests that this would further endanger educational equity.
  • How do we construct a version of ‘educational leadership for equity’ that foregrounds issues of social justice, rights and democracy? Distributed Leadership for Equity and Learning could be an example.
  • Related to above, how do we create the kind of structures and cultures in which teachers’ knowledge and agency can develop, particularly around the cause of equity?

Perhaps these are the kind of questions that the Curriculum for Equity platform could help us to explore.

I hope that the website continues to evolve and perhaps even makes a difference to education and ultimately to children and young people in Scotland. At the moment the intention is to keep it as an unofficial space for dialogue, learning and what Stephen Ball (2015) refers to as a “site of struggle” and a platform for “fearless speech”. Feedback and comments received so far seem to indicate that this approach is the right one to take – it is feedback such as this that emboldens these efforts.

It has proven to be an illuminating and worthwhile experience so far. Thank you to everybody involved!

About the author

Gary is the creator of the Curriculum for Equity website. Click here for more information.


The Scottish Government’s holistic education policy: a story of profound success or failure?⤴

from @ curriculum for equity

Paul Cairney: Politics & Public Policy

The Scottish Government experience of education can give us all a profound lesson, but I’m not yet sure what that lesson will be. The positive lesson might be that you can have a holistic approach to education provision, which has a strategy for childcare, early years, and schools that support further and higher education policy effectively. In particular, its key aim is to address inequality in attainment from a very early age, to solve one driver of unequal access to higher education. More people have a chance of a place at University and higher education remains free.

The negative lesson might be that if you don’t solve the problem at an early stage, your other policies look regressive and reinforce inequalities. Instead of seeing a government committed in a meaningful way to reducing educational inequalities throughout a life course, we see government hubris in one area supporting a vote-chasing and…

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Scottish education: sleepwalking into the abyss⤴

from @ curriculum for equity

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by Gary Walsh

I am writing this post as a challenge to the narrative developing in Scottish education circles at the moment. I believe that we are in danger of sleepwalking into an abyss of ill-conceived period of reform based on an impoverished understanding of the purposes of education, confusion about the meaning of equity in that context, and a politicisation of the education system the like of which we have not seen in generations.

The Scottish Curriculum for Excellence was developed and indeed heralded as a radical programme for educational transformation. The original CfE document (published in 2004) remains the most purposeful document available to us. I would like to suggest that now would be the perfect time for the underpinning values of CfE and the Four Capacities to be reviewed and updated.

A lot has happened since 2004 and indeed the ‘National Conversation’ that preceded the CfE document. The global economic crisis of 2008 happened. The 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum happened. Now Brexit and Trump have happened. All of these represent key challenges that have tested and will continue to test Scottish society. The world is going through a phase of mass disruptive change: politically, socially, ecologically, economically and culturally. We are faced with some of the greatest challenges of our times including global inequality, climate change, social conflict and lack of cohesion, a failing economic system, as well as rises in global terrorism and right-wing political agendas.

This presents many challenges for education and lifelong learning, not least in terms of uncertainties about funding, leadership and administration, but it poses fundamental questions that have a direct impact on the purpose and meaning of education and learning itself: what is worth knowing and doing? What kind of world should we be trying to create? In an age of anger, mistrust and fear, how can education and lifelong learning help to cultivate compassion, trust and collective action? If ‘it takes a village to raise a child’, what kind of village, and how can it be done? What is the vision for society that we are aspiring towards?

The values that are inscribed onto the ornamental mace at the Scottish Parliament that apparently define not only CfE but the principles of society and democracy itself –  wisdom, justice, compassion and integrity – are fine words. I am astonished however by the number of people I have spoken with in recent years who do not know where these words came from. In a 2006 paper entitled ‘A Curriculum for Excellence: A Question of Values‘, Donald Gillies points out the truth which is that the values were chosen by the silversmith who designed the mace. Gillies suggests that this puts the whole basis of CfE, and the claims that it is designed around the principle of democracy, in doubt.

