What is Wayne’s Weekly??

During my time as BASW England Anti-racism Visionary, I was fortunate enough to receive staunch support from my allies, colleagues and peers.  As part of my work, I managed to build an extensive and wide-ranging professional network on different platforms.  My passion for ‘Anti-racism in Social Work’ prompted me to frequently and sporadically distribute various articles, resources and relevant social work updates with those in my orbit via email.  I believed there was a need to spotlight news and developments relevant to social workers and to share useful information and resources.  So, I maintained the email distribution list for 2 years and it has now evolved into a weekly newsletter called Wayne’s Weekly (WW).

WW is a newsletter published each Thursday (usually) with the latest social work news and updates including:

💥 Announcements & reports 💥

💥 Articles & blogs 💥

💥 Consultations, petitions & surveys 💥

💥 Events & training 💥

💥 Opportunities & vacancies 💥

💥 Research & resources 💥

In recent months my professional curiosity has increasingly leaned towards exploring the following questions:

💭 What type of social workers subscribe to WW? 💭

💭 What stage of their social work careers are subscribers at? 💭

💭 Which categories of WW are most/least helpful? 💭

💭 Is WW a primary source of social work news for subscribers? 💭

💭 Do subscribers share WW within their own networks/organisations? 💭

💭 Do subscribers have time to read WW? 💭

Based on this, I decided it was important for me to ascertain which areas of WW work well, the areas for development and ultimately whether social workers actually benefit from WW.  So, I decided to devise a survey, which had 288 respondents (9.6% of my email network).  I’ve now published a report [available here] based on the feedback and findings. 

I do not consider myself a social work academic or researcher, but I’m a bit of an ‘unconventional intellectual’  in my own way (geek 🤓), which I honed in the Anti-racism Visionary role and other previous social work roles.

My hopes of writing a short report were foolhardy on reflection!  The report comprehensively explores prominent themes and concludes with how I will refine and streamline WW going forward.  I present the quantitative data using graphs and pie charts to display numerical information and list a selection of the qualitative feedback in bullet-pointed comments (with the occasional reply from me).

The key outcomes from the survey include:

  • WW has a cross-section of subscribers, with particular interest from experienced social workers (27%), managers (18%) and educators (17%).
  • Most respondents work primarily in children and families (28%), adult services (23%), mental health (15%) and social work education (14%).
  • Most respondents (26%) chose the ‘Research & resources’ section of WW as the most beneficial – closely followed by ‘Articles & blogs’ (23%) and ‘Announcements & reports’ (23%).
  • Most respondents (51%) agreed or strongly agreed that WW is their primary source for social work news and updates.
  • Most respondents (63%) agreed or strongly agreed they share WW with their colleagues and/or within their organisation.
  • Roughly 48% agreed or strongly agreed they always have time to read the sections of WW that interest them.

Some of the general comments from respondents included:

  • “I like that you bring together information and widen access to resources that I may not have found myself without a lot of effort – which I don’t have time for. This relates especially to anti-racist stuff that you bring and has helped me massively in making steps to critically check my own practice and acknowledge that racism exists in social work.”
  • “[WW has] too many interesting things that I never have time to read it all!” 
  • “It’s an extremely useful, curated list of materials that matter. It’s useful having the weekly digest as opposed to the daily flurry of emails.”
  • “I like [WW’s] immediacy and that it’s led by a person from a Black and ethnic minority group.”
  • “So much information, but this is not a dislike – it gives me the opportunity to choose what is most appropriate to share with the workforce.”
  • “It raises my awareness of current research and provides good reference points.  Also, it reminds me to continue questioning and developing practice and provides access to helpful resources that I use with students, NQSWs and apprentices – as well as sharing with my team and colleagues.”
  • “WW is sometimes long, but I pick out the things that I feel are most relevant.”
  • “WW is a great succinct newsletter. Real developments since the previous bulletins. Excellent!”
  • “I think you are what brings the whole thing together. It’s your commitment to bringing stuff to our attention that keeps me interested. Because I am thinking if Wayne thinks this is good it is worth paying attention.”
  • “I like the blogs and hearing the voice of people and their experiences.”
  • “The content is almost too good!”
  • “WW is a very useful tool which I find helpful as a busy social worker who has very little time to do independent research around practice issues concerning diversity, justice and change.”
  • “Truly the greatest training resources available to social workers at the moment. A gift of light in a time of darkness. Thank you for your service🎖️.” 
  • “The emails and attachments have continued to be current and relevant to social workers and allied professionals, across all disciplines.  Wayne’s contact has been particularly important in giving prominence to those working on the front line, supporting others, raising real issues and providing evidence of the challenges facing colleagues (he has remained ‘one of us’ throughout).”

