Community Engagement – Opportunity or Obstacle?

After 2 years of study I have finally completed my Masters in Social Justice and Education (pauses to celebrate!). A large part of the course was researching and writing a 20,000 word dissertation on area of my choice. After much deliberation, I researched the nature and perceived impact of school and community links on children’s education, in an area of less advantage and spent many months writing about what I discovered. I’d love to chat to you about it (if you’re interested), but in the meantime I have uploaded it here for those who have a couple of hours to spare and want to take a peek…Dissertation M Bower September 2016



Thinking data

So, I’ve done a bunch of interviews and my generous Mother has transcribed them – what next? 

Somehow I have to make sense of the information so it becomes a valuable resource for others – and as usual in my world this seems to involve large sheets of paper, post-it notes and plenty of coloured pens.

Today’s technique is to select 8 random words or phrases (by random I mean issues, thoughts or theories that have been lurking in my head) and read through the interviews to see if I can make any connections. 

Like the ‘thinking sticks‘ concept I used a lot while homeschooling it provides a platform for making connections where they didn’t exist before. The result? New ideas and new ways of processing the data.

Academisation and Community

There is much debate at the moment surrounding this government’s plans to academise all schools. One potential effect of this is the closure of small and rural schools, in particular primary schools, as academy trusts seek to make schools ‘financially viable’. Before this is allowed to take place perhaps the government need to consider the wider potential impact of this…

  1. Increased emissions from transporting children further from home to school

  2. Less investment in local businesses like village shops and childminders 

  3. A decrease in community cohesion 

It’s this last point I want to expand on briefly. I know that, as a parent, sending my children to the local primary school enabled our family to be integrated into the local community – from friendship circles to work opportunities, advice on local facilities to a sense of belonging – the local school played a key role in the development of our social networks, widening them to include one who we would not naturally meet through other means, providing support and opportunities where they would not otherwise have existed.

While I realise not everyone in a community has children, for those that do, their local primary school is not just a place to send their children to be educated, it is a hub for community building and cohesion.

“What the best and wisest parent wants for his child, that must the community want for all of its children. Any other ideal for our schools is narrow and unlovely” Dewey 1915


Question: What’s the purpose of education?

Finally the Government are asking questions about the purpose of education in England! This is one of the questions I’ve been asking ever since returning to the UK 6 years ago and inserting my children back to the educational system here.

In 1989, the UK ratified the UNCRC (United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child) where, amongst it’s many articles, can be found details of the right to education. In the UK all children do have the right to access an education as stated in article 28, but I believe the Government could be said to be in danger of ignoring the next article (29) which goes on to quantify what type of education a child is entitled to:

“The development of the child’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential” UNCRC article 29 1(a)

In a recent essay I highlighted that:

“Successive Education Ministers have steered schools away from providing a “child-friendly, inspiring and motivating [education for] the individual child” (UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, 2001, p5) and instead have encouraged the “type of teaching that is focused primarily on accumulation of knowledge, prompting competition and leading to an excessive burden of work on children”, which according to the Committee for the Convention on the Rights of the Child “may seriously hamper the harmonious development of the child to the fullest potential of his or her abilities and talents” (UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, 2001, p5).”

Now that the Government are asking “What the purpose of education for children of all ages in England should be” I would like to direct them to the work already done by the UN which clearly states why we educate children – helping them discover who they are and enabling them to be and do all that they can.




What is education for?

“As part of our inquiry into the purpose and quality of education in England, the Education Committee would like to hear your views on what the education system is for.”

Have your say here – don’t miss this opportunity. I’m going to formulate my response and I’ll post it here.

What will you say?


Learning from others

learn-300x225The moment we’re born, we are learning  – to walk and talk, eat and sleep. We don’t learn this in isolation, but by learning from others. We observe, listen, copy, fail and try again until we get it right. As we grow we do the same, learning from others around us, those who know how, who do it everyday or are just having a go themselves.

As educators we have boxed this concept. Continue reading