SERA poverty and education network meeting 16th June 2015


SERA joined forces with the College Development Network and Scotland’s colleges to take part in the Emporium of Dangerous Ideas (#DangerousEd) – an annual ideas-fest full of interesting and creative change-orientated dangerous ideas, conversations and gatherings by and for educators across all sectors and agencies. This event was a sell out and was hosted at Scotland’s Colleges HQ in Stirling – a fine venue with easy parking, nice welcome and great lunch!

The  network is one of several facilitated by SERA and has been on the go since 2014. Today’s event was called Research as if Education Mattered. And Education as if Research Mattered. There was unsurprisingly a heavy bias towards the college sector among participants, and other  representation from CLD, EIS, GTCS, four universities, two local authorities Education Scotland and one youth organisation. The format was quick and snappy – using the Petcha Kucha format. I think this makes people talk very fast and the continuous rolling slideshow can be distracting when it adheres to the 4s per slide limit and gets out of synch with what presenters are saying. I prefer teachmeet format with no powerpoint  and 2 or 7 minute presentations, but it certainly is great for keeping things moving along.

The presentations were varied and each addressed different aspects of the impact of poverty in education. Highlights for me were Alistair Wilson of Strathclyde University talking about his study of mentoring young people in areas of high deprivation to support widening access to universities. Findings suggest young people’s social networks play a big part in improving access for them, and mentors can help to build their social capital to help them develop their social networks. This is maybe obvious but providing the mentoring is the key here and that’s what this project did. If you go to  fee-paying schools you get  advice like this , dedicated tutors to help you with your personal statement alone as well as all the benefits your social and cultural capital will bring you. Little surprise then that without such support there hasn’t been one young person emerge from one named north-east Glasgow secondary school to become a doctor in over 30 years. This school will no doubt be just as teeming with intelligent and capable young people  as many others- what an indictment of inequity in our system and Alistair reckons it will be exactly the same in another 30 years unless we do something to change it.

Other interesting data were shared by the the EIS on detailed aspects of poverty manifestations in schools; the CELCIS team on the difficulties and vulnerabilities of looked after children and approaches to helping their attainment by participative approaches; Stuart Hall (Robert Owen Centre at Glasgow University) from his Families First in Renfrewshire project and  Stephen McKinney (Glasgow University) spoke about global issues concerning poverty and education – forcibly displaced children; the fine lines between children’s work, child labour and slavery and the invisible spectre of human trafficking.

All of this demonstrated the persistence and pervasiveness of poverty in education and that we actually have a wealth of data on this issue. Collaborative working across agencies and different sectors via networks such as this one will provide a way to make sense of this data and communicate some approaches towards tackling it – but  I’m left pondering as usual that it’s not just up to schools, teachers and other educators to solve this problem, and are more studies the answer?

About catrionao

I'm a lecturer at UWS and a PhD student at Stirling University, studying a school based practice of teacher professional learning.
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