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AoI Education Forum at ResearchED 2018

9:00am, Saturday 8 September 2018, Harris Secondary Academy, St Johns Wood, Marlborough Hill, London, NW8 0NL

The AoI Education Forum is running a series of discussions at the ResearchED annual conference.


Does Oxbridge really discriminate against BME applicants?
Speaker: Munira Mirza, director of HENI talks; former deputy mayor of London

What does the evidence tell us about Oxbridge admissions, race and discrimination? Mirza contends that the widely reported claims of discrimination against BME applicants are not supported by the facts.

Do women really need a hand up in education?
Speaker: Dr Joanna Williams, head of education, Policy Exchange

Teaching has historically been considered a suitable job for a woman. But, as recently as the 1960s, women teachers met marriage bars or formal restrictions on career progression once they had children. Today, things could not be more different. Department for Education statistics show that close to 75 per cent of all teachers are female. Men make up just 38 per cent of secondary and 15 per cent of primary school teachers. Some charities and campaigners draw attention to the scarcity of men in the teaching profession and the impact this might have on young boys lacking positive male role models within their communities. However, within the profession itself, there is considerable focus on women’s career progression. It is argued that women might dominate the profession but are under-represented in senior leadership positions. As a result, mentoring and support groups focused upon enhancing women’s opportunities for promotion have been established. Are women really under-represented at the higher levels of the teaching profession – and, if so, why this might be the case? Is the under-representation of men a problem that needs addressing? What will be the impact of teaching becoming an increasingly gender-imbalanced profession?


Is scripted teaching good for education?
Speaker: Gareth Sturdy, functional skills teacher, Headmasters Partnership Ltd

Evidence has long suggested that teachers reading from approved scripts could be effective when teaching certain topics but, until recently, take-up of the option has been minimal. However, that is starting to change. With the rise of multi-academy trusts, scripted lessons are on the increase. Perhaps surprisingly, there are plenty of teachers willing to embrace centrally planned scripts to deliver lessons. In a growing number of schools, however, the teachers don`t have a choice: they must stick strictly to a script. So, can scripts raise standards and liberate teachers from lesson-planning drudgery? Or do they restrict the autonomy and creativity of teachers, heralding the death knell of the profession as we know it?


Is being mentally ill the new normal in education?
Speaker: Professor Frank Furedi, sociologist, commentator and author

The socialisation of young people has become increasingly reliant on therapeutic techniques that have the perverse effect of encouraging children and youth to interpret existential problems as psychological ones. Concern with children’s emotions has fostered a climate where many young people are continually educated to understand the challenges they face through the language of mental health. Sadly one of the unintended consequences of the prevailing ethos of socialising young people through medicalisation is to enhance their sense of insecurity and dispose a significant minority to perceive themselves as ill and unable to cope without support. Exploring the drivers of this development constitutes the main focus of this introduction.


Reversing the therapeutic turn in education
Speaker: Dennis Hayes, professor of education, University of Derby; co-author, The Dangerous Rise of Therapeutic Education

Eight years after the publication of The Dangerous Rise of Therapeutic Education the Guardian claimed that ‘the defining insult of 2016’ was ‘poor little snowflake’. The so-called ‘snowflake generation’ had matriculated and seemingly couldn’t cope with the challenging ideas that they found ‘offensive’ at university. They were shaken by statues of colonialists, needed ‘trigger warnings’ on their courses and retreated into ‘safe spaces’ when their beliefs were threatened. They even felt that just being at university could damage their mental health. As Kathryn Ecclestone and Dennis Hayes documented in their book, the therapeutic turn in education was in danger of creating a generation of ‘can’t cope kids’. The emergence of the ‘snowflake student’ appeared to prove that they were right. But who is to blame? Students hadn’t suddenly become different, vulnerable beings. It was their teachers, lecturers, school and university managers, as well as quangos like Ofsted, who saw them as inherently vulnerable and prioritised safety above all else. Is the therapeutic turn unstoppable or can we regain a vision of children and young people as intellectually resilient and willing to pursue knowledge even if it shakes their beliefs to the core?

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