Obviously, it’s nice to receive complimentary feedback from allies, colleagues and peers.  It’s certainly a confidence booster.  However, the WW survey invited critical appraisal too – which was constructive and helpful.  The overall process has confirmed to me that WW is a worthwhile endeavour that is beneficial for social workers (and allied professionals) in my network – which is the main objective.  Also, the survey has helped me to gain a clearer perspective of what is working well and less so in WW. 

My only regrets with the survey are that I wish I had included a question about geographical location to ascertain where my subscribers study/work.  Also, I should have asked if respondents are BASW members or not.  Perhaps next time…

Due to the resounding feedback on the length of WW, I’ve made some immediate changes.  For example, the duration and volume of repeated content (especially articles and blogs) is now reduced.  Also, WW is now colour-coded.  Featured links are highlighted in yellow, repeated content is highlighted in grey and new content will remain in standard white to make WW easier to decipher.  Also, WW is now hosted on LinkedIn for free.  To access it you do not need to be registered or logged in.

I maintain WW proactively, it’s not part of my job description.  I take pride in providing what I hope is a helpful multifaceted weekly newsletter for busy social work professionals in my network. 

The editorial process for compiling WW is based on my perspective as a Black male social worker.  Although I aim for the content to be intersectional and relatable, I realise I “cannot please everybody all of the time” – so I just do the best that I can do.  On occasions, I’ve had to decline suggested material from people that I feel is too contentious or if it’s material that I cannot share with others confidently due to my lack of knowledge.  The content of WW does not necessarily represent my views (or BASW’s) – but my editorial opinion is that what is shared has some value.  I will continue with this self-guided approach and retain editorial authority and autonomy. 

Back in the day, before I got into social work, my main passion was music and DJing.  Most serious DJ’s will be familiar with the term “digging in the crates”, which basically means when a DJ scours through record shops looking for rare vinyl records.  This is a concept I’ve applied to WW, in the sense that it requires the subscriber to discover the gems and nuggets of information in the weekly treasure trove!  The bold, diverse and unpredictable nature of WW is probably akin to my eclectic DJ setsDue to my inability to suppress my inner geek (🤓), I’ve found myself creating logos for WW… hence the assortment…  The range of logos (and other artwork) reflect my interest in street art and graffiti, which is important for me to incorporate into the WW brand.  My inspirations are Goldie and Banksy.

My objective is for WW to become a platform which resonates with the social work zeitgeist and for it to contain items of interest for anyone interested or invested in social work.  It is not intended for WW subscribers to read everything.  WW is a newsletter for you to personally select areas of interest.  Either file, share or discard! 

I’m proud to have developed an extensive and wide-ranging network of social workers (and allied professionals) internationally across various platforms.  It has been fruitful and reciprocal in terms of collaboration, partnership working and forming professional alliances.  I hope to make WW a vehicle for positive change in social work going forward.

I’d like to heartily thank EVERYONE who took part in the WW survey.  Please know that all of your responses are deeply appreciated by me.

As always, thanks to all my brothers, sisters, comrades and allies for supporting my work.

“One world, one race… the human race!” ✊🏾✊🏻✊

Kindest regards

Wayne Reid

BASW England Professional Officer & Social Worker

Email – wayne.reid@basw.co.uk

Twitter – @wayne_reid79                    


How can professionals support children and young people’s mental health?

As a society, our current approach to mental health is damaging and limiting. There is a tendency within the media and support agencies to assume a continual rise in emotional difficulties among the young. We are told—in very general terms—that it is virtually impossible to escape mental health damage caused by factors such as engagement with social media, the fallout from Covid-19 lockdowns, and peer pressure. While some children and teenagers have negative experiences, this is not the case for all children and teenagers – yet we act as if it is. One problem with embracing this deficit model of mental health is that it leaves little space to show children and young people how to develop resilience in the face of life’s challenges.

Over a four-year period, I worked with teenagers to develop supportive and creative techniques which we used to work through difficulties and build emotional resilience.  

We found that if we single out individual children and young people who already consider themselves to have poor mental health, we perpetuate the otherness of experiencing emotional difficulties. This can further exacerbate poor mental health as an isolating experience, which in turn can create a myth that other people are doing alright. This creates a binary set of ideas about mental health as being either poor or good and gives children and young people the false impression that we are either happy or sad, coping or not coping.  