The slogans we call the Four Capacities – confident individuals, responsible citizens, effective contributors and successful learners – are certainly not beyond question either. Where did they come from and what do they mean? What vision of society are we expecting children and young people to confidently, responsibly, successfully and effectively contribute towards? Without a coherent vision for the kind of society we are aiming to create, the Four Capacities are meaningless.

Donald Trump arguably possesses all of the Four Capacities. He is certainly a confident individual. He is extremely effective in what he contributes. He has successfully learned how to do so. Is he a responsible citizen? A majority of the American electorate seem to think he is.

Mark Priestley and Walter Humes simply ask this of the Four Capacities: “Would it make much difference if the capacities were given as effective learners, responsible individuals, successful citizens and confident contributors?” (Priestley & Humes, 2010: 351)

It seems vital that we continue to develop and further embed CfE. The first step should be to scrutinise the Four Capacities (if not drop them completely) and re-visit the place of values by opening up a long-term dialogue about the meaning and purposes of education in Scotland.

There are many sources of inspiration that could help us to do just that. Professor Stephen Ball articulates the requirements for educative schooling and the education of democratic citizens as being “concerned with literacies for active, local and global citizenship, including a critical view of the world of work”, a “responsibility to contribute to the development of “high energy democracy” (Unger, 1994) in ways which draw upon ‘narratives of human possibility’” and a rethinking of “the relationship between education and opportunity, equity, and wellbeing”. (Ball, 2013: 26)

I would add social justice to that final list. We haven’t even begun to tap into the possibility of developing a shared understanding of these kinds of ideas. We could open up an empowering dialogue around the question of purpose, principles and values in Scottish education, and it would be especially fascinating to learn what children and young people think. Having developed a shared sense of purpose, we should then put our trust in the professional abilities of teachers, researchers, youth workers and lecturers to help us realise our ambitions, instead of allowing a situation to develop where they are completely entrapped by top-down bureaucracies. I am advocating that everybody – educators, children, young people and communities – can bring their collective knowledge, experience and expertise to the table and that together we can ignite education from the ground up.

Instead of clarifying our thinking around CfE and the purposes of education, we are currently doing the opposite. We are getting further and further away from the original intentions of CfE: so much so that its principles can scarcely be located in the National Improvement Framework. We are no longer engaged in a process of radical transformation – if indeed we ever were. Instead we are set to become entangled with a shambolic programme of standardised assessments and yet more benchmarks that will attempt to specify everything but will ultimately mean very little. 

A recent Statement for Practitioners from Education Scotland references the CfE principles and values, unchanged from the original 2004 document, in the appendix! Make no mistake about it: the bigger picture is not at the forefront of policy-makers’ minds. We have moved on from discovering and questioning the principles of education. We are now dealing in a crude game of gaps, numbers, graphs, comparisons, data and outcomes, all of which are politically driven and motivated by a desire for marginal gains designed to appease voters, in which the principles and purposes of Scottish education could be lost for a generation.

Which leads me on to the issue of equity. The narrow focus we currently have on the ‘Attainment Gap’ rather crassly presents poverty as a technical challenge to be counter-acted by increasing the effectiveness of teaching and assessment strategies. There is no doubt that effective teaching is part of the solution, but it must be understood in the overall context which is that teachers and pupils are working in the some of the most socially unjust circumstances in Western Europe.

Educational equity does not simply mean that everybody should get five Highers. If we are serious about equity being one of the core purposes of education we need to think way beyond academic attainment. Equity is about fairness, justice and inclusion. It is about ensuring that education serves to enhance the wellbeing of all of us and not just a few of us. It is about understanding and challenging the broader structures of power that serve to perpetuate various categories of inequality.

