Social Justice

‘We need to end child poverty’

Child poverty has reached scandalous levels in the UK, inflicting damage to children’s wellbeing, achievement and future prospects. We call for supportive welfare provision, increased funding in the early years and a restoration of financial support for post-16 students to stay on in education.

Poverty and Education seminar (York St John University, 22 Nov 2017)

The seminar consisted of 40 teachers active in the NEU, researchers and teaching students. The discussion focused on these key issues:

  • How has de-industrialisation, followed by Austerity politics, affected the lives of children?
  • How do young people experience places marked by deindustrialisation?
  • Is there a separate underclass (or precariat) in parts of northern England?
  • How does class or poverty relate to differences in achievement?
  • Why has talk of ‘social mobility’ and ‘aspirations’ become so important in education policy?
  • How do teachers understand disadvantage?
  • Can schools make a difference? If so, how?
  • What kind of policies would lead towards greater equality?

Discussions were introduced by Laura Winter, Rob Macdonald, Gabrielle Ivinson, Jo Littler, Terry Wrigley, Amanda Nuttall and Anne Swift. (Please click for presentation if available.)

Briefing notes and short articles:

Three chapters in our recent publication Reclaiming schools: the evidence and the arguments concern child poverty and its impact on educational engagement and achievement:

In her article Achieving socially just education, Professor Diane Reay (University of Cambridge) considers factors of school organisation which help to reproduce inequality, including high-stakes testing, labelling, setting and streaming, a narrow curriculum, school choice, private education and a diversity of types of school.

Deindustrialisation under Margaret Thatcher’s government in the 1980s, including coal mine closures, continue to affect many communities. Gabrielle Ivinson introduces some of the young people from those areas, with an appeal for teachers and the school curriculum to connect with their lives and experiences: A Welsh mining community 30 years on

There are attempts to resurrect genetic determinism and innate IQ differences as the reason for disadvantage-related underachievement. Recent research which helps refute this is reported in No genes for literacy 

Grouping and selection by ‘ability’ has ongoing effects in helping reproduce social divisions. Aspects include setting and streaming (NUT Edufacts) and selective schools.

Young people and families in poverty continue to be stigmatised for ‘low aspirations’, an argument disputed in Education and equality: a critique of the ‘poverty of aspiration’ agenda.

We particularly welcome the BERA (British Educational Research Association) initiative Respecting Children and Young People. This website includes a growing collection of short articles and comments on social justice, including sections on race and ethnicity, sexualities and inclusion.

Also of interest:

Education, Justice and Democracy (a paper for CLASS think tank by Professor Stephen Ball, UCL Institute of Education, London)

Tackling social disadvantage – a children’s zone approach – Professor Richard Hatcher (Birmingham City University)

Youth unemployment is far too high – Dr Martin Allen (Greenwich University)



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