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Size: 248 x 185mm
Pages : 544
ISBN : 9781781352786
Format: Paperback
Published: March 2018

In The Working Class: Poverty, education and alternative voices, Ian Gilbert unites educators from across the UK and further afield to call on all those working in schools to adopt a more enlightened and empathetic approach to supporting children in challenging circumstances.

One of the most intractable problems in modern education is how to close the widening gap in attainment between the haves and the have-nots. Unfortunately, successive governments both in the UK and abroad have gone about solving it the wrong way.

Independent Thinking founder Ian Gilbert’s increasing frustration with educational policies that favour ‘no excuses’ and ‘compliance’, and that ignore the broader issues of poverty and inequality, is shared by many others across the sphere of education – and this widespread disaffection has led to the assembly of a diverse cast of teachers, school leaders, academics and poets who unite in this book to challenge the status quo. Their thought-provoking commentary, ideas and impassioned anecdotal insights are presented in the form of essays, think pieces and poems that draw together a wealth of research on the issue and probe and discredit the current view on what is best for children from poorer socio-economic backgrounds. Exploring themes such as inclusion, aspiration, pedagogy and opportunity, the contributions collectively lift the veil of feigned ‘equality of opportunity for all’ to reveal the bigger picture of poverty and to articulate the hidden truth that there is always another way.

This book is not about giving you all the answers, however. The contributors are not telling teachers or school leaders how to run their schools, their classroom or their relationships – the field is too massive, too complex, too open to debate and to discussion to propose ‘off-the-shelf’ solutions. Furthermore, the research referred to in this book is not presented in order to tell educators what to think, but rather to inform their own thinking and to challenge some of the dominant narratives about educating the ‘feckless poor’. This book is about helping educators to ask the right questions, and its starting question is quite simple: how can we approach the education of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds in a way that actually makes a difference for all concerned?

Written for policy makers and activists as well as school leaders and educators, The Working Class is both a timely survey of the impact of current policies and an invaluable source of practical advice on what can be done to better support disadvantaged children in the school system.

Edited by Ian Gilbert with contributions from Nina Jackson, Tim Taylor, Dr Steven Watson, Rhythmical Mike, Dr Ceri Brown, Dr Brian Male, Julia Hancock, Paul Dix, Chris Kilkenny, Daryn Egan-Simon, Paul Bateson, Sarah Pavey, Dr Matthew McFall, Jamie Thrasivoulou, Hywel Roberts, Dr Kevin Ming, Leah Stewart, (Real) David Cameron, Sir Al Aynsley-Green, Shona Crichton, Floyd Woodrow, Jonathan Lear, Dr Debra Kidd, Will Ryan, Andrew Morrish, Phil Beadle, Jaz Ampaw-Farr, Darren Chetty, Sameena Choudry, Tait Coles, Professor Terry Wrigley, Brian Walton, Dave Whitaker, Gill Kelly, Roy Leighton, Jane Hewitt, Jarlath O’Brien, Crista Hazell, Louise Riley, Mark Creasy, Martin Illingworth, Ian Loynd, David Rogers, Professor Mick Waters and Professor Paul Clarke. 

Click here to listen to The Working Class on Spotify - It covers all the music mentioned in the book plus a great deal more of working class music from across time and round the world!

Click here to read The Working Class blog.

Click here to watch a video by Ian Gilbert in relation to The Working Class.

Click here to view The Working Class’ press release on The Educator UK website.

Picture for author Will Ryan

Will Ryan

Will Ryan has worked in schools in South Yorkshire for over forty years as a teacher, head teacher and local authority adviser. As a head teacher he led a school that prized itself on genuine pupil creativity and was described by Ofsted as outstanding'. He is a speaker and Associate of Independent Thinking Ltd.

Click here to read Will Ryan’s blog.

Picture for author Tait  Coles

Tait Coles

Tait Coles is a teacher, Vice Principal in a Bradford Academy and an educational speaker. He is a classroom maverick and a respected radical of modern teaching.

Previously, Tait has been Assistant Head Teacher at a comprehensive school in Leeds and was Head of Science in one of the many challenging schools in Bradford.

Tait is the creator of Punk Learning; a manifesto that challenges the orthodoxy and complacency of teaching and allows students to be central to a critical educational culture where they learn how to become individuals and social agents rather than merely disengaged spectators who have their part to play' in the Neoliberal ideology of modern schooling.

Click here to listen in on Tait's podcast with Pivotal Education - Punk Learning'.

Click here to read Tait Coles’ blog.


Picture for author Roy Leighton

Roy Leighton

Roy has been working in value-based areas in education, the arts and business environments in the U.K. and internationally for over 25 years. He has written books on creativity, learning, parenting, leadership and confidence. His areas of expertise are many and varied; from providing inspiring and stimulating key-note speeches to whole day conferences and workshops and sustainable programmes that run for weeks and years, and on rare occasions, possibly lifetimes.