I believe that this attitude towards mental health is contributing to us losing sight of the emotional complexity of the human condition. In reality it is normal to feel a wide range of emotions—including feelings such as worry, sadness, contentment, anger, happiness, and relief—but we are not teaching our children and teenagers this. Instead, we pathologise and catastrophise difficult emotions when they arise, and escalate and create potential crises by speaking in limited diagnostic terms (currently our societal focus is on anxiety and trauma).   

For now, I believe that children and young people’s mental health will only improve if we broaden our treatment of mental health and move away from our current deficit model which is very individualistic in focus. Instead, it would be far healthier to work with all children as part of a not for profit or school curriculum and to include the psychology of happiness, satisfaction, and what makes for a meaningful life alongside addressing challenges in our everyday treatment of mental health. 

Drawing upon case study examples I show that it is possible to work creatively with children and teenagers in group settings and that given the opportunity, most young people enjoy taking part in a wide range of activities designed to create change in how they think about themselves and respond to others. I know from working in this way that the process makes a positive difference to how individuals feel and how they go on to cope with problems when they arise. The work that young people and I did together also challenges an overt societal focus on the individual with mental health issues, and shows the benefit of learning from peers, and also celebrating acts of kindness in ourselves and others.  

Rather than problematise childhood surely, we would all rather children and young people foster hope about themselves and their futures? It is exactly this that my book sets out to do and show a wide range of practitioners how to replicate. 

Rachel Burr, 2023

Rachel Burr is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Education and Social Work at the University of Sussex. An anthropologist and social worker with an international background in child protection, her overarching focus is on developing practitioner-orientated techniques for working with and enhancing emotional strength among children and young people who are living in challenging and difficult circumstances.

Her most recent book Self-worth in children and young people – Critical and practical considerations challenges the dominant approaches to children and young people’s mental health, and provides straightforward practical strategies that can be used to address emotional upset, loss and aid recovery.

Essential Guides for Early Career Teachers: Teaching Early Years and Professional Behaviours

I have written these books with colleagues to help guide early career teachers (ECTs) to thrive at what often can be a challenging time in their professional career. We have each  been in education many years and have loved the work in Early Years, Primary School and working with new teachers. No matter in which key stage they may find themselves, being new to the profession will mean having the sole responsibility for a class. While having your own first class is memorable and exciting, it can also be daunting. Linked to this, is the weight of accountability which will be ever present in teachers’ thoughts and associated actions. By engaging in these books, it is hoped that individuals will consider how they are responding to being accountable across the breadth of their newly formed audiences. These include the children in their charge, other professionals, their setting, families and those responsible adults they are now engaged with. We also intend that these books will support in finding effective ways to quickly settle in to the new role as an ECT.

Having graduated from teacher training it will no doubt feel like the ‘L plates’ are off. For some individuals it may feel like there is no-one sat beside them to advise and reassure them in their actions and decisions. However, at the heart of these books is a key message for ECTs:, remember you will never be alone.

These books are designed to help readers learn from more experienced and established teaching professionals. It is worth remembering all experienced individuals can learn from others: we are lifelong learners! I have been fortunate enough to have the wisdom of both Lorna and Rachael to write important chapters and to help guide and inform my thoughts and writings. I hope these texts will allow the reader to gain insight into professional practice in areas they have developing expertise in. Also, that they will form a bridge into the teaching profession, allowing the reader to build on all those valuable experiences gained whilst on their training courses and school-based practices.

Each book covers two key aspects of starting and being in the teaching profession. Firstly, with regards to our teaching in early years book, such practitioners establish the building blocks on which all future educational successes are established. Such teachers do not, as others might consider, just play. They establish the knowledge, values and attitudes for a child’s future success. Everything they do will be considered and organised to promote the best of educational experiences. While our professional behaviours book, considers and explores the key notion that professional skills and behaviours will be needed by all if they wish to be effective ECTs.

Both books are underpinned by current research and literature linked to the practice and teaching of early years and the establishment of professional behaviours. We also intend them to be a springboard for learning by offering suggestions for further reading around the themes explored. It is intended that these cited readings and further links to literature will not only serve to allow the reader to ground their practice in theory but also serve as a means to promote critical self-reflection. This being the key to successful improvements in practice and self-development.

 In both books, an exploration of an emerging sense of professional identity is a vital aspect that underpins the early chapters. This is important since it helps the reader to consider what it is that makes them so unique and special. Also, how formative elements of their lives, for example their life experiences and narratives can serve to influence and form not only who they are but also who they will become.