How then do we achieve equity in education? Here are some thoughts as a starter-for-ten:

  • All educators should be empowered and encouraged to actively advocate and campaign for the rights of children and young people, illuminating and challenging the unjust circumstances in which so many children and young people are living. This would involve supporting teachers, for instance, in refining their understanding of children’s rights and social justice issues, and being equipped with an in-depth understanding of the material and psychological impact of poverty on children and families. I would argue that the contents of courses such as Edinburgh University’s BA in Childhood Practice and University of Glasgow’s MSc in Youth Studies should be standard issue for all educators.
  • We need to develop a broader narrative that goes beyond issues of effectiveness in education. The pressures and disadvantages of ‘performativity’ in education are well documented. This means constantly revisiting the values, principles, purposes and meaning of education – and trusting educators to act on the basis of those principles, not just in response to targets, benchmarks and/or Key Performance Indicators.
  • Education policy should be understood as part of a broader project of social change. This means aligning education policy in concert with other policies that are designed to create equity across the system more generally and, vitally, eradicating poverty. The only way to do this is by implementing progressive policies that are designed to redistribute wealth more equally across society. In keeping with that overall mission, education policy should be developed on the basis of a social, humanistic model rather than an industrial/accountability model (these points are further argued here as part of the Common Weal Policy Lab on education and inequality).
  • During a period of politicisation of education, educators should be free to ‘get political’ in their responses. We cannot escape the fact that public state education will always be political. There are many educators in Scotland who would quietly subscribe to the theories of Critical Pedagogy and Critical Democratic Education – but I would argue that the associated practices are notably absent in Scottish education. We have a well-meaning but ultimately subservient group of professionals who are desperately trying to make things better by working within the confines of the status quo. We need more people who are willing to speak out against injustices, mis-guided political tinkering and anything else that is clearly not in the best interests of the children, young people and communities that education is supposed to serve.
  • We need a much more diverse group of professionals working in education (institutions and policy making) and a more diverse educational offer. Teachers and education policy makers tend to be people for whom education has ‘worked’. They have made such a success of it that they return to it as a profession. There is a lot to celebrate here of course, but does it not make the task of meeting the needs of young people for whom the current system does not ‘work’ much more difficult? Who is there in the system that can really understand the situation of these young people and can act convincingly on their behalf?
  • The status and role of early years practice, youth work, vocational learning, adult education as well as ‘atypical’ models of education such as Folk Schools, Place-Based Learning and Kindergarten should be examined and strengthened where necessary. Scotland has typically developed its education policy by consensus building (noting the ‘con’ in consensus). The resulting one-size-fits-all approach may have worked for us in the past but now it seems outdated and, like many education systems around the world, in need of a serious rethink.

I said at the beginning of this post that I wanted to challenge the current narrative in Scottish education. I have argued that we should get back to the basics of values, principles and purposes and I have argued that we need to get serious about the issue of equity.

Comments are very welcome below as are online responses to this post using the hashtag #ignitingeducation – let’s spark a more open and meaningful dialogue.

Thank you for reading.

About the author

Gary is the creator of the Curriculum for Equity website. He is a freelance consultant and facilitator with particular interests in values, character development, social/emotional skills and social justice. He is a founding editor of #ScotEdChat (a weekly chat on Twitter about Scottish education) and the co-author of Speaking of Values. You can use the contact page to contact Gary directly.


Resetting the dial:- 5As for Scottish Education: the answer to all our problems?⤴

from @ curriculum for equity

neilsgleeeclub

safe

First and foremost many thanks to those who have emailed, called, DM tweeted and facebooked in response to my first three blogs on the current position on Scottish education. I also got a message from one teacher’s father who said she was greatly inspired by the blogs!  Truly parental engagement!  What is interesting is the lack of public responses to some of the blogs and the private nature with which many share thoughts- this in itself if maybe worth a future blog about the culture and confidence of the system.  Alas, another blog…..

Onwards with the 5As blog….

When I first starting writing the last three blogs of Scottish education, earlier this summer, I always had in mind a fourth blog to offer up some solutions and a possible vision for taking the array of matters raised forward. The need for this was reinforced when I shared them with a…

View original post 2,749 more words


Resetting the dial:- 5As for Scottish Education: the answer to all our problems?⤴

from @ curriculum for equity

neilsgleeeclub

safe

First and foremost many thanks to those who have emailed, called, DM tweeted and facebooked in response to my first three blogs on the current position on Scottish education. I also got a message from one teacher’s father who said she was greatly inspired by the blogs!  Truly parental engagement!  What is interesting is the lack of public responses to some of the blogs and the private nature with which many share thoughts- this in itself if maybe worth a future blog about the culture and confidence of the system.  Alas, another blog…..