Picture for author Phil Beadle

Phil Beadle

Phil Beadle knows a bit about bringing creative projects to fruit. His self-described renaissance dilettantism' is best summed up by Mojo magazine's description of him as a burnished voice soul man and left wing educationalist'. He is the author of ten books on a variety of subjects, including the acclaimed Dancing About Architecture, described in Brain Pickings as a strong, pointed conceptual vision for the nature and origin of creativity'. As songwriter Philip Kane, his work has been described in Uncut magazine as having novelistic range and ambition' and in Mojo as having a rare ability to find romance in the dirt' along with bleakly literate lyricism'. He has won national awards for both teaching and broadcasting, was a columnist for the Guardian newspaper for nine years and has written for every broadsheet newspaper in the UK, as well as the Sydney Morning Herald. Phil is also one of the most experienced, gifted and funniest public speakers in the UK.

Click here to listen in on Phil's podcast with Pivotal Education - How to Teach Literacy'.

Listen to the ABC Conversations with Richard Fidler' broadcast.

ABC Conversations with Richard Fidler Broadcast date: Thursday 19 July 2012

Click here to listen to Phil Beadle's interview with TalkSport - Listen in at approximately 29:09.

Picture for author Paul Dix

Paul Dix

As a teacher, leader and teacher trainer, Paul Dix has been working to transform the most difficult behaviour in the most challenging urban schools, referral units and colleges for the last 25 years. In addition to working directly with schools, Paul has advised the Department for Education on the Teachers' Standards, given evidence to the Education Select Committee and done extensive work with the Ministry of Justice on behaviour and restraint in youth custody. Paul is a leading campaigner for the #BanTheBooths campaign (www.banthebooths.co.uk) and is a member of both the IntegratEd Reference Group and the Ethical Leadership Group.

Picture for author Nina Jackson

Nina Jackson

Nina Jackson is an international education consultant who has a breathtaking grasp of what makes classrooms, children and their teachers tick. She's a leading practitioner in all areas of teaching and learning with particular expertise in special educational needs, digital technology and mental and emotional health. She has transformed learning and teaching in some of the most challenging schools in the UK as well as working extensively with schools on the international circuit.

An accredited Apple Teacher, winner of the IPDA International Prize for Education and described by the TES as an inspirational, evangelical preacher of education', Nina is a tour-de-force when it comes to enlivening teaching and learning for all.

Nina is one of the happiest, most effervescent personalities in education today and puts her own learning, and the learning of others, at the heart of everything she believes in.

Ninjas and Sherbet Lemons ' Nina Jackson in the Time Out Room ' PP179

Click here to read Nina Jackson’s blog.

Picture for author Mick Waters

Mick Waters

A former head teacher, Mick Waters works closely with teachers and leaders in schools, MATs and local authorities to support the development of teaching approaches and curriculum to ensure the best learning outcomes for children. For some years he was Director of Curriculum for England, based at the Qualification and Curriculum Authority (QCA), and before that held the post of Chief Education Officer for the City of Manchester. He is also invited to work at a policy level with government in different parts of the world. 

Click here to listen in on Mick's podcast with Pivotal Education - 'Mick Waters on Centralisation, OFSTED and Brilliant Schools'.

Picture for author Matthew McFall

Matthew McFall

Dr Matthew McFall is an education consultant and practitioner with an interest in puzzles, games, mazes, labyrinths and escape rooms.

His work focuses on the uses of wonderment for learning and engagement within both formal and non-formal educational environments. His second doctorate explores the heritage of wonder and considers how ' and why ' it remains relevant to pupils, families and communities. Matthew believes that at the heart of valuable learning is curiosity and positivity, which leads to a lifelong love of finding out more about the universe.

He has championed the venerable tradition of the Cabinet of Curiosities as a boon for schools, helping to establish dedicated wonder spaces both in mainstream schools and in specialist settings for pupils with learning difficulties. He also collaborates with museums to help create spaces that are stimulating, nurturing and surprising.

His book The Little Book of Awe and Wonder: A cabinet of curiosities is a portable cornucopia of the weird and the wonderful, celebrating the joys of discovery, exploration and sharing. Between the covers is an entire world of brilliant strangeness: riddles and illusions; jokes and wisdoms; wasp eyes and kidney crystals. Open the book at random and be transported, delighted and enlightened.

Matthew as featured in The Guardian, 2011: A Wonder Room - every school should have one.

Picture for author Martin Illingworth

Martin Illingworth

An English specialist with over twenty years' teaching experience, Martin Illingworth is a senior lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University with responsibility for English and drama PGCE. As an Independent Thinking Associate he has delivered keynote speeches and workshops across the UK, and has also worked internationally ' undertaking research in Cairo, Egypt, and at the University of Toronto in Canada.

Picture for author Mark Creasy

Mark Creasy

Mark Creasy is an Independent Thinking Associate and experienced primary school teacher. His contemporary and down-to-earth style of teaching has allowed him to view learning as a tool, not a rule, to ensure that his pupils are given the right to an education that suits their needs and maximises their potential for future success. Mark is also the author of Unhomework, which challenges the orthodoxies about work outside the classroom.

Read Mark's article featured in The Guardian on Tuesday April 1st 2014.