In our early years book we hope the reader will  consider the importance of building outstanding provision whilst supporting children to be unique individuals. Fundamental to this is the notion of effective relationships and the values these bring to working with children and other adults in each setting. Whilst our professional behaviours book also seeks to reaffirm the value of promoting outstanding provision but also the significance that others can provide in helping and allowing a teacher to improve and develop. No one should consider themselves an island, but see the importance of engaging with others, the value of professional development as well as the importance of looking after oneself.

Both books are full of case studies, reflective questions and tasks with the end to all chapters prompting the reader to engage in critical thinking. The case studies are intended to allow the reader to reflect on their own and others lived experiences at differing periods in their professional development. As with the professional behaviours books our writings have been enriched by the voices of mentors and senior leaders across a range of settings and geographical areas. No matter the experience of individuals, the values of the tasks and questions provided lie in the focus and spotlight they allow for the promotion of the themes covered. Their power lies in their ability to engage the reader and others mentoring or supportive others/colleagues to discuss their views and conclusion on the items provided.

In conclusion, I hope these books will provide valuable and accessible go to support for the development of ECTs. That they will allow the reader to dip in and out as needed to form that valuable voice on one’s shoulder. Thus, guiding ECTs to make informed choices and decisions as their careers evolve and develop. I hope, as with myself, the reader will see their careers to be part of a learning journey: informed by others, by experiences and the items that we engage with. It will be the choices that we make that will serve to enrich own personal and professional lives and will allow for the betterment of others.

Colin Howard, November 2022

An Ambitious Secondary School Curriculum

Jonathan Glazzard and Michael Green

We wrote this book to unpack our understanding of an ambitious secondary curriculum. The Education Inspection Framework rightly places a significant emphasis on the curriculum as the substance of education. In recent years, schools have focused on raising academic attainment and this has led to unintended consequences, including teaching to the test and curriculum narrowing. A broad curriculum serves pupils well. It provides them with rich knowledge and enables them to develop their interests and talents.

The book addresses some pertinent concepts. We discuss composite and component knowledge and substantive and disciplinary knowledge. These are not terms that pupils need to know but it is crucial for teachers to understand what they mean. We argue that pupils make progress when they learn the curriculum. A well-planned and appropriately sequenced curriculum will enable pupils to know more, remember more and do more. The curriculum is the progression framework and therefore progress is not a numerical score. It is a qualitative judgement and therefore pupils make progress when they learn the curriculum as intended.

We argue that an ambitious subject curriculum is one which enables pupils to achieve the broad, ambitious goals of the National Curriculum. Ambition is also evident in the way in which the curriculum is designed to provide pupils with cultural capital. We argue that pupils with special educational needs and disabilities should follow the same curriculum pathway that all pupils follow – same pathway, same journey, same end points. This ensures equality of opportunity and enables teachers to demonstrate high expectations of all pupils. We argue that alternative curricula should be the exception for those pupils with very complex needs.

We address inclusion very explicitly through a variety of themes. These include designing a curriculum to address mental health, LGBTQ+ and race equality. We have devoted whole chapters to these themes. These aspects are not addressed in the National Curriculum, but we believe that education plays a fundamental role in advancing social justice in society. If these matters of inclusion are missing from the curriculum we have lost a crucial opportunity to eradicate prejudice in the future.

Each chapter is supported by case studies, critical questions and research boxes. We have provided practical guidance for leaders to support them with curriculum development and we have devoted a whole chapter to the academic and vocational qualifications that are taught in secondary education.

Introducing Creative Approaches to Social Work Practice Learning

If you are a social worker, practice educator, on-site supervisor wanting to expand your toolkit of creative ideas, this beautifully illustrated book edited by Heidi Dix and Aisha Howells provides an array of innovative and practical tools. To be used with students, apprentices, Newly Qualified Social Workers, the tools can even be used to develop a social worker’s own practice!

This book aims to show that ‘creativity is for everyone and it can be cultivated with practice’ (p165). As such, chapters are written by practice educators, social work academics and people with lived experience ranging from ideas around how to start and end a placement well, trauma-informed learning, anti-racist practice, the use of stories and more. Original poetry or spoken word are interwoven through the book, from acclaimed authors and poets to support creativity in learning and teaching in social work.

The book’s nine chapters outline standalone tools, providing a brief overview, examples of how to use the tool in practice and the theoretical ideas which underpin the tool. Vivid illustrations accompany the different sections capturing the different elements as inspiration for imaginative social work practice learning.

