Posts Tagged 'education'

The centrality of poverty

By Glen Bramley, co-editor of Poverty and Social Exclusion in the UK Vol. 2

Originally published by Poverty and Social Exclusion on December 8th 2017. 

Poverty as measured by material deprivation through lack of economic resources remains absolutely central to understanding the causation and patterning of most aspects of social exclusion and a wide range of social outcomes. This is the strongest message emerging from Poverty and Social Exclusion in the UK: Volume 2 – The Dimensions of Disadvantage, the second of the two-volume study based on the PSE-UK 2012 surveys. Attempts to wash ‘poverty’ out of the policy agenda and government target-setting are quite wrong and unsustainable.

This volume, which I edited with Nick Bailey, sets out to explore the different ‘domains’ of social exclusion and the ways that these relate to each other and to the core issue of material poverty. Having examined a wide range of disadvantages, the overall conclusion is that reducing poverty is probably the most effective way to promote key societal outcome targets. This is notably the case for health, as shown in the chapter by Prior and Manley, and wellbeing/happiness, as discussed by Tomlinson and Wilson.

The social harm caused by poverty is examined theoretically as well as through drawing on the PSE’s qualitative evidence in the contribution by Pemberton, Pantazis and Hillyard, who argue that several concepts currently in vogue within social policy discourse – such as resilience and risk – are inadequate in addressing this challenge. Increased risks of severe poverty and destitution, not unconnected to welfare reforms and cuts, are evidenced in the contribution by Bramley, Fitzpatrick and Sosenko, drawing on a combination of PSE and new special survey evidence.

Concern about poverty and exclusion cannot be separated from concerns about inequality, with particular current concern about the contrasting trends and policies affecting the poorest and the most affluent in the UK, as is illustrated by the examination of wider measures of living standards presented by Patsios, Pomati and Hillyard. The striking trend towards more of poverty overall being among working households, as well as the extent of forms of ‘exclusionary employment’, is the main theme of Bailey’s contribution. This is not the only example of greater ‘precarity’ across wider sections of the community, as there is also a marked shift in this direction in housing as more households live in insecure private renting paying higher rents with little security, while financial stress affects approaching half of the population (Bramley and Besemer).

Wilson, Bailey and Fahmy found that access to resources and support from social networks is less closely related to poverty and clearly for some households support from family, in particular, is often a key factor in coping with poverty – but in poorer communities family and neighbours may themselves be hard-pressed. Fahmy also shows that poverty does also limit the extent of civic and political participation, alongside factors like education and class.

The domain on which exclusion appears least related to material poverty is in fact access to local public and private services. Bramley and Besemer argue that this is ‘good news’, implying that through national and local policies, public spending and regulation, the natural tendency of market systems to reinforce inequality has been neutralised. Other good news stories include the above-mentioned examples of domains of exclusion which are not dominantly driven by poverty, improvements in some aspects of living standards and declines in some forms of exclusion (e.g. financial services), and gradual increases in reported happiness. There has also been a dramatic fall in the incidence of poverty among the retirement age population over the last two decades.

Nevertheless, there is some evidence to support concerns about trends towards more marketisation and financialisation of aspects of life, lessening social cohesion and engagement, and promoting disillusion with the system. This is probably not unconnected with the unprecedented falls in living standards experienced by wide sections of the population in the later 2000s and early 2010s, in part due to cost of living factors like higher fuel costs (causing a marked rise in fuel poverty) as well as the increasing precarity of some people’s working lives and housing situations. On a majority of domains of social exclusion, the surveys showed that scores had worsened between 1999 and 2012, while people’s judgements about what things were necessities became more restrictive, reversing a long-term trend towards a more generous set of expectations.

The authors also note a growing ‘behavioural agenda’ around poverty, but are highly critical about some misuses of this perspective in relation to public understanding, policy agendas and targets. For example, family breakdown, educational failure and serious personal debt may in some cases cause or confound poverty, but very often they are also clearly consequences of poverty. Addictions can be a compounding factor in the poverty and exclusion of some adults, but these only account for a tiny proportion of the total number of adults in poverty.