Click here to listen to Mark discussing The Great Homework Debate' on the Pivotal Podcast (from 4.30mins).

Picture for author Jonathan Lear

Jonathan Lear

Described as having a breathtaking understanding of how to engage children, Jonathan Lear is an award-winning teacher, education consultant and author. He has worked for many years on a compelling mix of inspirational teaching strategies, and has shared his passion for learning as an advanced skills teacher, a deputy head and an Associate of Independent Thinking.

Read, When Two Tribes Go to War', Jonathan's interview with Teachwire.net.

Click here to listen in on Jonathan's podcast with Pivotal Education on How to Teach Guerrilla Style'.

Picture for author Jarlath O'Brien

Jarlath O'Brien

Jarlath O'Brien has been a teacher for nearly two decades, working in comprehensive, independent, selective and special education – including in schools for children with social, emotional and behavioural issues and severe and profound and multiple learning difficulties. For the last eight years Jarlath has been a head teacher and executive head teacher.

Jarlath is also a behaviour columnist for TES, has written for The Guardian and for several other education publications and trains teachers on behaviour, school leadership and special educational needs.

Click here to listen in on Jarlath's podcast with Pivotal Education - How to be a great leader in a special school'.

Click here to read Jarlath's article in the Guardian in which he discusses how children with special needs are grossly over-represented in exclusion figures.

Click here to listen to Jarlath on Surrey Hills Community Radio's The SEND Show'.

Picture for author Jane Hewitt

Jane Hewitt

Jane Hewitt taught mainly at secondary level for 30 years. Jane still loves learning, discovering new ideas and photography and is rarely found without a camera around her neck!

Click here to try out Jane's Collage Challenge.

Visit Jane's photography Website here or her Den Building site here.

Picture for author Ian Loynd

Ian Loynd

Ian Loynd has a wealth of experience as a teacher, school leader, governor, author, educational consultant and trainer. He is currently assistant head teacher at a large comprehensive school in Cardiff. Prior to this, Ian worked in pastoral leadership as Director of Studies and as a secondary mathematics teacher. He works regularly alongside teachers, students, parents and community groups as a speaker and trainer.

Picture for author Ian Gilbert

Ian Gilbert

Since establishing Independent Thinking 25 years ago, Ian Gilbert has made a name for himself across the world as a highly original writer, editor, speaker, practitioner and thinker, and is someone who the IB World magazine has referred to as one of the world's leading educational visionaries.

The author of several books, and the editor of many more, Ian is known by thousands of teachers and young people across the world for his award-winning Thunks books. Thunks grew out of Ian's work with Philosophy for Children (P4C), and are beguiling yet deceptively powerful little philosophical questions that he has created to make children's – as well as their teachers' – brains hurt.

Ian's growing collection of bestselling books has a more serious side too, without ever losing sight of his trademark wit and straight-talking style. The Little Book of Bereavement for Schools, born from personal family experience, is finding a home in schools across the world, and The Working Class – a massive collaborative effort he instigated and edited – is making a genuine difference to the lives of young people from some of the poorest backgrounds.

A unique writer and editor, there is no other voice like Ian Gilbert's in education today.

See for yourself.

Ian was winner of The Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society's inaugural Educational Writers Award (Nov 2008) for 'The Little Book of Thunks' - Click here for more information on the book.

Re-framing the Education Debate with Independent Thinker, Ian Gilbert.

Click here to read Ian Gilbert’s blog.

Click here to read Ian's article in International Teacher Magazine.

Picture for author Hywel Roberts

Hywel Roberts

Hywel Roberts has taught in secondary, primary and special settings for almost 30 years. He contributes to university education programmes and writes regularly for TES as the ‘travelling teacher’. A true Northerner, Hywel deals in botheredness, creative practice, curriculum development and imagineering. He was recently described as ‘a world leader in enthusiasm’ and his first book, Oops! Helping Children Learn Accidentally, is a favourite among teachers. Hywel is a much sought-after educational speaker, an Independent Thinking Associate and has contributed to events worldwide. He also contributes fiction to prison-based literacy reading programmes developed by The Shannon Trust and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

Picture for author Gill Kelly

Gill Kelly

During Gill Kelly's career in the educational sector she has worked in an inner city school in Swindon and two large 11-18 schools in North Somerset before becoming the principal at The City Academy, Bristol. Her previous role, as deputy head teacher of Nailsea School in North Somerset, gave her the opportunity to provide the ICT solution for the school rebuild under the BSF (Building Schools for the Future) project.

Picture for author Dr. Debra Kidd

Dr. Debra Kidd

Debra Kiddtaught for 23 years in primary, secondary and higher education settings. She is the author of three previous books - Teaching: Notes from the Front Line, Becoming Mobius and Uncharted Territories - and believes more than anything else that 'the secret to great teaching is to make it matter'. Debra has a doctorate in education and co-founded and organised Northern Rocks, one of the largest annual teaching and learning conferences in the UK.

View Debra's profile in Schools Week, October 2014.

Click here to listen in on Debra's podcast with Pivotal Education on 'teaching, learning and politics'.