To use as either a quick-reference guide, during supervision or simply drawing on each tool sequentially through a social work placement journey, whatever the situation, this book is an essential and accessible resource which enhances creative approaches to learning. Although focussed on social work, the tools and learning activities are transferable across disciplines, such as education and health, which involve a practice learning experience.

Review -The Higher Education Personal Tutor’s and Advisor’s Companion

Review of Lochtie, D., Stork, A. and Walker, B.W. (2022) The Higher Education Personal Tutor’s and Advisor’s Companion St Albans: Critical Publishing

For many years, personal tutoring has been an under-researched area; indeed, Thomas (in Lochtie et al 2018) describes it as “something of an academic desert” (p.x). Academic staff have found themselves in the front line supporting students, with little guidance available from the pedagogic literature.

Hence, when Lochtie et al published a text on personal tutoring in 2018 it was an extremely welcome resource for tutors, researchers, student services staff and management. This new (2022) text takes us further and provides 25 case studies illustrating how to translate the theory in the first book into practice.

The book is even more timely given the pressures faced by HE generally and individual students particularly in the context of the pandemic, and the significant changes to teaching and learning, such as the increased adoption of blended approaches. The authors conclude that “belonging and connectedness have arguably never been more vital” (Lochtie et al 2022 p.xvi) and personal tutors are key agents in achieving this.

One problem facing the editors of a book containing wide ranging case studies is how to organise and form connections between them. Rather than try to pummel them into ill-fitting categories, the editors have arranged the case studies alphabetically by author, and produced a “themes” table which is near the start of the book. This is not only valuable signposting for readers with specific interests, it is also cross-referenced to the relevant section of the companion (2018) text.

Each chapter consists of one case study, and the beginning and ending of each follows a broadly uniform structure – again, quite an achievement on the part of the editors. Following an initial chapter focused themes table, the case study is summarised in a succinct introduction or background; at the end of each case study is a conclusion or “key messages”. Finally, there is a set of “critical reflections” to consider, which indeed could also be used by staff developers.

However, here the similarity ends. The case studies are diverse, including scholarly research and more informal stories of practice, with authors from academic, leadership and student support roles.  Some have one author, some have many (indeed, up to eight) authors. 25 UK institutions are represented, including long-established and more modern universities. The topics are wide ranging, encompassing whole institutional approaches, module based tutoring, group tutorials, training for tutors, employability, “at risk” students, coaching, and more. Moreover the fact that a significant number of institutions are not only working with students and staff to research and enhance their approach to personal tutoring, but also prepared to share their good practice, is highly encouraging – maybe this key issue is finally moving from the sidelines into the spotlight.

The diversity of case studies mean that readers are likely to find something relevant to their own circumstances, as well as approaches and questions which might challenge them to further enrich their own practice. Once again, this is an essential text which would be of great value to all involved in supporting students directly or organising and managing such support.

Kathryn McFarlane, Independent Consultant, Professional Development Manager at Staffordshire University (retired).

The Higher Education Personal Tutor and Advisor’s Companion

Having co-authored Effective Personal Tutoring in Higher Education which detailed what we thought was happening in the sector at that point, what I personally found exciting about co-editing (with Andy Stork and Ben Walker, two of my previous co-authors) The Personal Tutor’s and Advisor’s Companion was that it details what is happening in the sector right now – at a very interesting time for higher education. As a previous Critical Blog has explored, COVID-19 has had a profound impact on our institutions so the exposition and examination of advising and tutoring these 25 case studies offer is needed now more than ever.  The opportunity to gather these examples of excellence and innovation from across the sector, at this particular point in history, was a genuine privilege to be involved with.

Our team of 50 authors come from a wide range of academic and professional service roles, even including some recent graduates, drawing upon their own student voice and experience.  The institutions they write about are similarly varied coming from across the UK and featuring red brick universities, post-1992 institutions and lots in between. The case studies are presented in a variety of forms from scholarly enquiry and action research to personal stories of practice.

My favourite part of editing this book involved conducting a thematic analysis of the case studies we received.  You could be forgiven for feeling that advising and tutoring is perennially ‘under-review’ as reflected by the fact that nine of our case studies detail accounts of institutional review and implementation. The exact nature and outcomes of those reviews offer a detailed snapshot of contemporary student support in the sector. 

Four of our case studies show differentiation by individual student needs – including via coaching and methods such as Social Identity Mapping. Six feature differentiation by subject area asserting that no ‘one size fits all’ and identifying the specific needs of, say, STEM students and then later, Arts and Humanities students. 

