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Further Education and the Twelve Dancing Princesses has been reviewed in the prestigious Journal of Vocational Education & Training

John Field writes

‘… this book presents a radical alternative agenda for the further education (FE) sector in Britain. The sector’s budget in England was reduced by 14% under the coalition, with further cuts already planned. The Scottish Government and Welsh Government have similarly treated FE as an ideal way of making savings. All this in a sector that has been steadily nudged towards the market, and whose functions and purposes have altered steadily, since the 1980s. … To describe FE as a ‘Cinderella sector’ has become a cliché, and it is one that the contributors to this book refuse to share. Informed by a shared background in FE teaching, and often active in trade unions and other movements, their goal is to prompt a debate about resistance and freedom in education, subverting what they see as neo-liberal managerialism in the governance and administration of FE, and expanding their and their students’ autonomy in learning and teaching. … In a sense, the contributions set out a series of arguments for a shared democratic professionalism. Some stay on the terrain of critique of what is rather than venturing too far down the path of an alternative future. … For me, though, the best chapters look less at what is and more at what might be. …This is a cracking book, and anyone who loves what FE at its best can be and do will find it both inspirational and useful. … its main purpose is to intervene and breathe fire into the current debate over FE in England, and in this it succeeds admirably.’

Edited by Maire Daley, Kevin Orr and Joel Petrie with a preface by Frank Coffield, this collection challenges the deficit ‘Cinderella’ metaphor and replaces it with another of the Brothers Grimm’s tales, the ‘Twelve Dancing Princesses’. The twelve princesses escape from the room they are locked in to dance all through each night. As a metaphor for teaching in FE, this tale suggests the possibility of subversion, of autonomy in teaching and learning, and a collective rather than individualist notion of professionalism, even within repressive contexts. A Trentham Book at IOE Press.

Buy Further Education and the Twelve Dancing Princesses from the IOE Press website.

You can read the full review and subscribe to the journal on the publisher’s website.


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Children’s Literature in Multilingual Classrooms has been reviewed in the prestigious Journal of Immersion and Content-Based Language Education.

Angelpreet Singh and Diane Dagenais from Simon Fraser University write:

‘This book provides a wealth of information on a range of projects, including exemplary collaborative action research projects, where more than one language is used and plurilingual repertoires are seen as a resource for reading and writing. The fascinating descriptions of pedagogical innovations offer an expanded view of language choice in literacy instruction and provide concrete details that can guide future research and educational practice … This is an important book aimed primarily at teachers, teacher educators, and graduate students, but it is also an inspiring resource for anyone interested in minority language learners’ use of their first language in educational contexts … [It] compels us to move forward by thinking deeply about concrete ways of fostering relationships among learners, their languages and the languages of their communities. We highly recommend this book to all readers who are seeking new possibilities for literacy work in multilingual settings.’

Edited by Christine Hélot, Raymonde Sneddon and Nicola Daly, this collection explores new forms of pedagogy and presents inspiring examples, such as the ‘Little Books’, that teachers can adapt to the circumstances and interests of all the children in their classrooms.

Buy Children’s Literature in Multilingual Classrooms from the IOE Press website.

The full review article is available for purchase on the journal publisher’s website.


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PRESS RELEASE: Wednesday 16 September 2015

IOE Press, UCL Institute of Education


The potential benefits of the Pupil Premium for children from low-income families were counterbalanced by other policies, says a new analysis published in the London Review of Education’s wide-ranging investigation of the Coalition Government’s impact on education policy and practice

In their paper, Professor Ruth Lupton and Dr Stephanie Thomson of the University of Manchester demonstrate that the Pupil Premium, championed by the former Coalition Government as their ‘most important lever’ in reducing the impact of inequalities on educational outcomes has, overall, distributed more money to schools with poorer intakes.

The Pupil Premium was a key programme for the 2010–15 Coalition Government, and was championed by then Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg as a ‘flagship’ policy. But Lupton and Thomson’s research, published in a special issue of the London Review of Education examining the impact of Coalition policies on the sector, shows its potential benefits have been counterbalanced by a wider set of policies. These include cuts to welfare benefits and services which have disadvantaged low-income families and children.