Click here to watch a video interview with Debra as part of The Education Foundation's series of Education Britain Conversations.


  1. The Working Class has been incredibly helpful in the writing of an inclusion and diversity module for our Initial Teacher Training degree course. The book is written in an incredibly accessible way and makes a very compelling argument for change to our educational system. It also draws together the most up-to-date literature and prominent research to create an in-depth overview of the issues of social class in education, as well as providing practical advice for educators whose job it is to help close the gap.

  2. This book looks at the problem of the gap in attainment between the "haves and have-nots". The author has put together a selection of chapters by a diverse group of people who share a frustration with recent educational policies. They explore themes such as aspiration, activism, anger, agency and authenticity, inspiring thought and discussion about how we can reduce inequality in education, why we need change and why we all need to become activists for a better system.
  3. I can honestly say that I have never been touched by an academic/research book, both personally and professionally, as I have when I read -˜The Working Class' edited by Ian Gilbert.

    I felt it affected me very much on a personal level having been raised and educated as a child in the wonderful working class area of Walton in Liverpool, where there are so many parallels with the community I now serve. I feel privileged to be the Headteacher of an outstanding school which sits in the ex-mining community of Barnsley. My priority since joining Birkwood Primary has always been to offer the children as many opportunities and experiences as possible so that it helps and supports them now and in the future.

    Many elements of the book touched me and stirred emotions relating to my younger self, as I finally understood why I never fitted into the grammar school I attended for five years. I felt completely out of place and for all of those years as though I never fitted in. For the first time I recognised that this was due to my lack of -˜cultural capital' and it wasn't my fault that I felt inadequate and had no sense of belonging.

    Mikey Markham recognised that for some children from poor backgrounds, who gained access to grammar school against the odds, things were often unbearable as they found themselves facing discrimination by both their peers and their teachers. I can vividly remember reading out loud in front of the whole class and pronouncing the composer Chopin as -˜choppin' - to everyone's complete amusement, including the teacher. This faux pas I have remembered my whole life and it has had very long lasting effects. One teacher's words, or lack of, can cause lasting damage to a child, or conversely can be an enduring cause for hope and for them to find a way to develop their own -˜cultural capital'.

    In complete contrast, I loved my primary school because I always knew that I was cared for and that they understood; there was very much a sense of belonging and attachment. There was no discrimination, as all of the children lived in the same working class catchment area with parents who had little or no education themselves. This is why I feel that it is hugely important in my own school community to develop a sense of family and of belonging where children feel respected and listened to.

    The question proposed is: -˜How can we approach the education of children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds in a way that actually makes a difference to them personally and also improves their life chances?'

    There is no generic answer to this question other than reminding ourselves that we have the ultimate responsibility to ensure that our children are able to thrive and achieve -˜the best that they can be'. What underpins everything we do in our school is our motto: -˜Inspire, Cherish and Achieve Together.' It is the togetherness which is so important as we all strive to work collectively for the best outcomes for our children.

    What shines through in the book is that we must be more creative, more courageous and braver in meeting the needs of our unique communities. We may not be able to change government policy in our classrooms, but we can continue to change lives either collectively or one at a time. We must put our children first and I strongly believe that by nurturing, caring, and loving our children alongside a broad and varied curriculum, they will flourish and blossom. If our children know they are safe and loved, then they will thrive, assuming all other key factors are in place.

    Adults working with our children in schools have an important role to play as positive role models who strive to make the process of learning meaningful and engaging and by building on their existing knowledge. We must ensure that we respect their ideas, accept their culture, alongside all of the differences and challenges that each child brings to the classroom. Education is about celebrating every success and providing the opportunities to succeed.

    Tim Taylor states that, -˜Education is about people, culture and community.'

    The aim I feel for all staff who work alongside our children, is to make education something for everyone, and this particularly includes the disruptive and the vulnerable. In order to plant seeds for the future, we need to embrace new ideas and ensure that we work beyond simply improving SATs results.

    We need to provide an education which transcends the narrow tramlines of numeracy and literacy, SPaG and phonics and above all believe in our convictions.

    We need to have a clear vision for our schools and communities with non-negotiables and without compromise. With the current Ofsted focus on evaluating our broad, balanced and deep curriculum, we must take the opportunity to be brave and bold to meet the needs of our children, so that we serve our community in the best possible way that we can.

    Knowledge of course is at the heart of any school alongside professional trust and integrity, so that by allowing our teachers the freedom to be confident and courageous, we can work together to develop a school and curriculum which fully meets the needs of our children and the community. This takes time and will not be achieved with a one-size fits all programme. At our school we have developed 4 strands of -˜Ask It, Cook It, Grow It and Film It' based on enquiry-based learning. This, alongside an absolute and total commitment to the Arts, quality first teaching, wide ranging professional development opportunities and a committed staff team, governing body and budget, means that we can and do meet the needs of our children well, but we never take that for granted.

