Trust in teachers to break the links between education and disadvantage

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As countries seek to strengthen their national educational systems the great challenge is to ensure that all children are included and treated fairly, and yet a new book due out this summer argues that the established link between education and disadvantage has yet to be broken.

‘Educational Equity: Pathways to Success’, edited by Professors Christopher Chapman and Mel Ainscow, explores the extensive research carried out by the Network for Social and Educational Equity (NSEE) team at the Robert Owen Centre for Educational Equity, University of Glasgow, to address this challenge. The book argues for greater flexibility at the local level so that educational practitioners have the space to analyse their particular circumstances and determine priorities accordingly.

The focus of this research has been on finding more effective ways to improve outcomes for all children and young people, particularly those from economically poorer backgrounds. This has involved collaboration with schools and their communities, as well as with local authority colleagues.

Untapped potential

The research was carried out in Scotland during a period of massive efforts to improve the national education system from 2012 onwards. Through that period, the Glasgow research team had unique opportunities to engage with policy makers and practitioners at all levels, from ministers and senior government officials, through to classrooms.

The research led the team to conclude that, despite a serious commitment to enhancing equity and a huge range of well-intentioned initiatives, children from poorer backgrounds are far less likely to achieve the same educational outcomes as those from more affluent families.

The authors argue that there is untapped potential for promoting progress towards greater equity within Scottish schools and the communities they serve. They also show how this potential can be mobilised by using forms of collaborative action research to stimulate the development of more inclusive ways of working.

Central to this approach is the use of evidence collected by practitioners with the support of university researchers, drawing on the expertise that is there within schools.

Further significant barriers to equity have appeared across the world’s education systems in the last 12 months, due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the wide-scale school lockdowns put in place as a result.

UNESCO support for book’s recommendations

These challenges point to the need for an even greater emphasis on the sorts of approaches the book outlines. Support for this is presented in a recent UNESCO report, which states:

“The educational response to the COVID-19 crisis has revealed the capacity of educators to draw on their professional knowledge and collaboratively mobilise with a resourcefulness and creativity that could not have been achieved by a public authority simply issuing top down orders.”

The report concludes:

“Teachers need to be more recognised and more highly valued; they are essential participants in defining the futures of education.” 

Pathways to success

The findings of the research laid out in the book provides the basis of an agenda for taking this thinking forward in Scotland and, indeed, internationally. The researchers show how local pathways to success can be determined that fit the challenges that exist within specific contexts.

Professor Chris Chapman, Founding Director of the Robert Owen Centre, said: “It is an important time for the whole Scottish community to get together with teachers in ensuring high quality educational opportunities for all of our children and young people. With this in mind, members of our team are currently working with colleagues in various parts of the country to take this thinking forward.”

Professor Mel Ainscow, who led the Greater Manchester Challenge and Schools Challenge Cymru in Wales, added: “The most important factor is the collective will to make it happen.”

Educational Equity: Pathways to Success will be published by Routledge on 15 July 2021, and is now available for pre-order. To receive a 10 percent discount on your order, please download the following flyer which contains a code that can be used at the checkout. 

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About NSEE

The Network for Social and Educational Equity (NSEE) is part of the Robert Owen Centre for Educational Change (ROC) at the University of Glasgow.

It works in collaboration with schools, local authorities, Education Scotland and partner services to tackle the poverty-related attainment gap in young people’s education.

NSEE helps schools to use appropriate evidence and data within collaborative working approaches to critically examine context and current arrangements, make changes based on evidence, monitor the impact of these changes and reflect on what they learn.

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