Inspiration SEND Network Book Blog #5: Choudry - Equitable Education

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Published on 25/04/22

Equitable Education: Sameena Choudry

Written by Claire Gregson-Rix, Great Yarmouth Charter Academy. 

51AKLVXjy9S. SX344 BO1,204,203,200 Many teachers who have been teaching for a long period of time may describe their  educational journey as somewhat like ‘being on a game show’. Where conducive research surrounding educational matters was watered down through in-effective communication, resulting in ‘buzz words’ or the latest acronym being blasted around educational establishments with limited grounding or a lack of overarching concept of application.  

The 1990 publication by the UNCRC, the 2010 Equality Act and 2018 KCSIE, all contribute to the overarching theme of inclusive practice.  However, political influences on education, changes in funding, and community or cultural challenges have meant that many of these practices have been unsustainable or have failed to support the children that we serve in our educational establishments.  Choudry’s book cuts through the wilderness of the latest craze or educational fad and synthesises theoretical approaches and practical solutions to promote the basis of which equitable education should be built upon.

Many leaders in education aspire to ‘not leave any child behind’, ‘to close the gap’, and with additional pressures created by performance tables, which can lead to a focus on improving the grades of specific vulnerable groups.  Schools are overrun by targets, which can result in the creation of a quick-fire response, rather than focussing on the practical ‘how to’ aspects that will achieve long lasting impact.  Choudry raises awareness that the labelling of such populations can create its own difficulty.  The societal strive for the formation of classifications of FSM-6, SEND, EAL presents its own challenges.  With many children having experiences within a multitude of labelled phenomena, how do we ensure all their needs are met?  Choudry says it simply - ‘we need to strive for equity’.

Choudry expresses the concerns causing structural exclusions and inequalities that lead to an imbalance in access and distribution of resources and opportunity.  As school leaders we often consider our impact on wider societal issues however it is important to remember that we can only change what is in our ‘locus of control’.  It is also important to consider our school policies and reflect upon how these are communicated to all stakeholders as policy requires extensive work to result in appropriate practice.

Choudry explains that as humans, we create our own theories or set of statements to explain or predict social life. The dominant group creates norms within society, rules and laws. As such, it is important that the dominant group, in this case the educated school leader, considers a wide theoretical base to ensure their own theories are challenged.  They must consider the theories created by others living in various societal situations and ensure that confirmation bias is reduced by not ignoring factors that do not fit into our own theoretical schemas.  Other forms of bias that we, as school leaders, need to be aware of are explicit bias and implicit bias. In particular, implicit bias may lead us to promote stereotypical or stigmatised concepts that have been created through preconceived social constructs that may apply on an unconscious level. Unwitting exclusions of discriminatory impact can occur when we do not develop our own theories leading to the projection of our own values being placed on others.  A lack of social understanding, ignorance and mistaken beliefs can be detrimental.  Leading to the creation of inflexible policies and practices that are seen across the nation.

Throughout her book, Choudry uses bold, relatable examples to express perspectives and to give applicable evidence.  One example is the evaluation of parents’ evening and why parental attendance was low.  From my experience of working in institutions with varying demographic communities, the reasoning resounded by staff and parents would differ immensely, yet, has the truth or reality actually been identified?  Have schools provided singular schematic or theoretical perspectives rather than accepting the test of our own explanatory theories?  Choudry suggests that sometimes aspects of judgment have come from a quantitative data yield rather than considering the ‘how to’ aspects that would actually have had impact on parental engagement and be one substantial levy to raising performance.  

Choudry’s book raises another challenging aspect, ‘the restrictive sectionality of thinking’.  As school leaders we try to simplify systems based upon theoretical perspectives rather than embrace the interconnectivity of comprehensive complex structures.  Through the process of de-construction and simplification, we often overlook the intersectional aspects that are inherent within our society, and as thus, become guilty of conformational bias.

Choudry’s book reflects much of current research where throughout a range of chapters, she considers and explores the concepts of gender, BAME, SEND, school leadership and other factors as singular axis concepts, providing depth and consideration.  What makes Choudry’s book unique is that she also considers the co-occurrence of many of these issues and the intersectionality aspects found within a diverse community.  She provides practical ways in which cultural and individual barriers can be reduced. She considers the structural, conflict and interactional aspects of society.  

Through her attempt to deconstruct the privileges and inequalities of society, she untangles the reality of many educational practices that are inherent in today’s educational system.  She is able to suggest evidence-based strategies to promote equitable education and outcomes for all.  Choudry’s book explores and consolidates significant research that would greatly be of benefit for all school leaders.