Six of our case studies consider differentiation by student population for varying categories of students who may be considered as ‘at risk’ (whilst discussing the challenges and limitations of such a term). Nine case studies provide a range of views on an expert versus generalist debate… showing examples of how both specialist advisors and personal tutors, as part of a balanced teaching and research workload, can improve the student experience. Nine case studies discuss student involvement and co-creation so detail the voice and needs of contemporary students, which is surely more important now than ever?

With such diversity across our case studies and the wider sector, can we truly learn from examples of good practice elsewhere? I believe so. I believe our institutions have more in common than they do in contrast.  Alongside the smorgasbord of various student support solutions featured in the book I recommend seeking common principles.

The need to develop a sense of wellbeing among students features in ten case studies, with notions of student engagement, pastoral support, well-being and transition featured in 22 case studies combined. Through all of our differences what we have in common is having students at our core.

There is no ‘one student experience’ at any of these institutions but our case studies show how we are all working towards consistency in structure where it is possible and beneficial.

It is our ambition for advising and tutoring to build towards a body of literature (and associated development) on a par with the wealth of such which exists for teaching and in full coordination with developments in wider student development theory. We feel this book is a significant step towards that and very much hope that you get as much from reading these examples of good practice from across the sector as we did in editing them.

Dave Lochtie, Andy Stork and Ben Walker

Do you want to develop your own creativity and the creative skills of children?

If you are a teacher or a parent wanting to make sure that you are giving young people every chance to be creative, this book by Dr Karen Hosack Janes looking at how creativity can be nurtured is for you.

First it explores the early creative experiences of some people well-known for being creative and then draws together these insights to propose three conditions for nurturing creativity: Being in an environment that values the arts in everyday life; having time for experimentation and play; and having opportunities to collaborate with others.

The book goes on to use the three conditions as lenses to view a variety of educational theories and current educational practices, in and out of school settings, including online cultural learning programmes. The aim is to demonstrate how much consensus there is about developing creative skills. However, also highlighted is the importance of understanding that primarily creativity comes about when an individual has a significant amount of creative agency. This means, in practical terms for professional educators and parents, that children’s personal input into shaping a creative experience needs to be considerable. This important point brings into question activities that are not as creatively demanding as they could be, for example tasks that simply require children to copy, or to follow step-by-step instructions, or just to colour in. Instead, activities need to involve the individual more in experimenting with ideas, utilising their own prior experiences, and building and expanding on these by collaborating with others. In this way personal creative responses are most effectively elicited.

Each chapter in the book guides the reader through some complex ideas and poses reflective questions with a view to the reader finding a personal (creative) understanding of creativity. The multiple perspectives voiced throughout, including from writers, artists, musicians, academics, teachers and cultural venue educators, make it clear that developing creative skills is a life affirming experience that has widespread social, cultural and economic benefits. 

Dr Karen Hosack Janes is the author of ‘Nurturing Creativity in the Classroom An exploration of consensus across theory and practice’.

Available NOW in Paperback, PDF, EPUB, and on Kindle for just £17.99!

ISBN : 9781913453893
Edition No : 1
Publication : Jan 12, 2022
Extent : 128 pgs

Review of ‘Enabling Critical Pedagogy in Higher Education’