The authors also argue that broader education policies including changes to GCSE assessment and cuts to school building plans for poorer areas may also act against children from low-income families.

‘Aspiring future governments with intentions to reduce inequalities in school outcomes surely need to see the problem “in the round”,’ say Lupton and Thomson, ‘taking into account family poverty and the mainstream activities of schools as well as additional interventions funded through supplementary funding streams.’ The paper complements a previous review of the Coalition’s schools policies published by the London School of Economics.

This special issue of the London Review of Education contains 14 articles of critical analysis and reflection by key academics and professionals on the impact of the 2010–2015 Coalition Government’s radical, reforming approach to education policy. It is introduced by Professor Chris Husbands, Director of the UCL Institute of Education.

Themes in Lupton and Thomson’s paper are picked up elsewhere. Professor Toby Greany (UCL Institute of Education) notes that ‘the Coalition’s conflicting policy narratives’ have undermined ‘the development of a self-improving, school-led system in which local authorities should become “champions for children”’, while Professor Eva Lloyd (University of East London) sees a similar disconnect between early years policy and social welfare strategies. Continuing inequality of access to qualifications and subjects at Key Stage 4 is identified by Meenakshi Parameshwaran and Dave Thomson (Education Datalab) despite the introduction of new performance tables.

The other articles investigate:

  • governance frameworks in England, with an increase shown in central government’s influence on schools and decline of local authorities (Professor Anne West, LSE)
  • the impact of the Coalition Government’s policies for: initial teacher training (Dr Jennie Golding, UCL Institute of Education); primary education (Professor Mark Brundrett, Liverpool John Moores University); education and training (Professor Patrick Ainley, University of Greenwich); higher education (Dr Paul Temple, UCL Institute of Education); and careers education (Dr Charlotte Chadderton, University of East London)
  • ‘fairness’ or otherwise of the fees for university students (Dr Helen Carasso, University of Oxford and Andrew Gunn, University of Leeds)
  • the impact of the Coalition’s approach to ‘Fundamental British Values’ and recommendations for the future (Robin Richardson, Insted Consultancy)
  • the difficult evolution of a dual role for Jobcentre Plus work coaches as both careers advisers and benefit enforcers, with recommendations for change (Dr Gabriella Cagliese, University of Greenwich and Dr Denise Hawkes, UCL Institute of Education)
  • the character of a campaigning Education Secretary: Anthony Crosland and Michael Gove in historical perspective (Dr Mike Finn, Liverpool John Moores University).

Notes for editors

  • The London Review of Education is an open-access, peer-reviewed online journal based at the UCL Institute of Education and edited by Professor Hugh Starkey. It is published three times a year by IOE Press and available on the ingentaconnect journals platform
  • The special Coalition issue, titled ‘Education policy under the 2010–15 UK Coalition Government: Critical perspectives’ (vol. 13, no. 2), will be published on 18 September 2015.
  • Professor Ruth Lupton has made a short video introducing the research. It is available on the journal website.
  • Previews of articles contained in the issue are available on request.
  • The Lupton and Thomson work builds on the Social Policy in a Cold Climate reports published by the London School of Economics in 2013 and 2015, which were funded by the Nuffield Foundation, Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Trust for London.

For more information, contact: Pat Gordon-Smith, Managing Editor Journals, IOE Press; Nicky Platt, Publisher, IOE Press 07771 356255

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 Here are some of the recent press and review for our books this year. Don’t forget to check out the IOE Press Media page for all the latest news and reviews about our books, events and authors, and follow us on Twitter: @IOE_Press






Posted by & filed under Author blogs, Events.

by Dr Philip Stevens

Malcolm Williams changed his life. In his late 20s, he was working in a sheet metal factory on the North Circular Road. Within a few years he was Head of Department at one of the largest Further Education (FE) colleges in London. His intellectual interests developed alongside his career and a PhD followed, as did a fine appreciation of the intricacies of modern jazz. Evening classes at East London College sparked the transformation of this young Londoner.

