Governments, local authorities, school leaders, and teachers all over the world want to improve the attainment and participation of their students at school. They also want to minimise any systematic differences in school outcomes between social and economic groups. However, considerable effort and money is being wasted on policies, practices and interventions that have very little hope of success, and that may indeed endanger the progress that is being made otherwise. The poor quality of much education research evidence, and an unwillingness among users of evidence to discriminate appropriately between what we know and do not know, means that opportunities are being missed. At a time of reduced public spending and increased public unrest, at least in the UK, it is important that proposed interventions are both effective and efficient. There are evidence-informed ways forward in handling under-achievement and increasing social justice in education. This book shows which the more likely approaches are, and where further work could yield further benefits.
The book will synthesise and summarise the full body of existent evidence on how to overcome disadvantage at school, with a special focus on the role of poverty in educational attainment and post-compulsory participation. The summary on each approach will be inclusive and critical. The book represents a bold attempt to uncover how to break the stratifying links between the socio-economic background of individuals and their educational futures.
This book is unique in three ways.
• It shows where the solutions to disadvantage and the poverty gradient may lie, and where they do not lie.
• It combines primary (new), secondary (official) and published (review) evidence in a way that has never been attempted before in this area. All of these types of data are synthesised for the first time, to find out how to overcome disadvantage in education. The book adopts a clear model of causation in social science – consisting of association, temporal sequence, intervention and explanatory mechanism. It then uses this model to assemble and audit the evidence of all types relevant to the plausible causes of disadvantage. Very few possible causes have sufficient evidence for a complete causal model.
• It clearly distinguishes between those possible causes of disadvantage that are largely fixed for individuals – such as their sex, health record, or family background – and those that are modifiable – such as the school attended, area of residence, or their motivation. The main focus of the book is on the latter list, since only these can be of use to anyone wishing to improve the educational chances of the most disadvantaged in society.
“Overcoming disadvantage” is a research-based book, relevant for courses at Masters level and above in social policy, social work, sociology, and education. It will also be of considerable interest to researchers, practitioners and policy-makers in these areas. It is based on a number of research projects and analyses conducted by the authors, combined with a new way of looking at how we assess causation in social science. Despite its original approach, the book is written in an accessible and engaging manner, suitable for its readership. Terminology and technical issues are kept to the minimum needed for a reader to understand the research issues and to form their own critical judgements. Full references are given to the technical background for those who wish to learn more.