Home > Curriculum, Education Policy, Teaching > Equality, Engagement and Lifelong Learning

Equality, Engagement and Lifelong Learning

Today has been a good day, 3 of my lessons went fantastically well, one went quite well and the other was a mock (not my favourite things, but certainly things that are useful to measure the progress of the class and inform future planning). Then after work I attend a seminar at Leeds University with a particularly inspirational speaker.

The seminar was nominally around the future of Vocational education at post 16, but in reality it was much wider and focused around the bigger issues of engagement, pedagogy and education policy.

The starting point for the seminar was the 1963 Newsom Report: Half Our Future. At the start of the seminar the summary of the report (as displayed here) and I was immediately stricken by the amount of the suggestions in the summary which were entirely relevant today.

Equality of education

The report and the seminar both look at the importance of education, and how a fair society would incorporate and equality in education. Equality is something I feel extremely passionate about equality in education (I have written before on this subject here and here). I feel that as a society we are failing if we allow the future if our children to be mapped out by the postcode they are born in, or any other reason for that matter. During the seminar the reasons for inequality were broached and It was suggested that the reason for this was political, and rooted in the class system in the UK. This really got me thinking, I have written briefly about this before, but I have never thought about it on this level. On my way home I ran into traffic, and I had many of the issues raised running round my head. I couldn’t help but wonder how different the country would be if people like Kier Hardie hadn’t fought for an equal education. Would we still be born into lives which were fully mapped our? Would I be hard at work in a manufacturing plant because I am a Yorkshireman? These are the questions I was left with and I’m pretty sure that the answers would be yes. For these reasons I feel that we are in a situation where our education policy is too closely linked to political ideology. This gives rise to vast changes which are not given a proper chance. The role of Education Secretary has been something of a revolving door, and as such the changes have been fast and frequent. This worries me. I feel that policy decisions should be made in the best interests of all the young people in the country, not to make political points, and I see a need for a review of the structures involved, if we are to see an improvement.

Vocational education

During the seminar I found out some interesting facts about vocational education and the different approaches that different countries take on it. I was interested to hear that those with the most success are those who offer a wide range of general education, along with the vocational training. This made me think of the recent policy discussions in the UK around new core maths qualifications at post 16 level. I think there is a need for further maths study past the GCSE grade C, but I think it should be focussed around numeracy and functional maths, as opposed to the abstract, and technical, maths covered at A Level. A Level maths should prepare those who do it for further academic study (preferably in maths, but equally in economics, one of the sciences or the such). This new qualification should prepare students for the rest of their lives. It should enhance their opportunities academically and in future careers. I’ve yet to see anything concrete about the New qualification, but I’m looking forward to finding out about it when it arrives.


Engagement is something that is a problem for many in the country, and something that everyone has a say in. A portion of the seminar was around reengaging the disengaged, and this is something I’m keen to know more about. The figures around those who are classified as NEET are quite worrying, but they are improving. The fact that these figures are higher in areas where there is more poverty is a sign that we still have a long way to go before we find a truly equal society, with an education system offering true equality.

I spent some time on the drive home thinking about engagement. Thinking about my classes specifically and the levels of engagement in them. The persistent absentees who disengage from school entirely, and the disengaged pupils who come to school, but avoid work. As teachers we need to recognise that these pupils are as worthy of our time than all the others, and we must endeavour to give them an equal shot at success. I don’t have the answer to how. I feel every pupil is different, every class is different, and we need to keep trying new things until we can achieve this goal. (You can see other post on engagement here, here, here and here).

Lifelong learning

Hattie, my current reading list (which is quite long) includes this name a few times, because almost every blog or article I read, and inset or MA training I attend or any conversation I have involves him. I’m yet to read any of his meta analyses, but I’m led to believe that his findings suggest that the most important factor to improve outcomes is that teachers see themselves as learners. And this is something I can fully understand. I love learning, and would like to continue to be a learner for my whole life, this learning mindset is important, I hope it will rub off and inspire my pupils to look at continued education and to raise their aspirations. I can also see that being a learner will help me teach, my brain will be in learning mode and I will find it easier to think like a learner, thus will aid my planning and help me ensure pupils are making the best progress. Finally, my MA is in Education and Professional Enquiry, I will be analysis and conducting research and applying it to my own practice, thus keeping my practice in a state of constant reflection, renewal and hopefully improvement.

Now, I just need to find some time to knock some titles off this reading list….

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