Shanti Skeggs, a young Londoner who has a learning disability, wrote,

“My confidence still dips but it is a work in progress … I just get on with it to get where I would like to be. My education has changed me as a person in so many ways. It is the chance to do my very best and never give up no matter how hard it gets. I hated school it was very disheartening and I thought I had no future!”

Fully recovered from her harrowing school experience, Shanti now works at the Mary Ward Centre in London, and continues to follow her passions of photography and music.

The notion of transformation lies at the heart of adult education and is one of its principal aims. The life stories of 150 adult learners from six major adult colleges – the basis of the research of my latest book, Rita and Gerald: Adult learning in Britain today confirm this claim. With the research completed and book published, I have begun to think further about the students’ assertion that their lives have been transformed by their late educational experience. Almost all the students at every level from English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) to higher degree study state this claim.

The students are encouraged to change by the providing institutions. One of the six institutions, Ruskin College, specifically states that its aim is to:

“Provide educational opportunities to adults who are excluded and disadvantaged, and to transform the individuals concerned along with the communities, groups and societies from which they come.”

Ruskin has succeeded in its ambitious aim and the transformational element is key to the college’s mission. Ambitious it might be but is clearly justified on the basis of the evidence – student testimony. Almost all adult students in the research for Rita and Gerald say their new educational experience has changed the way they look at the world and altered their lives in the most radical way. This is the case regardless of gender, class, or social background. If we accept all of this is true; that adult education transforms lives, it raises some important questions I am keen to explore. For example, just what is it that is being transformed? How does adult education assist in achieving the transformation? Lastly, what is it to say that someone’s life has been transformed?

To accept that adult learning is capable of transforming lives, is surely to admit that things are not quite right in a student’s life, that all is not right with their world. That person may feel a degree of alienation, frustration, a desire to be understood in a world of misunderstanding, or a lack of fulfillment. Some students even expressed a sense of anger as the driving force behind their decision to begin a course of study – anger at their school experience or, as in the case of many women students, being forced to accept outmoded views of a woman’s right to education.

Philosophers down the centuries have explored the idea that we can become alienated from what Marx called our ‘species being’, an over-complex term for realizing our full potential, or being as good as we can be. In this argument many of us feel alienated and are fully conscious that this is the case. Adult learning can provide a space in which students can begin to flourish and become fully conscious of themselves. Our research confirms this is how many adult students view their new study experience.

One of the ways adult colleges approach teaching students to become more self-aware is by providing creative opportunities for students to think. Image-based rather than text-based subjects offer a path to learning when students have language difficulties or have been put off by text-based learning at school – of course this does not preclude students making progress through more traditional learning methods. The artist, Mohammed Ali, argues that self-expression through creative activity enables people to claim a space for themselves to think and reflect on their experience. This is what adult learning can do by helping students to find a language through which they can express themselves in ways previously denied to them.

The outcomes of adult learning are habitually framed in terms of economic benefit or as some kind of generalised, community interest. Nor does the idea of transforming lives rest on claims for political education or social advancement, although it might involve both of these things. Transformation is about how adult education helped people like Malcolm Williams and Shanti Skeggs and thousands of others to change their lives by reconnecting with the world in the most dramatic fashion. We need to understand the process which underpins their achievements.


Dr Philip Stevens was a firefighter before returning to education as a mature student in the 1970s. Since then he has had a long career in adult education, where over many years he gathered the stories of learning that form the backbone of this book. Read more and order Rita and Gerald: Adult learning in Britain today out now from Trentham Books@IOE Press.

Posted by & filed under Author blogs, Author Q & A, Events, News.

Following the recent success of Nick Hammond’s Forum Theatre workshops at the IOE, he told us more about the concept of FT and why the workshops are so important.

Q1. Please tell us a little about your background in working with Forum Theatre and what motivated you to write this book.