    Schools can develop their curriculum by making the Arts relevant to children and young peoples' lives and by valuing the power of the arts in transforming lives, illustrated below:

    -˜Phil: I love the band - we all do - but there's other things in life, you know that's more important.' Danny - Not in mine there isn't.' (from Brassed Off)

    Our school has a unique link with the world famous Grimethorpe Colliery Band (GCB); they have played in our School Hall three times and have inspired many children to learn to play a brass instrument. There was an occasion when I heard one of our pupil's parents berating his son for not rehearsing in preparation for a performance. It was emotional to hear the parent say to his child in front of Michael Dodd (ex-principle euphonium player with GCB):

    -˜I want you to end up like him lad travelling the world and doing what he loves, not like me, working all the hours God sends for nowt.'

    In December last year -˜that lad' played solo with GCB and we cried with pride.

    The opportunities we provide for our children and young people and their early experiences develop a set of understanding into which new learning needs to be absorbed. The wider the range of early experiences, the more extensive these sets of understandings become. The importance of trips and visits for children from lower socio-economic groups cannot be underestimated as this extends their levels of understandings into which to fit new learning. The narrower the range of experiences, the narrower the range of language. The more complex the network, the easier it is to make new connections and so absorb new learning.

    72 members of our school and community went to see The Nutcracker at The Royal Opera House in London last Christmas. For some of those families it was the very first time they had been to London, not least to a ballet; it was humbling and a privilege to watch their reactions to the performance itself and the sheer enjoyment their children experienced.

    Ensuring that we have an education system which guarantees all children enjoy rich and varied experiences as a right, not a treat, is at the heart of our philosophy. School visits are not a privilege for working class children, they are a valuable right, says Paul Dix. Cultural capital is not simply delivered through a canon of literature, it is built through experience. The ambition just one trip can spark is evident in children's writing, their conversation and, for many, in their future direction of travel both metaphorically and physically.

    In the words of Dr Debra Kidd, -˜We need to find ways of lifting children's heads so that they can see beyond the here and now, but do so without ripping them up by their roots.'

    It's not about sacrificing a child's well-being for the data or the school league table, but truly nurturing it, empowering independence and really understanding the context to determine the best way forward.

    For many children school is the safe haven where there are reliable constants and trusted frameworks, where relationships can be nurtured and constant reassurance provided, particularly when things change or when times are difficult. We are the role models and lifelines which can make even the smallest difference and sometimes it can be those very small things which mean the most. We have a responsibility to ensure that children and their families believe there are people in the world who they can trust and who believe in them. We have the capacity to change lives in the small courses we chart every day. (Julia Hancock)

    My final quote is attributed to Carl Jung:

    -˜One looks with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.'

    Inspiring children and adults through what can sometimes be extenuating circumstances is hugely humbling and rewarding. It is our responsibility and moral duty to provide only the very best for our children as they have -˜just one chance' and we must get it right - no excuses. Our children must be equipped with the skills, knowledge and values so that they have a place in the world where their voice can be heard -¦ never underestimate them -¦ anything is possible and their achievements can often astound us.

    We must ensure that our curriculum meets the needs of our children and young people so that we foster in them a lifelong love of learning which includes rich experiential learning and without doubt the arts and sport. We all need to ask ourselves: -˜How are you awakening your children and young people to a bigger world, literally and metaphorically, in which they can make a difference and make it better?'
  4. The narratives, variety of interactions and experiences in the book had great resonance with us, as our expertise is in providing opportunities for informal learning and engagement, as we work in the outdoors and around historic, built environments. The Working Class - Poverty, Education and Alternative Voices triggered debate and made us reconsider how we approach our work, and our personal motivations and perspectives.

    We are not formal educators. Our role is to facilitate opportunities and interactions that offer exploration for growth and learning that -˜move, teach and inspire', along the lines of those that are recurrent throughout the book.

    Although we had not discussed these themes in any detail in the past, we both felt that the perspectives and case studies covered had a familiarity to those we encounter. There is an important caveat: our practice does not entirely mesh into each of the themes comfortably as, in our case, they have to apply more widely across a variety of social structures, sectors and groupings.

    Overwhelmingly, our work takes place by way of open invitation and is not conditional upon membership, nor does it have any direct income targets attached to it. We engage with those who attend our outdoor learning and engagement events irrespective of any social factors, and we always include responsible adults known to the minors in or very close to our operations. Sometimes these events or -˜interventions' are held on a repeat basis and in these cases, longer-term dynamics similar to formal educational settings may build up. These engagements are steered, rather than driven, by exploring how we can best deliver a National Trust experience, often in settings away from National Trust land. The connections between all who attend and us as providers, along with our delivery partners, tend to run supportively and almost silently alongside the activities. They are facilitated so far as is possible with minimum intervention to make sure engagement can take place, along with a watchful eye on safe and appropriate conduct.

    Although we differ on those points from the book, we have continued to find it pertinent in its subject matter and acting as a good catalyst for our debates on development. Within it lies a confederative framework which we feel we can readily adapt and apply to our outdoor activities and work-streams.

    The following is an explanation of our own practice approach, resulting from the open debate provoked by the book

    The National Trust's cause is caring for special places -˜for ever, for everyone' and has strong parallels with the -˜Everyone is welcome' ethos (Pg 441). We like to approach with an invitation to learn and explore through our attendees own sense of curiosity. We endeavour to do this through facilitating activities and interventions, both guided and self-led, rather than the more rigid connotations of an -˜expert will teach you' approach.