Onwards with the 5As blog….

When I first starting writing the last three blogs of Scottish education, earlier this summer, I always had in mind a fourth blog to offer up some solutions and a possible vision for taking the array of matters raised forward. The need for this was reinforced when I shared them with a…

View original post 2,749 more words


Inclusive CPD?⤴

from @ curriculum for equity

lenabellina

On Monday I delivered CPD on making our classrooms more inclusive.

I shared quotes from the technical guidance on 2010 equalities act that says when it is not ok to exclude and why we need to make reasonable adaptations to our systems.

I shared extracts from the Scottish Standards for teacher registration that use the words ‘care for’ and ‘wellbeing’ and reference responsibilities of all.

I suggested 8 myths that we need to debunk:
* Things have never been this bad.
* This is not the right school for him.
* We can’t do anything until she gets a mental health diagnosis.
* If X gets away with this, the other pupils will think they can too.
* I am not a social worker and this is not my job.
* There is no hope for that child.
* There is a quick fix.
* (Mrs Carter is a soft…

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Piecing together the Jigsaw: Common Weal and Edinburgh University childhood project⤴

from @ curriculum for equity

by Common Weal (see original post here – used with permission)

‘Piecing together the Jigsaw: Connecting the politics of childhood poverty, education and welfare’ will start with a Policy Lab looking at the specific ways in which poverty affects children and young people.

THE link between poverty and underachievement is undeniable but there is still limited agreement on why they are related. The Scottish Government are pursuing with great urgency a strategy to remedy the situation, but risks repeating the mistakes of education systems in England and the USA where frequent testing has not helped overcome disadvantage. There is clearly a need to extend discussion of this complex and intractable problem.

In response to this challenging situation, and in the belief that good policy needs to be built on widespread discussion and democratic participation of all relevant parties, Common Weal and the University of Edinburgh are inviting you to take part in ‘Piecing Together the Jigsaw’, a series of Policy Labs followed by a conference to present the findings. The first session will take place in September 2016 on the question How does poverty affect children and young people?

Our plans are for three Policy Labs, each lasting three hours, leading to a whole-day Conference.  The events will seek to bring together professionals, parents, policy makers, politicians, service providers and young people to better connect research and thinking.  They will seek to bridge across the silos and cul-de-sacs of policy, research and practice to generate consensus on how we go forward.  One major concern is to examine whether current policies and initiatives concerning school attainment, care, early years, early intervention, additional support for learning and ‘wellbeing’ merely act as sticking plasters for much deeper and entrenched inequalities.

The aim is to bring together all those with an interest in forming a deeper understanding of the lives of children and young people growing up in poverty, its impact on education, and the contradictory nature of responses including the Attainment Challenge. The policy labs and concluding conference are designed to enhance participatory policy formation and enactment, and create a sound consensus for future developments.

The various meetings, the blogs posted in preparation, and summaries of the discussions, will form the basis for online and print publications.

Draft schedule

21 September: How does poverty affect children and young people?

This session will highlight the way poverty is experienced, including the voices of young people. It will look at the the curtailment of opportunities and experiences and the impact of child poverty on identity, health, learning and self-esteem.

(Blog posts in preparation for this discussion: deadline 14 Sept)

25 November: How do we understand the impact of poverty on learning and achievement?

This session will look at competing explanations of underachievement. It will challenge theories which point fingers of blame at parents, neighbourhoods, teachers and young people themselves. It will open a discussion of which features of schooling in Scotland are helpful in enhancing young people’s development, and which aspects might be exacerbating and reproducing the problem.

