Leave or Remain, Trump or Clinton, Bake Off on the BBC or Bake Off on Channel4? It can sometimes feel like it is turning into a pretty divisive world but there are still some things we can all agree on, aren’t there?
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, ….” So says the second paragraph of the United States Declaration of Independence.
Working for equality – or tackling inequality – is a common cause for many excellent organisations both in the UK and abroad. At Action Tutoring, we sometimes use synonyms; we talk about ‘fairness’ on our website and the Fair Education Alliance (which Action Tutoring is a proud member of) is “working to tackle educational inequality, building a fairer education for all by 2022.”
This looks like an aim we can all get behind, but to borrow a title of a book by the excellent Ben Goldacre: I think You’ll Find It’s a Bit More Complicated Than That.
We may believe a more equal society is a noble aim, but what do we really mean by that? Are we talking about equality of opportunity or equality of outcome? The difference in these standpoints is neatly (some may think over simplistically) summarised by Dr. Mark Cooray
“Equality of opportunity provides in a sense that all start the race of life at the same time. Equality of outcome attempts to ensure that everyone finishes at the same time.”
Written in these terms I think I would fall on the side of equality of opportunity being the ‘fairest’ and what we should be striving for. Then again, as Deborah Orr pointed out in the Guardian in 2009
“Therein lies the problem with the idea of equal opportunity for all. Some people are simply better placed to take advantage of opportunity.”
Going back to our analogy of the race, even if we ensure everyone is starting the race at the same time, we don’t know the different experiences people have had before getting to that point and whether it really is ‘fair’ at that point.
When I was teaching I always found it easier to work with pupils who seemed to want to make the most of the opportunities they were given. Although perhaps they were just the ones better placed to take advantage of the chance, and other pupils if given different earlier experiences would have taken the opportunity in the same way.
I have seen through programmes I have run for Action Tutoring across Bristol last year that a vital part of what we offer is the chance to re-engage with a subject that pupils may have found frustrating through most of their education.
I’m excited by the prospect of our pilot primary programmes this year and the learning we will do about the impact of delivering an intervention earlier. I recognise however, that we don’t know when a pupil may be in the right position to take advantage of what we offer through our tutoring programmes. That makes our secondary programmes just as vital and potentially life changing for the pupils we are working with.
There are no simple answers to the questions I’ve posed in this post and there are many things that need to be done to move our society and education system to a fairer one. I know it will take many different organisations and individuals to each play their part, and I’m excited to do my small bit in Bristol with Action Tutoring.
Fair Education Alliance https://www.faireducation.org.uk/
Ben Goldacre, I Think You’ll Find it’s a Bit More Complicated Than That. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23132200-i-think-you-ll-find-it-s-a-bit-more-complicated-than-that
Mark Cooray, The Australian Achievement from Bondage to Freedom, 1996, Equality Of Opportunity And Equality Of Outcome