Enabling Critical Pedagogy in Higher Education’, provides practitioners and educational professionals with a holistic overview of the subject. The book highlights pragmatic ways in which critical pedagogy can be integrated into daily practice, as well as large scale curriculum changes. Key concepts are broken down in a dynamic and digestible way and essential tools are provided to create more stimulating and anti-oppressive learning environments.
Through the lens of Enabling Critical Pedagogy, education is envisioned as an informal, shared and negotiated experience in which the roles of student and educator are flexible and interchangeable. Within this space, rich, organic learning can truly take place. The book explores the multifaceted and multidisciplinary application of critical pedagogy and suggests that by enabling such practice, educators can empower the production of authentic knowledge and the development of critical thinkers.
The book offers an exciting reimagining of institutions and the frameworks in which they operate. Mike and Alan emphasise the significance of platforming minoritised narratives such as those of queer, indigenous and working class communities – whose voices have been stolen and suppressed by academia. They critique the white, patriarchal, Eurocentric and classed nature of higher education and prepare the reader to challenge the downfalls of current neoliberal, colonial teachings and methodologies.
Mike and Alan discuss the potential obstacles of enabling critical pedagogy in higher education. They point out that learners are often unaccustomed to such interactive, inclusive and autonomous academic environments in which they can equally challenge, and be themselves. Mike and Alan give readers the confidence to step out of their comfort and employ courage and passion in order to redefine the passivity of education. They encourage readers to become responsible practitioners by acknowledging the intersections of their own privilege and oppression, which in turn empowers an understanding of the unique context of each individual learner or group. They address creative, compassionate and comprehensive solutions to de-standardise, de-colonise and de-centre hetero-patriarchal norms within academia and voice non-dominant epistemologies and ideologies. The book is landmarked with poignant questions; allowing a chance for both reflection and an experience of critical pedagogy in practise.
From a student perspective, higher education lacks a sense of togetherness, transparency and accountability. We are in need of more liberating learning environments in which we can thrive and question ourselves, our peers and the very institutions we are part of. Environments that recognise marginalised voices and the wealth of knowledge in the room and address the need to engage with our compliance in exporting ideologies across the colonial world. The current process of learning does not allow space for students or practitioners to come together in collective force to share stories, struggles and cultures and can easily become hostile, exclusionary and simply inefficient.
The book instills faith in oneself as a practitioner and student and offers the possibility of genuinely fulfilling experiences in higher education. Readers are left with the message of, “we don’t know if we don’t try”. Whether it be creating an inclusive space for honest dialogue within daily practice, or becoming actively accountable for academias debt to the colonial world  – the book offers a sense of hope that pedagogues can create radical change and transformation within higher education.
Hannah Poklad,
Freelance Photographer & Leeds Beckett Youth and Community Work MA Level 7 Student

Hannah Poklad reviews Enabling Critical Pedagogy in Higher Education’ by Mike Seal and Alan Smith and edited by Joy Jarvis and Karen Smith.

Available NOW in Paperback, PDF, EPUB, and on Kindle for just £20.00!

ISBN : 9781914171093
Edition No : 1
Publication : Sep 3, 2021
Extent : 96 pgs

Why is choosing the right school for your child important? The differences between school types in England

The English education system has a variety of school types available (from privately owned to publicly funded, academies and free schools, single-sex and mixed, grammar schools and comprehensives), and deciphering the differences between them can be confusing to many parents. Too much choice can be overwhelming, but the best way to deal with the confusion is to gather together some relevant and dependable information.

School choice – in England at least – is about asserting your right to indicate a preference for your child to attend a particular school.

But ‘indicating a preference’ is not the same as ‘getting a place’ in your first-choice school, so for the 93% of children who attend state-funded schools, the next step in the process is for their highest possible school preference to be respected and acted upon.

Let’s acknowledge that – wherever you are in the process of choosing a school – some of your choices have already been made. For reasons such as family and jobs, you live in a particular place and the unavoidable fact is that, for most people, where you live affects the choices of school available to you. If you live in a densely populated area, there will be a greater number of schools closer by than if you live in a less densely populated area.

Indeed, we would argue that it’s helpful to remember the Bananarama Principle, which suggests that, to paraphrase, it’s not what type of school you’re in, it’s what happens in your school… and that’s what gets results. We know of many schools in challenging contexts and with low Ofsted ratings that are doing incredible things to serve the needs of their pupils, things that a prospective parent would only know about it they seek out dependable information from a range of sources.

Types of schools in England

Schools in England can, broadly, be grouped into two categories: those that are state-funded and those that are privately funded (sometimes known as ‘independent’ or, confusingly, ‘public’ schools). State schools in England either are funded through the local authority, or get their funding directly from central government. Private schools, on the other hand, charge a fee for the education they provide, and this is often paid directly by parents, though in some cases bursaries and scholarships are available.

This table visualises the types of state-funded schools in England.

Traditionally known as ‘local authority maintained schools’. They follow the national curriculum and are independent of any business or faith group.Funded by the local authority but sometimes receive support from faith groups.Funded by not-for- profit academy trusts. They operate outside of the local authority’s control.These may be run by the local authority, a foundation, or an academy trust.
These schools do not have selection tests for entry.These schools do not have selection tests for entry.These schools do not have selection tests for entry.Grammar schools select their pupils using entrance tests of academic ability.

The first two columns in the table describe schools with which most people will be familiar to some extent – many parents in England will have attended a local authority school of one kind or another. Academies, however, are a relatively new and significant development in England’s education system, and so we turn our attention to them now.