(Blog posts: deadline 18 Oct)

11 January: Examining the jigsaw of policies and initiatives.

This session will take a look at key policies designed to assist disadvantaged young people and improve their learning, qualifications and opportunities. It will examine recent and current policies including early years, community schools, literacy hubs, ASL, GIRFEC and the new Scottish Attainment Challenge. Questions will be raised about whether these responses are coherent or contradictory, and whether they get to the heart of the problems. (Blog posts: 4 Jan)

22 March (Conference): Tackling the attainment gap – taking social justice really seriously

This conference will review the debates and ideas from the three earlier gatherings, and look at examples of good practice internationally. It will work towards the formulation of democratic and progressive principles for improving the welfare, achievement and futures of young people. Our aim will be to develop holistic and creative solutions which offers hope to young people currently bearing the brunt of austerity politics, and a sustainable policy framework which points towards a fairer Scotland.  (Blog posts: deadline 8 March)

We believe this process can help develop a deeper understanding of the real issues affecting children and young people in Scotland at the same time as informing the policy debate, connecting creative ideas and promoting more integrated solutions.

We would welcome your involvement in this project. The CommonSpace Policy channel will be opening itself up to contributions preceding and in the aftermath of each Policy Lab. If you would like to get involved in this project, please email aedan@common.scot, To register for the first policy lab on 21 September, email aedan@common.scot for an invitation.

About Common Weal

Common Weal is a ‘think and do tank’ campaigning for social and economic equality in Scotland.

We are a think tank, a campaigning and advocacy organisation, a news service, a network of local groupsand more. We are also a philosophy of a different kind of Scotland and how we can achieve it.

Our goal is to achieve a Scotland of social and economic equality and environmental sustainability with a vibrant community and cultural life, widespread democratic participation, a high quality of life and cooperative working. We believe there are a series of key ideas which can explain how we achieve that kind of Scotland. These are all linked to a vision of what a better Scotland could be.

Common Weal is a non-profit company with a Board drawn from Scotland’s leading activists and campaigners. It emerged during the Scottish independence referendum campaign and began operating as an independent organisation in October 2014.

Common Weal has a smal staff team that works on a number of different areas of work. Common Weal Policy develop research-based policy proposals, and through our policy channel engages a wide community in policy discussions and seeks to make policy engaging and easy to understand. Through our campaigns officer, Common Weal organises campaigns and advocacy work around priority issues and builds campaigning coalitions with other like-minded people and organisations. The Common Weal Local team support and coordinate a series of local Common Weal groups. Each is autonomous and pursues its own priorities but all share the Common Weal philosophy and seek to make it a reality in their own communities. And CommonSpace is a news service and social media hub which seeks to bring people together, help them to organise and provide them with the news they want to read.

Common Weal is entirely funded through lots of small regular donations from our supporters, and from some merchandising and events income. Every penny is used to support all the activities above, overwhelmingly by enabling us to employ our staff.


Equity and Education: Musings from Mandy⤴

from @ curriculum for equity

mandy

by Mandy Davidson

Equity is the key 21st century educational message but to an ordinary teacher this will mean different things depending upon the make-up of their classes. If we want “all children and young people in Scotland to flourish and thrive”[1] we have to address how we teach all children and young people and not just those who educationalists, social scientists and politicians identify as needing “additional resources”[2]. As an mainstream teacher in a mainstream school where many pupils would be not be in the specific groups identified as requiring these resources, I still have to “teach the things that matter most[3] but have reflected that what matters may differ in my classroom to those where curriculum for excellence is all about closing the gap.

So what is equity in this context? If curriculum was a race then trying to manipulate the odds by supplying state of the art equipment to schools in the most deprived areas whilst restricting the amount schools with less disadvantaged pupils might have an effect. It might be easy to assume that the economic and educational advantages that the latter pupils have grown up with would result in families making up the difference in their school provision thereby closing the gap from both directions but not necessarily ‘raising the bar’.

Education is not a race it is an expectation for every individual in the country. Pupils may not come into school with the same prior experience or the same expectations but as teachers we have a duty to create the conditions for all to flourish.