Nick: My background before studying for my first degree in psychology was in multimedia arts, including film making and radio broadcasting. During my psychology studies I became interested in combining the science of psychology with a range of art forms, and thought about how this process could be transformative for adults and children seeking psychological support. So I began apprenticeship-type training and paid work with various exciting theatre makers such as the Wolf and Water Arts Company. I had the privilege to work with some incredible drama practitioners and psychologists, such as dramatherapist Penny McFarlane and psychologist Peter Jones. These experiences introduced me to a variety of art forms, but it was Forum Theatre which captured my imagination the most. I continued to study Augusto Boal’s work and the links between his ideas and psychology, pedagogy, sociology and politics during my master’s degree and then for my doctorate. This accumulated to shape an enriched, hybrid form of Forum Theatre which I present in my book Forum Theatre for Children. In the book I build upon and vastly expand Boal’s suggestions for the psychological processes underpinning Forum Theatre. I propose evidence-based frameworks that explain the psychological processes that make Forum Theatre for Children safe, efficient and potentially transformative. But I also thoroughly explain the Forum Theatre process – how this can be facilitated, points for consideration and even potential future research questions.

Q2. Why Forum Theatre for Children?

Nick: There are a number of reasons. Firstly, if we consider Forum Theatre as inherently political – it aims to magnify challenges and help individuals and communities overcome these through a range of conventions – but children may be considered as having limited political agency. There is, then, a clear disparity between FT’s aims and this specialist sub-group and this raises a questions, such as: how do we reduce or – better still – overcome this disparity? How do we engage parents and communities which are important to children? How can we empower children to have voice, explore issues that matter deeply to them and contribute constructively to decisions which affect their lives? I think these are all very important questions – yet there hardly any literature on the use of ‘theatre of the oppressed’ models such as Forum Theatre specifically with children. And much of the generic drama literature, including that by authorities on forum theatre leave out the really important considerations for young people, such as de-role and aftercare. I devote a whole chapter in my book to de-role and aftercare, not just to reflect their great importance but because working with children requires special care and attention. This is where I use psychological theory to show how such work can be safe and accessible for children. But the book goes even further, because it explores how Forum Theatre can be used to support children to develop social skills, emotional well-being and creative problem-solving skills – all highly relevant to education and society as a whole.

Although Forum Theatre has long been claimed to be a therapeutic approach (and potentially a form of therapy), this is the first book that presents psychological frameworks within which the work can be used safely. The book makes psychology and drama accessible to those who are unfamiliar with either or both disciplines.

Q3. You’ve just finished some Forum Theatre for Children workshops at the IOE. How did you find the experience?

Nick: Exhilarating! The participants were genuinely fabulous. The book has been five years in the making from starting the research to seeing the finished product, so at last meeting readers, hearing their questions, discussing the work and how it can be adapted into their own practice has been amazing. I’ve really enjoyed meeting everyone who attended. To see people buying my book and even signing a few copies on request has been a great privilege and quite humbling. I feel blessed to have met some incredible people who have been willing to share this experience with me.

Q4. The workshops were very popular. What did you hope to achieve in them?

Nick: I hoped to provide the participants with two key experiences: an overview of the FT process and a training session on some of the drama activities used and the psychological theory that underpinned the use of such approaches. This was a tall order in many respects as I was essentially condensing 20 hours’ work or more down to a day, or even half a day. So, my aim really was to provide a summary introduction so the participants would be able to discover more in the book. I also wanted the opportunity to discuss the work and answer questions from real readers and drama workers. This was really important for me as the work is experiential and I wanted to offer another level of interactivity for the potential readers. For those who couldn’t attend, I was delighted to have a film crew capture the workshops for a short online video which will be released soon.

Q5. What are your plans for the future? Will you run more Forum Theatre workshops at IOE?

