Dr Max A. Hope, University of Hull
‘Schools, in their structure and organisation, can represent to young people the kind of society that we wish to have, rather than reflecting the inequalities of the society we actually have’(Gorard and See 2013, p.48)
This session emanates from the position that the current education system, in the UK and beyond, is deeply flawed, even broken. Despite continued efforts by successive governments, inequalities in education continue to increase (Baker et al. 2004). Rates of formal and informal exclusion are high, with particular social groups being disproportionately affected (Parsons 2005). Teachers are leaving the profession in droves (Boffey 2015). Even Michael Gove, Education Secretary in the UK (2010-2014) argued that ‘We need nothing short of radical, whole-scale reform’ (Gove 20 June 2011).
Schools can be different. They can be radical spaces that explicitly strive to address social inequalities and advance social justice. They can offer freedom to children, to young people, and to adults; freedom which enables everyone to learn, to develop and to grow. They can transform lives, build communities, and ignite social activism.
By drawing on two real-life examples of radical schooling – the Mississippi Freedom Schools (1964) and Pride School Atlanta (2016-18) - this session argues that the case for all schools to pay greater attention to freedom and social justice is both urgent and compelling. The Mississippi Freedom Schools were embedded in the civil rights struggle in the US in the 1960s. Pride School Atlanta is one of a handful of ‘LGBTQ-affirming’ schools in the US. These case examples deliberately set themselves up as different from conventional schools in aims, structure, process and values. They are anti-authoritarian and strive to equalise teacher-student power relationships. They are firmly grounded in freedom but also have a clear social justice agenda, exhibited through a radical curriculum and a critical and emancipatory pedagogy. These schools, though unique and unusual, challenge all teachers, parents, students, educators and policy-makers to rethink educational priorities and to reimagine new models of schooling.
This session will include a Question and Answer period and refreshments after the talk. For more information or to book a place, please email email@example.com