As a teacher entrusted with “developing awareness and appreciation of the value of each individual in a diverse society[4], I have to focus on the way the flourishing of my pupils will impact on society today and in the future. These pupils may have hopes, dreams and stresses from parents but ultimately they arrive at high school as undeveloped potential. They are encouraged to deepen their skills and acquire knowledge and understanding in a myriad of different subjects with the new expectation that they transfer skills and deepen awareness of the links between disciplines. The focus on developing the young workforce has increased their vocational awareness of relevant learning but the emphasis is still placed squarely on the importance of the individual. “What skills do I need?” is a key question that pupils are required to ask of themselves in relation to fulfilling their career aspirations. The focus on learning intentions and success criteria gives them a route to becoming a confident individual and successful learner whilst the literacy across the curriculum encourages everyone to be an effective contributor.

But what does it mean to be a responsible citizen? The role of pupils who have all the advantages that money, a secure home with established personal connections and many extra curricula opportunities easily available needs to be addressed if we are to establish equity. We are never going to equalise disadvantage but we can encourage a less economically market led ethos. Pupils should not see group work as just a way to demonstrate they can lead a team in a future UCAS personal statement but as a central component in building a better world. They should be encouraged to take responsibility for their actions not just to avoid the discipline system but because we are all interdependent and every action has a consequence.

Although the relationship between pupils and their teachers is said to be supportive in the majority of cases the OECD report says: “Scottish adolescents are less likely to report liking school than students in many countries, and liking drops sharply in secondary school”[5]. This mismatch of viewpoints indicates an issue that requires significant further enquiry.

The more positive actions that can be done for their own sake rather than for certificates, awards and nominations, the less society will faction into winning and losing individuals. Focusing upon the importance of every individual not for what they can do or for what they own but just for existing is the only way equity really stands a chance. Meeting pupils’ needs cannot be just about trying to overcome disadvantage but encouraging a sense of self-worth and rightful place in society, not just in the future but now.

About the Author

Mandy Davidson first came to Scotland from the south coast of England as a fresh-faced undergraduate at the University of Stirling. After graduating with degrees in Education and Religious Studies with a diploma in Education, she spent her probation on the Isle of Wight before returning to Scotland at the start of 1990. Mandy resumed her studies at Stirling  completing a part time MEd in 1995.  She has taught Religious and Moral Education and Personal and Social in secondary schools, been an RME staff tutor in an advisory service, lectured on the initial teacher training courses at the University of Strathclyde and was part of the Higher Still RMPS development and training teams for the SQA. Currently in an acting PT role, Mandy is the SSTA union rep on the Scottish Joint Committee on RME and their rep on Interfaith Scotland.

[1] Scottish Government (2016) Delivering Excellence and Equity in Scottish Education: A Delivery Plan for Scotland URL: http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2016/06/3853/2

[2] Scottish Executive Education Department (2007) Executive Summary: OECD Review of the Quality and Equity of Education Outcomes in Scotland: Diagnostic Report URL: http://www.oecd.org/edu/school/40328315.pdf

[3] Scottish Government (2016) Ibid.

[4] Education Scotland (2015) Religious and moral education: Assessing progress and achievement in significant aspects of learning URL: http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/learningandteaching/assessment/progressandachievement/significantaspectsoflearning/curriculum/rme/rme/progress.asp

[5] OECD (2015) Improving Schools in Scotland: An OECD Perspective, p15, URL: https://www.oecd.org/education/school/Improving-Schools-in-Scotland-An-OECD-Perspective.pdf


Part 2: Bridging the Disadvantage Chasm.⤴

from @ curriculum for equity

headguruteacher

93167631

 

In my last post I tried to illustrate the chasm that separates our most advantaged from our most disadvantaged students; students in the same community, side by side in the classroom, yet living worlds apart.  Every day brings reminders of that chasm in one form or another.  The question is – what can we do about it?  The structural roots of inequality lie in the domain of economics and politics; it’s not realistic for schools to be tasked with tackling inequality at the source. Whilst schools have a role to play in the wider process of social change, the timescale is too great to have an impact on an individual child during the time they are at school.  We have to work on the basis that the chasm of disadvantage is an embedded feature of our community and of an individual student’s life for the foreseeable future.

In writing this…

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