Providing evidence to reduce inequalities - a new BERA project

Nick Johnson's picture
How can our education system better contribute to reducing social inequalities? How can we put children and young people at the heart of education policy? How can the research evidence be used to help us achieve our goals? These are three of the questions at the heart of a major new project being developed by the British Educational Research Association (BERA).
Run by a team of leading academics drawn from BERA’s Special Interest Groups (SIGs), Respecting Children and Young People: Learning from the past, redesigning the future is focused upon developing policy recommendations on issues related to the lived experience and futures of children and young people.
Some of BERA’s leading educational researchers are working alongside others to produce an alternative policy manifesto that is informed by research on equality in education from the last 40 years. The priority is to address the challenges of global change and exacerbating social inequalities that diminish the lives of many children and young people. The project is doing this through bringing together the best and most robust evidence on a range of issues including those of access and inclusion, assessment, curriculum development as well as race, gender and class.
It will culminate at the end of 2014 with the publication of our policy manifesto and a public event in early 2015. Through this, we hope to inform public debate prior to the Westminster election in May 2015. However, this is not being done in a traditional way with several people writing detailed chapters. We want the process as well as the outcome to represent our values of inclusivity and openness.
A blog has been set up which invites comments and contributions. Leading researchers are posting lessons from their own work and hoping to provoke debate and discussion. The blog is constantly being updated with new posts and is broad in its interest – recent posts have been on vocational education, parent-school relationships and special educational needs. Anyone with an interest in education policy and practice can view, comment and discuss on the blog. This work is being supported by a combination of individual and joint SIG activities and events throughout 2014, some of which take place at BERA’s annual conference in September.
Through this project and the eventual manifesto, BERA hopes to contribute to the public debate around the election and ensure that the research-base plays a leading part in discussions. All our politicians talk the talk on closing the achievement gap and using education as a tool for social mobility but, as Prof. Geoff Whitty argues in the opening article on the project’s blog, “the system as a whole has demonstrated a capacity to remain stubbornly inequitable.”
Respecting Children and Young People: Learning from the past, redesigning the future is part of BERA’s 40th anniversary celebrations as we look to ensure that the best quality research influences policy. Creating an education system able to compete on an international scale requires insight, challenge, critique, strong educational knowledge, and robust evidence. BERA and its members can offer this though projects such as this. We aim to use the best research to provide an evidence base for policy that has issues of equality and social justice at its heart.
Contributions, whether through the blog, attending the BERA conference or other events are more than welcome as we examine the evidence and convert this into policy recommendations over the coming months. To find out more about BERA, please visit and please do take the time to stop by the blog and read, comment, and get involved in discussion. You might also consider writing a guest post? Or perhaps you work with practitioners or children/young people who are interested in sharing with us their research or experiences? Or you may be experienced with turning rigorous research into policy and would be prepared to act as critical friends, helping us to identify any oversights, give guidance on where we might find additional research to support the positions put forward, and also to help us refine the policy recommendations for our manifesto? Please do get in touch.
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Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 05/08/2014 - 10:36

Thanks, Nick. I've just had a look at the blog and it contains a piece about extending opportunities to participate in learning. It ends with a question re teacher education:

"If the theoretical input to initial teacher education is reduced, how can new teachers learn to critique the assumptions about learning that pervade education, and what opportunity do they have to inform their practice with theoretical ideas such as inclusive pedagogy?"

This echoes concerns made by contributors to "Teacher Education through Active Engagement:Raising the professional voice" edited by Professor Lori Beckett. This book argues for teacher education to be underpinned by pedagogic theory - I reviewed the book here.

… Ian Menter and Vice President Gemma Moss). The BERA office has supported us enthusiastically with publicity and event management, and we have had astute policy writing advice from external consultant, Sharon …

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