Nick:Yes, I’m hoping to arrange more workshops at the IOE in the Autumn, as they were such a success. Forum Theatre for Children has set the foundations for future research in the area. I would certainly hope to remain a part of that ongoing exploration. I have Forum Theatre for Children workshops scheduled in for Yorkshire, Humberside and Devon – so I am looking forward to running those and meeting more people later this year. I’ve met some great people through the IOE workshops and have already started discussing the possibility of developing a network of multi-disciplinary practitioners to continue developing practice and research in this area. I hope that some time in the future another book might emerge which will extend the work further – whatever shape that might take. For now, I’m enjoying the moment, giving interviews like this one, meeting new people and, in between, taking a well deserved rest!

Dr Nick Hammond is an educational and child psychologist, and author of Forum Theatre for Children: Enhancing social, emotional and creative development which is out now from Trentham Books@IOE Press.

Follow Nick on Twitter @indigomaverick

Posted by & filed under Author blogs, New books.

by Dr Aminul Hoque

In the summer of 2004 my family went to our motherland of Bangladesh in search of self-discovery. One moment sticks in my mind. I saw that my aunts and uncles all looked worried and were muttering amongst themselves. They decided that one of my uncles make the trip from our remote village to town to purchase knives and forks, so that my siblings and I could eat the staple diet of rice and curry. My father quickly reminded my relatives that his kids were Bengali, and perfectly able to eat with their hands! One of my aunts started to laugh and replied [in Bengali], ‘You are not Bengali anymore baisaab (brother), now you are Londonis’.

This is the migrant story of non-belonging, the eternal search for a place we can call ‘home’. The East London Bangladeshi community have been in the UK for over sixty years. We are a hard-working, vibrant, law abiding and honest bunch of people. One of the key issues facing our community is the identity riddle. This is especially pertinent for the British-born generations. Who are they? Bangladeshi? British? Muslim? Londoners? East Londoners? None of these? Or a fusion of them all? Where do they get a sense of belonging and acceptance? Crucially, they were born here. They think, eat, live and breathe British (whatever that means?). They, we, are British.

The issue of non-belonging is crucial. Marginalized by some sections of mainstream British society due to ethno-cultural and religious differences, many are also excluded from the Bangladeshi community because they’ve adopted a seemingly western lifestyle. And we, as my story shows, are dismissed as British or ‘Londonis’ by fellow kin when we visit Bangladesh. So the question is: where do we go? Where is home? One 15 year old girl who speaks in my book, British-Islamic Identity: Third Generation Bangladeshis from East London, echoes this feeling – it’s like being an eternal tourist not fully belonging anywhere: ‘they keep on telling me to go back to where I came from. I was born here. I am 100 per cent British. Where is it exactly that I am supposed to go back to?’ This is the identity conundrum that weighs them down and is so intensely complex to negotiate.

The peaceful religion of Islam can help fill the identity void. Amidst the daily reality of non-belonging, poverty, Islamophobia and alienation, Islam, offers many of us a sense of peace, humanity, belonging, family and spirituality. And it offers some of us a platform for a political search for identity revolving around equality, voice, recognition and a commitment to social justice. Importantly, it helps manage the ‘who am I?’ riddle. However, for a tiny fringe minority, this sense of persecution and anger turns into something more sinister and dark.

The recent news about the three British school girls, Amira Abase, Shamima Begum and Kadiza Sultana – two of them Bangladeshi – going to Syria to join Isis has baffled, shocked and rocked the British nation and in particular, the community of East London. They have left behind a trail of devastation especially on their families, who are utterly traumatized. So how do we make sense of this mess? Many unanswered questions arise, chiefly, why have three of our ‘own’ gone? (When I say ‘our own’, I mean us, the British nation). The truth of the matter is that we may never know. What they have done is wrong and cannot end well. There seems to be no answer, no solution. Perhaps they have been caught up in the conundrum of non-belonging and view the violent and extreme ideology of Isis as a way out?

And let’s not forget an important factor in all of this – the girls’ ages. These are vulnerable and impressionable children, grade A students or not. They are teenagers, subject to all the uncertainty and angst that characterizes adolescence. They are also, perhaps, driven by a sense of adventure, fuelled with the bravado and exuberance of youth, and searching for a sense of belonging, purpose and excitement, and have become caught in the web of Isis propaganda of resistance and rebellion.