    We talk a lot about -˜nurturing the spark of curiosity' by focussing on possibilities, rather than outcomes. Often, the outcomes cannot be defined in advance, so we work to a framework where we identify them by emotional responses. We seek, in effect, to reverse the word order so rather than us trying to dictate what a desired -˜outcome' will be, we explore with the individuals how they have -˜come out' of the experience. This frees us up to tailor our approach to the individual. The exploration of the individual's -˜desired destination' is identified through an evolving methodology of freedom and choice, rooted in Kinaesthetic learning techniques, which enable us to fulfil the individual's needs. Here we can enable people to follow their own passions and provide the safe space for them to stimulate their own curiosities. This also supports their exploration in how to cope with mistakes, and we give them permission to fail by setting up and supporting their individual strategies to deal with that.

    It might be best explained as using a -˜roadmap' approach to a life-long journey, rather than one focussed on a specific destination or outcome. For us, an outcome is more of a linear learning experience where you are travelling along a set route from A to B, with little time for a diversion. We work out (with the individual) what destination would work for them, exploring which route they might take. We check in with them to identify any changes of direction they may want to make along the way. This leads people into making choices about their thinking. Our role is supporting the individual in overcoming barriers to learning and to finding alternative approaches via independent thinking and by way of individual growth through the permission to discover and take risks through a risk benefit analysis framework. The Process of Deep Human Engagement particularly resonated with us (as referenced by Dr Andrew Curran Pg378).

    We have to recognise that there can be some financial and emotional barriers to accessing some sites, but our team is working hard to find ways in which people can find a clear sense of place and greater belonging. These themes resonate well with the threads which, we felt, run through Nina Jackson's contributions. Having the latitude to help people to explore is often described as a luxury, but we believe it is far from a luxury and that the so-called latitude should be redefined as a vital component in reducing barriers to learning and discovery. Jane Hewitt talks about not wrapping people up in cotton wool and we agree.

    Dave Harris' explains in the book why he is not contributing to it, and states that -˜the system is broken'. What we sometimes experience is more akin to breaches in the system where we encounter people who have fallen through the gaps of the system. We invite them to explore their environment, rather than follow a prescriptive approach - for example, rather than list and identify creatures within any environment, they either observe or imagine natural behaviours and settings. They may not need to know, or indeed want to know, the names of each species in it, but make a more meaningful, personal connection with them. For us, it's more about understanding where they fit within the ecosystem and recognising others' needs and the environments in which they can flourish.

    As you may be able to tell, this book has made us review what we do and how we do it. It has encouraged us to sense-check whether we are truly providing opportunities for all, and we are exploring whether we have unacknowledged prejudices from the accounts given in the book. To tackle this, we have been considering strategies which aim ultimately to eliminate or, in the interim, vastly reduce any negative impact of interactions.

    Our recommendation would be that this book will attract teachers and practitioners who are already exploring the challenge of facilitating independent thinking and moving away from more dependent and prescriptive systems. Both of us have been exploring this outside of normal working structures. To make this more approachable for the time-constrained professional, we would suggest a synopses of themes in the book, which might lead to a staged approach to the bigger questions that the book prompts the reader to consider.

    In generating debate, the approach of this book has a great validity. The challenge is how this can be more readily explored by all, including professionals and decision-makers, to make these reforming approaches as accessible and widely championed as possible.
  5. The innovative nature of the resource:

    The Working Class challenges current orthodoxy on how a learning and teaching resource should be structured. Usually, educational leadership instruction is focused on activity, task and impact. These are without doubt vital aspects of school improvement and leadership and management. However, if it were so transactional then we would not see the embedded underachievement within our system that has become typified by some areas struggling to overcome disadvantage. This is what this title addresses. It's about the why. It is about the perspective, context, understanding and attitude which underpin the approaches and behaviours which will then indeed see transactional leadership successful. As one deputy head teacher at my Trust said, “The Working Class provides the foundation of understanding and belief which is the foundation for genuine school improvement.”

    We have used a variety of the chapters as thought pieces and training prompts to always approach school improvement through the lens of empathy, walking some footsteps in the shoes of those we serve.

    The impact on learning and the work of the teacher in the classroom, to what extent and in which areas:

    The book has had a significant impact for the following reasons:

    1. Staff surveys show that the emphasis within the trust, based on this text, on family and community engagement has been a key retention strand. (88% of respondents show this is a factor for staying.)

    2. At the whole- Trust CPD, we spent the day exploring the chapter Kids Like Jim and then all staff (250 in total) reflected on their own practice and looked at how this would change and inform their communication and engagement. (78% of staff believe this has strongly or somewhat improved and influenced their practice.)

    3. Senior leaders have moved their position from one of monitoring (-˜weighing the pig') to modelling (-˜feeding the pig') in response to our repositioning in order to look at learning and reduce high-stakes accountability to remember our commitment to all.