Britain has moved forward and then backwards in terms of the adoption of national targets for the tackling of poverty, particularly child poverty, with poverty ‘airbrushed’ out of the national strategy for social mobility. Yet in this respect the devolved administrations, particularly in Scotland, have chosen to follow a different path, reinstating child and other poverty targets in legislation and developing an action programme to achieve these. Recent research-based initiatives by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation under the banner Solve UK Poverty have set out an ambitious and diverse policy agenda which it is argued would significantly reduce poverty in the medium to longer term. Yet in the shorter term the immediate prospect in forecasts by the respected Institute for Fiscal Studies are for a substantial rise in poverty, due in substantial measure to the further imposition of welfare reforms, cuts and the freezing of many benefits.

Overall, we believe the multi-dimensional perspective of ‘poverty and social exclusion’ has been shown to be justified and successfully implemented through the PSE Survey. In this volume we offer a new picture of the main distinct dimensions of poverty and exclusion, while arguing that it is important to pay attention to these distinct aspects to get a full picture of disadvantage in contemporary UK. For taking this research forward into the future we anticipate building on the kind of survey exemplified by PSE by seeing more use made of longitudinal/panel surveys and of linkage between surveys and administrative data to give stronger insights and evidence on causal processes and trajectories of poverty.

Poverty and social exclusion in the UK Vol. 2 edited by Glen Bramley and Nick Bailey is available with 20% discount on the Policy Press website. Order here for just £23.99.

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The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blog post authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

How to start dismantling white privilege in higher education

Racism is still alive and well in US and UK academia, writes Kalwant Bhopal, author of White privilege. She argues that to dismantle it, there is a need for radical action from universities, which must start by acknowledging the existence of institutional racism and white privilege.

Originally published by the LSE British Politics and Policy blog on 28th November 2017. 

Kalwant Bhopal

Despite many claims to the contrary, racism is alive and well and robustly shaping the educational experiences of black and minority ethnic students in the United Kingdom and the United States. The evidence that this is happening in schools, when accessing elite (and non-elite) universities and later when applying for better paid or higher status jobs is scrutinised in my new book, White Privilege: The myth of a post-racial society. I argue that in neoliberal contexts, policy-making ensures covert and overt forms of racism, and exclusion continues to operate at all levels in society in which white identities are privileged. The talk may be all about a ‘post-racial society’, but in reality the status quo remains unchallenged.

Black and minority ethnic academics working in universities remain marginalised and regularly describe experiencing subtle, covert, and nuanced racism. At senior levels, they are less likely than their white colleagues to be professors or occupy decision-making roles. The white space of the academy perpetuates and reinforces white middle class privilege; consequently our higher education continues to be dominated by a white elite. I have researched educational inequalities for 30 years and it often feels like we are going around in circles: the more things change, the more they stay the same. A radical shift is needed from universities to acknowledge their long-standing role in privileging whiteness and implement change that addresses the inequalities this has fostered.

Credits: pxhere (CC0 Public Domain).

Higher education must firstly acknowledge institutional racism and white privilege; a failure to acknowledge racism results in a failure to act upon it. Institutional frameworks to facilitate change at local and national levels include universities monitoring racist incidents, identifying measures to address racism, and action plans with specific outcomes. Such action plans need to be characterised by their ‘clarity’; they need to demonstrate a clear link between identifying a problem, providing solutions, and measuring outcomes. Additionally, they need the ‘clarity’ we might associate with being ‘out in the open’, in which racism is publically acknowledged and addressed. Such clarity would ensure that it is the outcome of change that is assessed, rather than the rhetoric of what should happen.

Secondly, universities should be held to account for their lack of representation of black and minority ethnic groups in senior decision-making roles through monitoring and reviewing their staff profiles on a regular basis. A greater visibility of black and minority ethnic staff is needed in senior decision-making roles so that there is a specific recognition and valuing of diversity in staff representation. Unconscious bias training should be mandatory for all staff: at the very least, this training should be a requirement for individuals who are involved in promotion and recruitment panels. Simple measures such as the introduction of name-blind job applications to avoid the ample evidence that non-Eurocentric names are disadvantaged in recruitment processes are easy to implement and immediately signal a willingness to tackle issues of diversity. To support black and minority ethnic staff to reach their full potential, all universities should be expected to provide formal mentoring and training to staff who wish to progress in their careers.