I don’t know. I don’t have any answers. I am as perplexed as anyone. This debate must continue.

Dr Aminul Hoque,MBE,is a lecturer in Educational Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London, and a visiting lecturer at London Metropolitan University. British-Islamic Identity: Third Generation Bangladeshis from East London is published by Trentham Books at IOE Press and is out now. Follow Aminul on Twitter @BrIslam2015.

A version of this blog was published on the Goldsmiths, University of London website on 2nd March 2015.

Posted by & filed under Author blogs, New books.

by Dr Kate Hatton

To make arts education inclusive is a work in progress. But Is it not an area in which creative practice is encouraged and where all such variety of creative expression is allowed? Accessing art education is easy, surely, as long as you are ‘creative’?

It doesn’t always work that way.

The long-held assumptions about what constitutes art, and whose art is worthy of study, are already being widely scrutinized. And there are questions of identity in relation to higher arts education that necessitate a focus on equality and diversity: on race, gender, class, dis/ability, class, and the inter sectional nature of identity. All this got collaborative dialogue going in various arts education institutions – bringing people together to work on inclusion ideas in different fields of art.

For art education to work successfully for its diverse cohorts, students’ creative and social identities need to be understood and addressed within the curriculum. We involved students in the process of researching inclusion, as some of the chapters relate. Their research led students into journeys of discovery at London galleries as well as in the studio/lecture hall, so making art education research both inclusive and fun.

The staff in these art education settings researched ways to promote themes around the psychological and philosophical contexts of arts based learning. They engaged with key matters of exclusion and sought curriculum solutions, such as counterstorytelling, post colonial encounters, and workshop-based teaching practices. And they applied theories drawn from other disciplines, such as critical race theory and critical disability studies.

The result marks a stage in a long and essential transformation of the ways to teach art and a signposts the direction forward. Towards an Inclusive Arts Education questions the fundamental assumptions we make about the arts, about art and design education, and about students and the institutions they attend. And it postulates some answers, shaping a new approach to arts education and an exciting and original setting for new forms of creative practice to emerge, benefiting all students, the staff and the reputation of the institutions.

Dr Kate Hatton is Head of Inclusive Education Programmes at University of the Arts, London. Her book,Towards an Inclusive Arts Education, published by Trentham Books at IOE Press is out now.

Posted by & filed under Author blogs, New books.

by Dr Philip Stevens

Beware of stereotyping.

In the early 1990s my college established a new Access to Higher Education programme in Plymouth, where precious little adult learning existed. At the Open Evening we were astonished to see a queue of people stretching around the block. One of the interviewees, a heavily tattooed merchant seaman in his early 40s, spoke knowledgeably and with passion about 19th century Russian literature. His school memories were of bitter failure.

Hazel was learning to read and write at the Working Men’s College in Camden. The College diagnosed dyslexia (missed at school) and with sympathetic tutoring her improvement was so dramatic that she was able to write her own story, ‘From 2 to 2,000 Words’. You can read her story in my new book. Hazel spoke about her school with tears in her eyes.

Despite dramatic improvements in teaching in our state schools, school, for whatever reason, just doesn’t work for everyone. Most people in the UK don’t go to university and never will. The true figure for those who do remains stubbornly below 40%. Today many children are held back not by poor teaching but by poverty and disadvantage.

The Principal of an adult college outlined to me recently what she saw as a fundamental difference between schooling and ‘true education’ – and it was clear where her sympathies lay. Rita and Gerald examines some of the differences between schooling and adult learning that still persist. Over 70 students contributed an educational biography as part of the research. The results were clear – there is little correlation between achievement at school and intellectual ability.

As part of the research for the book I looked at the work of two adult providers at the heart of one of the most diverse and challenging communities in London: the Mary Ward Centre and the Working Men’s College. Both have put creativity at the heart of their adult curriculum and with tremendous success in terms of participation, retention rates and academic achievement. This visual approach to teaching and learning in Camden offers adult students, often with little English, a way into learning. Traditional text-based programmes often form a barrier. Innovations such as ‘teacher silence’, differentiated learning, and outreach work have led to students feeling safe and secure in their leaning environment.

