By Dr Morris Charlton (personal opinion)
The Working Class: Poverty, Education and Alternative Voices
Author and Editor: Ian Gilbert
Most books that arrive for review are slim volumes – this isn’t, it’s a large thick book of 512 pages! Do not let that put you off! This is well worth the read and the font is easy on the eyes. Contributors to the book did so freely in response to a Facebook campaign by the author and editor – I would have gladly written a chapter and am happy to do so for Volume Two. (Perhaps called ‘disadvantaged’? See below)
I also must donate £21.75 (£25.00 actually) to an appropriate children’s charity, as all royalties go to charities supporting children in poverty. The book is an excellent read and it contributes to charity as well as your own personal and professional development!
The book is divided into nice easy read short chapters written by “experts” in the field – for instance:
That leads to specialist chapters – it’s easier than it sounds – and then to chapters headed:
- Social mobility – the Trojan Horse of inequality
- Working class pleasures
- Fall or flourish together
- Educating the working class.
I have a similar issue with the title, as does Dave Harris in the foreword to the book – perhaps it could be better titled ‘Disadvantage’ – but that’s the attraction of the book, you start debating with it, yourself and anyone else who is around right from the start!
There are inevitably some deep political and philosophical issues raised – these you can debate from the basis of your own viewpoint.
Closing the attainment gap
Ensuring that the attainment gap is closed between the haves and have-nots is an issue that I am passionate about – this book succeeds in reigniting that passion. I think, along with the authors, that well-run schools can succeed in doing this, but where they are not well run, they don’t and are still disadvantaged. The gap is getting greater for many and successful intervention is required – the book gives some guidance on this issue.
The book does not seek to provide all the answers, but to provoke thought and debate at all levels in schools – governing bodies and local education authorities and the inspection services – managed well, it should easily succeed in doing so.
When I was a headteacher, I gave each member of staff a book – Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me) – a book about dissonant argument. It was really helpful in our very challenging workplace – this is another book I would give to my staff. I would see it useful for SMT and staff meetings, as well as for Governors, to address key issues in school. Unless you think disadvantage, you are not going to challenge it.
The Working Class: Poverty, Education and Alternative Voices is a timely and topical book on the impact of current educational and care policies and an invaluable source of practical advice on how we can better support disadvantaged (working class) children in the school system.