Thirdly, universities must address the racial makeup of their student bodies. Oxford University was recently accused of ‘social apartheid’ for not admitting a single Black British student in nearly one in three of its colleges. Too often institutions that fail to recruit Black British students talk about their commitment to diversity by highlighting the numbers of international students they have recruited. These are discourses that demonstrate a lack of clarity. The value of international students for universities is closely tied to their greater economic contribution compared to home students. When the playing field is level, when white home students and black home students are paying the same fees, it seems remarkable that diversity is suddenly not accounted for.

Universities must be held accountable for failing to admit a diverse body of home students. I suggest a quota system should be introduced for selective universities, as well as elite universities, such as Oxbridge and the Russell Group in particular. The persistent failures of these publically-funded universities to address their inability to recruit the brightest students if they have the ‘wrong’ skin colour is, in the language of civil servants and policy-makers, not delivering value for money. Measures such as outreach programmes targeting poor areas, underperforming schools and underrepresented schools; offering support packages to pupils to develop their university applications; training for interviews; bursaries and scholarships to Oxbridge, are in no way about lowering standards. They are simple, necessary steps to move towards an inclusive approach for students from black and minority ethnic backgrounds who are not currently finding they have access to the same opportunities afforded their white, more wealthy, privately-schooled peers.

White privilege is awarded to those who are already privileged. This reinforces and perpetuates a system in which white elites are able to maintain and reinforce their position of power at all levels. Within a neoliberal context, policymaking is legitimised through a rhetoric that reinforces the benefits of neoliberalism as a universal value. I argue, however, that it reinforces whiteness and white privilege. It fails to acknowledge the role that race and inequality play in perpetuating advantage over disadvantage and that neoliberalism does not benefit all members of society equally.

Furthermore, to argue that the aftermath of the Macpherson report on institutional racism in the UK police has resulted in a post-racial society is utterly absurd (as I highlight with Martin Myers in a recent paper). Such discourses only serve to further marginalise black and minority ethnic communities. Racism exists at every level of society: it permeates our schools, our colleges and our universities. It is alive in all elements of society, our popular culture, our media and the social spaces that we occupy. We do not live in a post-racial society. What you look like – if you are black or from a minority ethnic group determines how you will be judged. Race acts as a marker of difference in a society poisoned by fear, insecurity, and instability. If we continue as we are, then whiteness and white privilege will continue to dominate in higher education institutions, with white groups doing whatever they can to protect and perpetuate their own positions of power.

 

White privilege by Kalwant Bhopal is available with 20% discount on the Policy Press website. Order here for just £10.39.

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The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blog post authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Election focus: Missing the point – education in the #GE2017 manifestos

Stephen Ball, author of the best-selling The education debate (third edition out in August) gives a passionate take on how the party manifestos are missing what should be at the heart of education policy.

Stephen J Ball

“What is most striking when reading the party manifestos for the General Election and listening to the speeches and debates is the absence of education.

There is quite a lot of writing and talking about money – funding – and about structures – grammar schools or a National Education Service – but very little about what its purpose is, about teaching and learning, about what is means to be educated.

To some extent those things are taken for granted, pre-given, closed to debate. Education is about and for the economy. Its about investing “in people to develop their skills and capabilities” (Labour Party) – investing, a key trope of the neoliberal sensibility, sits oddly in the Labour Manifesto.

Over and against that, in a perverse rhetorical reverse,for the Conservatives education is about meritocracy – although clearly no one Labour or Conservative has read Michael Young’s book! – and it’s about tackling “enduring injustices” and “breaking down longstanding divisions” (Conservatives).

How do we go about breaking down these divisions?

Continue reading ‘Election focus: Missing the point – education in the #GE2017 manifestos’

Why the Government’s ‘back to the future’ approach to education won’t work

Patrick Ainley3

Patrick Ainley

Following Justine Greening’s speech at the Conservative Party Labour conference yesterday, Patrick Ainley, author of Betraying a generation: How education is failing young people reflects on the state of English Education under Theresa May’s government.