    4. We no longer speak of social mobility. Our Trust is committed to social justice.

    How the title supports or enhances the everyday life or work of teachers, pupils or schools:

    We use a different chapter each week at an executive level as a thought and engagement piece. All staff have extracts, which they read and discuss as part of appraisal. This has refocused our vision and values and we now have a much more focused set of statements which have been crafted and created by the community based on CAIRS: Care, Aspiration, Inspiration, Respect and Stewardship.

    The book particularly influenced the adoption of stewardship as we remembered and co-opted the belief that we are the guardians, not owners, of our schools. This has meant over 50 more staff have engaged with Twitter in order to follow, share and engage with contributors on a wider scale and has promoted much better event horizon scanning as well as engagement from leaders on a system level.

    Cost-effectiveness in terms of educational aims and results - not just price:

    The value of the book is immeasurable. It has led to a change in mindset not just of individuals but of the institution we serve. It is a book which has fundamentally shifted the zeitgeist of our Trust from compliance to liberation: from doing to, to doing with; from a silo to a hub; and from schooling to education.

    I cannot overestimate the impact of this book on the Trust other than to say we improved our staff retention rate from 55% to 95% in one year as a result of the impact on vision and values in affecting the culture and climate of the Trust. In terms of monetary value, we made over '£125,000 of savings within recruitment compared to the prior year.

    This book isn't just about strong messages; it is a call to be radical in a way that builds, not destroys, our capacity to see a fairer and more equal society.
  6. This unique book explores, through wide-ranging writing including academic text, practical experience, family history, as well as poetry, just what is required to support working class students. Furthermore, it is innovative by its very existence - it is a book about teaching that addresses the giant elephant in the room: social class. This is the context that needs to be acknowledged every time there is talk of progress, of achievement and of closing gaps. Further innovation within this book lies in the presentation of the content: sometimes deeply personal life stories, experiences and family histories; sometimes meticulously researched academic journal articles; others just sound practical advice; sometimes poems. All of the contributors offer key insights into social class and education and, as the form of their writing shows, they work in a wide variety of locations where class and education meet. What binds all the contributions together is Ian Gilbert's narrative voice. There is an anger in the voices that underpin the whole book, an anger at the injustice of an education system that too quickly isolates and excludes the marginalised and vulnerable - but the anger is balanced with hope and practical encouragement. It is sure to get you fired up for daily work with the excluded and disaffected.

    As a coach, teacher and trainer I am constantly trying to challenge stereotypes, sometimes face-to-face with the children and families from the communities who are being stereotyped - and with people who believe and have accepted those awful stereotypes. This book has helped me to offer an alternative view.

    Inspired by Nina Jackson's and Phil Beadle's highly personal accounts of their family histories, located in very particular times and places, I now provide my alternative provision students with a variety of learning opportunities. We have lessons on Cheadle's World War One horses, a visit to Cheadle's very own -˜Pugin's Gem' (a Catholic church), and one student gets to explore his working class Jamaican heritage and the importance of church in the immigration story. And the learning doesn't end with the students either, because I am learning about these hidden and untold stories too.

    Ian Gilbert has long advocated philosophy for children, but this book reminded me of the power of this approach with the vulnerable and disadvantaged. Encouraged by Daryn Egan-Simon and Dr Matthew McFall's contributions, I have also introduced nature poetry into literacy lessons. Why shouldn't boys from homes with no age-appropriate books read poetry on the natural world? And why not collect conkers and design ivy trails after searching the housing estate for both?

    Above all there is a call in this book to give working class students agency - my work with the disaffected uses a solution-focused coaching methodology for them to work on taking responsibility and making decisions for themselves, which will ultimately give them independence and control of their lives. In the chapter on agency, Ian Gilbert presents a list of -˜areas of social circumstance' based on the work of Antonia Kupfer - and this has become a list that informs my planning every Sunday night.

    As a freelancer, I have no budget. Fortunately, I purchased the book at a discount offered to celebrate the anniversary of Independent Thinking. As you can see from above, I have enough experience to draw together methods and resources I have used before and it costs me nothing to incorporate a new idea into a lesson or some training, which I have done extensively thanks to this book. There is an Obama quote that goes, -˜If you think education is expensive, try ignorance' - and there is an urgency to work with the marginalised and excluded. It has to be done in an engaging and successful way otherwise there is a risk of losing a generation against the harsh grind of an unforgiving education system. When you work with excluded kids on second chances and you have a resource like this to support and challenge you, the results are potentially priceless.
  7. The Working Class is more than a book: it is a treasury. This is one of the best books I have come across regarding current issues in education. It made me stop and think, and gave me the historical background knowledge to question current policy and practice, and to transform my teaching. It challenged my own teaching philosophy and, as a result of reading it, I have gone back into the classroom with a renewed and more informed outlook. It has impacted everything; from my approach to curriculum, to inclusion, to pedagogy, to ethos, and to vision.

