Sarah Stewart is taking part in a new collaborative project focussing on equity in education. Drawing on expertise from across Europe, it seeks to tackle some of the biggest obstacles to pupil success. Here, she explains her involvement in the project…
As Wales embarks on curriculum reform, the focus on the quality of children’s life experiences will form a central part of both curriculum design and the school experience.
The Welsh Government’s Education in Wales: Our National Mission document recently set out a vision of Welsh education as one which is based on the principles of inclusivity and equity, ensuring that all children in Wales are able to develop to their full potential, no matter the challenges they may be presented with along the way.
Embedded within Successful Futures and Our National Mission is a general sense that we want more for our children. We want them to achieve personal excellence in terms of academic achievement, to become competitive players on a world stage; but we also want happy, healthy children, who are well adjusted in life and resilient to the challenges they will face in a changing world.
As a parent of a child just embarking on her journey through the education system, I want her to enjoy going to school – to have the opportunities to play, to be creative, to be curious… to learn, yes! But with so much of her time spent at school, I want her to live happily too, and for that school life to be a good one.
It was with that vision of education in mind that I embarked on a journey to seek that ‘dolce vita’ in Monza, Italy. There, I met partners from across nine institutions (universities, inspectorates and schools) from across Italy, Romania, Catalonia, Belgium and Wales, united through an Erasmus+ project.
The project, entitled ‘Supporting Opportunity in Schools’ will be focussing on the issue of equity in education. The project will last two years and will seek to develop a conceptual framework for equity, which will reflect the various understandings of the term from across Europe. It will also seek to devise a number of practical tools which school leaders and stakeholders can use to measure and assess a school’s approach to equity.
There will be opportunity for head teachers to engage in professional development through an online portal of e-learning resources and to attend conference events with a focus on equity. Determining these project objectives was a key aspect of this first trip to Monza, and began our discussion of our shared understanding of the concept of equity.
Though we each shared slightly different understandings of the term ‘equity’ it was clear that each project partner came to the table with a passion and a commitment to improving outcomes for children at school, no matter how or where they are educated. It was also obvious that we shared a number of the same challenges. How do we develop equity in schools at a time when the gap between the ‘have nots’ and the ‘have yachts’ in life is ever growing?
As child poverty creeps ever higher in each country represented, how do we protect children against the effects of deprivation on their attainment? How can we engage and enthuse learners so that they want to be at school, and not elsewhere? How can we better sell the story of further education as a means of improving life chances? How can we best include children from ever diversifying backgrounds and ensure all their needs are met? These were some of the key questions which were considered in that first meeting.
Through collaboration, the project seeks to blend both academic and professional knowledge. An active co-construction of a framework of equity will draw on the understanding and experiences of academics, schools and the added support of experts in school evaluation from two inspectorates.
Further solutions will come in the form of the chance to share not only the challenges we each face, but also the means we each use to face and tackle those challenges. Through the sharing of best practice, the project seeks to provide clear and practical means by which schools can improve the opportunities for equity for all learners.
It is hoped, that with time, we will form a part of the unfurling story of the development of equity in Wales and beyond so every child, including my own small daughter who is at the beginning of her school adventure, will truly live ‘la dolce vita’.
If you are interested in taking part in future stages of this project, would like further information or wish to receive a copy of the project newsletter, email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Sarah Stewart is a lecturer in primary education studies at Yr Athrofa