Manchester Institute of Education blog

A forum for research news from MIE at The University of Manchester

Select Page

The challenge

It is known that poverty is associated with poor educational attainment. Technical responses to this have included performance management, data gathering, a marketplace of school choices, and more vocational options on the school curriculum. Technical responses ignore wider influences, however, such as public spending cuts and students’ own values. How can urban schools reflect on and improve their efforts to tackle educational inequity effectively?

The research

Based on my formulation of an Education Equity Framework I then developed a value-driven Education Equity Toolkit designed to analyse education inequity by questioning educational practice at the micro, meso and macro level – three analytical tiers developed by myself and co-researchers within the Disadvantage and Poverty research group and presented in the 2010 Joseph Rowntree Report Education and poverty, a critical review of theory, policy and practice. The toolkit is designed to be a resource for a non-technical response to educational inequity – it prioritises relational equality.

  • At a micro level the Education Equity Toolkit asks questions about individual experience within the classroom, within the school.
  • At a meso level the toolkit looks at the relationships of families, communities and neighbourhood locales to education inequity.
  •  At a macro level the toolkit looks at national or global impacts, such as austerity, on education inequity.

My research shows there are limits to area-based approaches to education inequity. It suggests developing a more transformative model of education, since ‘given the liberating and engaging experiences of a different, culturally relevant and more valued and relationally just pedagogy, many of the young people involved in work- related projects became ever more antagonistic to a traditional curriculum delivered within institutional authority and power structures that often silenced their concerns and aspirations, and labelled them as less capable’.

My research suggest that there is a need for a shift in the axes of educational power from national and local policy makers and professional practitioners to community representatives, families and young people, in order to recognise hybrid forms of co-construction and co-production in teaching and learning.

I have studied Manchester Communication Academy as an authentic example of professionals, organisations, young people, families and communities attempting to work together in equitable ways to make things educationally better and fairer in their communities. I analysed school processes using the toolkit and found it to be a successful and pioneering project on two of the three tiers. The unworkability, from a local level, of the third tier – the macro level – remains an open question for educationalists and policy makers, since we found that without broad systemic changes macro root causes of educational inequality would not be addressed.

Read more