Part 2: Bridging the Disadvantage Chasm.

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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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The disadvantage ‘gap’ is a chasm. Part 1.

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bridging Image source: etbu.edu.

In the 18 months that I’ve been working at Highbury Grove, I’ve learned a great deal about the complexity of the community that my school serves.  As the acting Designated Child Protection Officer for the last few weeks, I’ve learned even more.  The scale on the axis of advantage and disadvantage is extraordinary with consequences for learning, aspirations and behaviour that are far-reaching.  Within my school, there are students who, whilst sharing the same physical space, are living worlds apart.  This is a two-part post.  To begin with, here’s illustration of the opposite poles – rooted in reality but conflating different factors.  Part 2 will look at solutions.

There are obviously plenty of risks here – being judgemental, using stereotypes, making generalisations.  No two children are the same and there are multiple variations in every child’s characteristics and circumstances.   It’s hard to capture the complexity accurately and…

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Delivering excellence and equity – some commentary on Scotland’s national education plan

Professor Mark Priestley

The post-election period in 2016 has heralded a flurry of activity from the re-elected SNP and the appointment of a new Cabinet Secretary for Education. The next year or two will see policy development that puts education at the forefront of the nation’s priorities, all underpinned by the stated goal of closing the ‘attainment gap’ between those who have traditionally achieved well in education, and those who have not. The publication of Delivering Excellence and Equity in Scottish Education: a Delivery Plan for Scotland, coming as it does on the heels of the OECD review of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE), marks an important turning point in Scottish education policy. There is much to be welcomed in this plan, but in my view there are also tensions and ambiguities in the document that will need acknowledging and addressing as the plan is implemented.

The positives

It is clear that there…

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Taking notes 60: why teachers matter in dark times

Philosophers for Change

[Credit: Joe Magee.] [Credit: Joe Magee.] by Henry A. Giroux

Americans live in a historical moment that annihilates thought. Ignorance now provides a sense of community; the brain has migrated to the dark pit of the spectacle; the only discourse that matters is about business; poverty is now viewed as a technical problem; thought chases after an emotion that can obliterate it. The presumptive Republican Party presidential nominee, Donald Trump, declares he likes “the uneducated” — implying that it is better that they stay ignorant than be critically engaged agents — and boasts that he doesn’t read books. Fox News offers no apologies for suggesting that thinking is an act of stupidity.

A culture of cruelty and a survival-of-the-fittest ethos in the United States is the new norm and one consequence is that democracy in the United States is on the verge of disappearing or has already disappeared! Where are the agents of…

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Neoliberalism – how it travels, and how it can be resisted

Reclaiming Schools

by Professor Stephen Ball, UCL Institute of Education

Stephen-Ball-

This article is based on chapter 3 of Flip the system: changing education from the ground up, a new book published in association with teacher unions around the world. It explains some of the ways in which the economic and political project called Neoliberalism impacts on children’s education and teachers’ work. 

I want to make clear that I use the term neoliberalism with some trepidation. It is used so widely and loosely that it risks becoming meaningless. Neoliberalism is not simply a concrete economic doctrine, nor a definite set of political projects, but (in Ronen Shamir’s words)

a complex, often incoherent, unstable and even contradictory set of practices organised around a certain imagination of the “market” as a basis for the universalization of market-based social relations, with the corresponding penetration in almost every aspect of our lives of the discourse and/or practice of commodification…

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Illuminate the Darkness – the need for Critical Pedagogy

tait coles @Totallywired77 - PuNk Learning


It has recently been brought to my attention that a Guardian piece I wrote over two years ago has resurfaced. Similar to when it was first published, there has been mixed responses to my writing, both in agreement and in opposition.

The idea that our education system is unfair has been supported by a recent CentreForum think-tank survey. It is important to consider the insidious use of data here to convince the humble consumer of fact that ‘our’ schools are failing ‘our’ kids’ – for ‘our’, read white. A discourse about how the use of data can be strategically used in the context of race and education is vital one; one that I am not going to attempt here. But, for reading on the subject please look no further than this piece by David Gillborn ‘The Monsterisation of Race Equality: How Hate Became Honourable’ in, The Runnymede School Report: Race…

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