This is a big 3 year study taking place in Northern Ireland, under the direction of Professor Ruth Leitch which has government funding. Prof Leitch came along to give a seminar today to the School of Education at Stirling University, and what she had to say was revealing, fascinating and also in places quite astonishing. Having set out the post-peace agreement context, and the divisive system they are working within, she went on to explain 7 case studies which seemed to arise out of a preliminary survey mapping achievement against deprivation. A scattergraph showed that although there was a strong correlation between low achievement and high deprivation, interestingly there were also a few outliers; anomalous cases which will be the main focus of this study.
The 7 case studies were drawn from this group. These studies represented wards of the province and data have been gathered to map out school populations, reflecting choice, attainment, distance travelled to schools etc. Although the focus of the study is deprivation and achievement, much of what was discussed last night centred on social issues of community ties and community leadership; loyalties; bonding and social organisation; sense of entitlement; values and the legacy of conflict, and systemically supported division. The analysis will be framed through Boudieusian concepts of social capital and reproduction, which seems appropriate, but I also wondered if there wasn’t a role for habitus to play there as well, given the beliefs, pre-dispositions assumptions and “bodily incorporations of social history” (Bourdieu 1990, p116) that seem to feature so prominently in this very complex field.
At first I thought that there might be a connection with the work of the Robert Owen Centre I mentioned last week. There obviously will be, but the complexities at work beneath the surface of the poverty-achievement connection which have been highlighted in this study show that it is by no means an apparently simple equation, and how much work needs to be done to get close to understanding this complex and enduring problem.
(Bourdieu, P: The Logic of Practice. Stanford CA, Stanford University Press)
PS – just learned that you can follow the project on twitter