Theresa May has reorganised English state education by putting teaching in the universities and colleges together with schools for the first time.

Despite university research remaining at the service of industry in the renamed Department of Business, this consolidation gives an appearance of strategic planning but relentless competition remains the misguided method to ‘raise standards’ from primary to postgraduate schools. This leaves students at all levels studying harder but learning less as assessment increasingly takes the place of teaching.

Grammar schools: playing politics with education

The grammar schools proposal has taken playing politics with education to a new low. Perhaps deliberately disclosed before the Party Conference, it was seemingly intended to appear reassuringly retrogressive, keeping on side Tories sympathetic with UKIP, the only other party wanting more grammar schools. As it is likely to be defeated in parliament, May has already clarified, ‘It does not mean bringing back binary schooling but opening up the system’.

“The grammar schools proposal has taken playing politics with education to a new low.”

Continue reading ‘Why the Government’s ‘back to the future’ approach to education won’t work’

School Governing, what’s the story since Trojan horse?

Since the Trojan Horse Affair made headlines in March 2014 the pace of change in education governance has, it would appear, become increasingly frenetic.

In light of recent turbulent times in politics , and post Brexit, Jacqueline Baxter, author of School governance, asks what has changed in terms of the democratic governance of education in England ?

BaxterThe Trojan Horse Affair in 2014 left an indelible mark on the education system in England, with profound implications for leadership, management and governing of education.

The affair which provoked a number of subsequent inquiries into radicalisation in schools, also resulted in a raft of measures introduced by the government in order to counter extremist views in schools and to ensure that British Values are firmly embedded in the system. The affair also left government with some very pressing questions about the state of school governance and accountability in England.

Since then we have had a change of government, a vote to exit the EU and a leadership crisis in both government and opposition parties- one that at the time of writing, is still not fully resolved. Continue reading ‘School Governing, what’s the story since Trojan horse?’

Does social mobility leave us nowhere to go?

Graeme Atherton, author of ‘The Success Paradox: why we need a holistic theory of social mobility’ and director of the National Education Opportunities Network (NEON), the professional organisation for access to Higher Education (HE) in England. 

In today’s guest blog Graeme suggests the broken contract of ‘social mobility’ expected in the US and UK lies at the base of the attraction felt by many towards the anti-establishment messages delivered by the likes of Donald Trump and Brexit…

AthertonStagnating social mobility in both the UK and the US is well documented.

The stifling of opportunity for many to move up the economic ladder, and to bequeath such chances to their children has been apparent some time now in the UK and US. Internationally comparative research shows that compared to countries such as Canada and Sweden, British and American children are significantly more likely to have their income dictated by what their parents earn.

This apparent stagnation in social mobility is now beginning to shape not just the views of the policymakers but also the voters. The emergence of the unlikely anti-establishment triumvirate of Trump, Corbyn and Sanders owes much to the frustration people feel regarding the opportunities available to them. The Brexit vote, while a consequence of a conflation of factors coming together, undoubtedly was to some extent an expression of this frustration. Continue reading ‘Does social mobility leave us nowhere to go?’

Michael Gove’s unfinished Agenda for Education…and beyond?

Michael Gove has said he is standing for the Tory leadership out of ‘conviction not ambition’. In today’s guest blog post author and academic Patrick Ainley suggests further insights into Gove’s wider agenda for education and beyond…

Patrick Ainley

Patrick Ainley

In 2005, 23 male Conservative MPs, MEPs, candidates and activists connected to the Centre for Policy Studies, published a 100 page pamphlet called DIRECT DEMOCRACY: An Agenda for a New Model Party.

The pamphlet has the marks of Gove all over it.

However, despite his usual sprinkling of obscure references, Gove is no intellectual. He merely shares the standard Tory faith in the unique instincts of the Great British people who only need to be freed from state interference to recreate once again wonders of the past like the Industrial Revolution and the British Empire.

Unbundling the state

In this pamphlet therefore Gove begins by indicating how far the UK was from its glorious past by 2005 after successive Tory electoral defeats. Continue reading ‘Michael Gove’s unfinished Agenda for Education…and beyond?’


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