Academies were originally introduced by the Labour government in 2002 as a ‘remedial intervention’ to improve the quality of education in so-called ‘failing schools’. After the Conservative/ Liberal Democrat coalition government came into power in 2010, the number of academies began to rise dramatically. Studies into the effects of this new school type find that there has been little impact of academies per se on children’s outcomes, although some positive effects have been found (schools rated as outstanding by Ofsted before they converted to being an academy between 2010 and 2014 saw increases of around one GCSE grade in two subjects, on average).

Unlike community schools, academies do not have to follow the national curriculum (the collection of subjects that children in primary schools and secondary schools learn, and the standards they should meet in them), but they do have to offer something of equal or greater depth and ambition that responds to what children attending the school know and can do: they must respond constructively to fill the gaps in knowledge and skill the children they teach have.

According to the Department for Education in England, 32 per cent of primary schools and 75 per cent of secondary schools are (at the time of writing) either academies or free schools, with over four million children attending them (about 2.5 million of these children are in secondary schools, while more than 1.6 million are primary school children, and those not accounted for in these figures attend special and alternative provision academies). Academies have grown in number, and it seems likely that this trend will continue in years to come.

Grammar schools

At age 11, when children move from primary school to secondary school (after the end of Year 6), most go to a state-funded school which is non-selective. A small number go to one of the 163 academically selective grammar schools which use entrance testing to assess a child’s achievement and ability. Their presence in the English education system stems from national and local policy decisions which have created heated debates about privilege, segregation and fairness in society. But these debates generally don’t directly affect the majority of parents, due to the relatively small number of grammar schools in the country (which tend to be clustered in certain geographic regions – there is only one in Cumbria, for example, and 15 in Lincolnshire).

The knowledge, skill and dedication of leaders and teachers in grammar schools is not to be diminished but it is important to acknowledge the body of research indicating that this school type per se is not superior to any other, something that can also be said for single-gender schools.

Single-gender schools

If you are considering either an all-boys or all-girls school for your child, you may be surprised to find that – despite anecdotes and intuition – research suggests that sending your child to one appears to make very little – if any – difference to how well they’re likely to do academically. This is not to say that they won’t flourish in a single-gender school, but that, on average, this school type does not confer an academic advantage per se (yet again, the Bananarama Principle returns!).

When we spoke to Durham University’s Professor Stephen Gorard, he offered his thoughts on why, for example, single-gender girls’ schools seem to achieve better results than mixed-gender schools: ‘Single-sex girls’ schools have results in line with those of girls in mixed [co-educational] schools – they just have more girls so the average is higher as girls tend to have better outcomes.’ Looking at the research evidence, we have to conclude that attending a single-gender school appears to make very little – if any – difference to how well a child is likely to do academically.

Private schools

Defining private schools (sometimes known as ‘independent’ or – confusingly – ‘public’ schools) is not as simple as offering a neat, one-line description. As ever in the world of education, things are a little more complicated than that.

For example, the 1400 or so schools registered on the Independent Schools Council website (www.isc.co.uk/schools/) include day schools and boarding schools, co-educational schools and single-sex schools, faith schools and those with no religious affiliation. While private schools often have long histories and are well-known, the number of pupils attending them in England has gone down in recent years: there were 2300 fewer pupils attending in 2019 than in 2017 (Department for Education, 2019).

While entrance testing is common in many private schools, not all select children based on their ability (as demonstrated by performance on an entrance test, for instance), although paying school fees creates a form of selection for all but those who receive the (often generous) bursaries and scholarships available. As with grammar schools and single-gender schools, research evidence indicates that attending a private school does not necessarily confer an academic advantage on average (Ndaji et al, 2016).


So, to summarise, there is a variety of different school types available in England, although where you live will affect which are actually available to you. School type itself seems to affect the education that children receive less than the quality of the teaching and leadership, so it is advisable to focus your attention on what happens in and around a school, more than what type it is.

Some schools select students: by ability, by gender or financially. Many make the argument that characteristics of their school type – such as its basis for selection – lead to better academic outcomes for students, on average. But is this really the case? Mostly, the answer to this question is ‘no,’ although there do seem to be other ways in which certain types of school confer certain advantages. In most cases, school type makes much less of a difference than the quality of teaching and leadership.

This blogpost is created from excerpts from ‘What Every Parent Should Know About Education: How Knowing The Facts Can Help Your Child Succeed‘ written by Chris Atherton and Stuart Kime.

Available now in Paperback, EPUB, and PDF for just £14.99!

ISBN : 9781913063139
Edition No : 1
Extent : 144 pgs
Publication : May 5, 2021