Adults sign up to join ‘Rabble Choruses’ and to learn to make stained glass windows. Others for reasons of personal fulfilment, escape from poverty, release from mind-numbing employment, and recovery from dependency and addiction.

I leave the last words to one of the participants in the research for the book, not heavily tattooed or wearing exotic earrings but, like our merchant seaman, his school experience is best forgotten:

I am pleased to say that I will have an MSc in Forensic Psychology & Criminology conferred on me on 31 December 2013 – the highest academic award of my life. I feel privileged to have had a university education. Although I did it for myself, I also did it on behalf of all the other young people who were in my class at school who had the ability to do what I did; some would have achieved much more but sadly they did not have the opportunity.

Dr Philip Stevens was a firefighter before returning to education as a mature student in the 1970s. Since then he has had a long career in adult education, where over many years he gathered the stories of learning that form the backbone of this book. Read more and order Rita and Gerald: Adult learning in Britain today out now from Trentham Books@IOE Press.

Posted by & filed under Author blogs, New books.

by Dr Nick Hammond

November 2014. I have been invited to deliver a session on forum theatre (FT) at the British Psychological Society’s Community Psychology Festival. As I sit in the church cafeteria – that’s doubling up as an auditorium for the day – a young couple approach the stage carrying a banner which reads ‘Social Housing, not Social Cleansing’. The couple are from London’s Focus E15 Mothers, a group of campaigners who fought to save their homes after Newham Council earmarked the area for regeneration.

As the couple share their problem, one can’t help but be moved by their extraordinary endeavours. Their point was clear – ‘affordable housing is not affordable’. The solution offered? Alternative accommodation, not in their own communities but in cities as far afield as Manchester. For Focus E15 Mothers the austerity measures mean facing social segregation and community fragmentation: losing the familiarity, community cohesion and support networks of friends and family. For many children across the UK, austerity has subjected them to inadequate housing, poor food, and greater inequality of opportunity.

Children who face difficult times can often find solace and stability in school. However, many arrive unprepared for learning – some would have had insufficient sleep or food and inappropriate shelter, or be preoccupied with worry for their parents and siblings. So they might need preparation for learning before the curriculum can be effectively taught.FT_Hammond-Blog_Feb_15

While political rhetoric identifies a range of factors relevant to children’s achievement, such as school leadership and quality teachers, it fails to acknowledge the profound impact of austerity on some of society’s most vulnerable children and families. Politicians are missing the elephant in the room.

In 2013, 15.2 million work days were lost due to stress and anxiety, one of the largest causes of sickness in the UK (ONS, 2014). These are adults who have found levels of emotional distress too overwhelming for them to function effectively at work. Children too experience context-related emotional distress – yet this can often go unrecognized or be seen as an ‘excuse’ for underachievement and poor behaviour. Failing to provide a platform for children’s voices to be heard and solutions to be discussed merely contributes to the inequality and inequity children endure.

FT starts with the child: their context, views, experiences, concerns, dreams, ambitions and learning. A vehicle for the child to look inward at themselves, as well as outwards, to share their views and ideas for solutions with those who can make a difference: their teachers, families, politicians, service managers, peers and others in their community. FT allows one to get closer to the child’s lived experience, to explore issues such as austerity and the various impacts this will have on different families. Combining psychological principles, play, and a mindful facilitator, FT is a safe, collaborative and transformative method of empowering children and their communities to explore real issues to find sustainable grassroots solutions. It is an approach that doesn’t just notice the elephant in the room, but welcomes her in without fear or judgement.

Dr Nick Hammond is an educational and child psychologist, and author of Forum Theatre for Children: Enhancing social, emotional and creative development from Trentham Books@IOE Press, out now.

Picture credit: Cindy Tatum, 2015.