    The words of Dave Whitaker remind me on a daily basis to be flexibly consistent with children, making sure -˜the spanner fits the nut' and not the other way round. Dr McFall inspired me to create a nature table in my setting and now I have my own -˜enchanted classroom' full of -˜co-wonderers' admiring the beauty of nature, excitedly entering the school with pockets full of leaves. Paul Dix inspired me to provide our children with more rich, first-hand experiences and to build stronger, more enriching partnerships with parents. Hywel Roberts constantly inspires me to take risks and make learning truly relevant and child led.

    The book shines a light on past and present misconceptions regarding education and class in the UK, challenging readers to transform the future. This unique collection of over 40 contributors, from the campaigner to the educator to the researcher, offers a new challenge within every unfolding chapter.

    Most importantly, it has impacted my own classroom practice by firstly altering my own teaching philosophy, which in turn has refreshed my practice and the decisions I make on a daily basis. I have gained inspiration to bring life, sound and real-life experiences to the curriculum, and to develop stronger, more positive relationships with children, considering seemingly -˜hidden' barriers to learning. I have developed creative spaces of wonder in my classroom and I am bolder in questioning current policy and practice. And my pupils? They enter our learning space as co-wonderers knowing that they are truly cared for and trusted, that we are not afraid to take risks together, and that their voice will not only be heard, but listened to. The recalibration of my pedagogy offers them more exciting and skilled futures, equipping them with the creative skills they need in order to thrive.

    If you wish to transform the positive outcomes for our children, are an aspirational practitioner or feel that change is required in the UK, then this treasury of hope is for you. And it needs to be sitting within each school and university setting so that we can continue to spread this hope for the future.

    A true masterpiece.

  8. In The Working Class Ian Gilbert tackles the key issues of access, inclusion, poverty, inequality and disadvantage within education by collating the viewpoints and experiences of a wide range of contributors.

    The range of enlightening insights shared, and research cited, underlines that the achievement gap both within and between schools is still very evident. The contributors' powerful arguments show clear evidence that further pragmatic action is still needed to reduce and eradicate educational inequality and lack of opportunity. From their own experience and social background, readers will be able to relate to and empathise with the wide range of contributions on the impact of inequality.

    The Working Class is an excellent read, and will hopefully bring about more effective change for the disadvantaged.
  9. “Synopsis: Ian Gilbert is an award-winning author and editor, a leading educational speaker and an entrepreneur and a man who the IB World magazine named as one of its top 15 educational -˜visionaries'. He established Independent Thinking in 1994 as a platform for leading practitioners to share their work in bringing the best out of ail children.

    In The Working Class: Poverty, Education and Alternative Voices, Gilbert unites educators from across the UK and further afield to call on all those working in schools to adopt a more enlightened and empathetic approach to supporting children in challenging circumstances.

    One of the most intractable problems in modem education is how to close the widening gap in attainment between the haves and the have-nots. Unfortunately, successive governments both in the UK and abroad have gone about solving it the wrong way.

    The contributors to The Working Class are not telling teachers or schools leaders how to run their schools, their classroom or their relationships the field is too massive, too complex, too open to debate and to discussion to propose off-the-shelf solutions. Furthermore, the research referred to comprising The Working Class is not presented in order to tell educators what to think, but rather to inform their own thinking and to challenge some of the dominant narratives about educating the feckless poor. “The Working Class” is about helping educators to ask the right questions, and its starting question is quite simple: how can we approach the education of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds in a way that actually makes a difference for all concerned?

    Written for policy makers and activists as well as school leaders and educators, The Working Class is both a timely survey of the impact of current policies and an invaluable source of practical advice on what can be done to better support disadvantaged children in the school system.

    Critique: An impressive body of work, The Working Class: Poverty, Education and Alternative Voices is an extraordinary and highly recommended addition to both community and academic library collections. For personal reading lists, teachers, students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject should be aware that The Working Class: Poverty, Education and Alternative Voices is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16. 73). It should be noted that all royalties from the sale of “The Working Class” will be used to support the education of children living in poverty in the UK.”
  10. As a senior leader who has been championing equality for disadvantaged pupils since stepping into education, you can imagine how excited I was to get my teeth into this book.

    There I sat, one cloudy afternoon, marking a set of year 11 assessments, when I heard the distinctive sounds of a delivery driver wrestling a package through the letterbox, followed by a deep thud. This was the first hint that I was going to have to invest quite some time into what turned out to be a 517-page tome.

    Thankfully, the preface alleviated my worries. Ian Gilbert highlights the fact that this book is collaboratively produced and encompasses the voices of many people who are passionate about this field of work. It does not follow a traditional linear path; rather, it is an eclectic mix of extracts, poems, personal experiences and infectious, passion-filled stories about social injustice.

    This book, which certainly doesn't play to the chords of Progress 8, is not a dummies' guide to creating social equality in your school, nor even a checklist for reducing the attainment gap. It offers a new way of thinking, and challenges the status quo of recent educational stereotypes linked to “disadvantage”.

    He breaks down the idea that being from a deprived background automatically labels you as a drain on society with no aspiration or intention to work.

    The stereotype of “the feckless poor” is completely blown out of the water when one contributor, Chris Kilkenny, describes having to work two jobs and sleep only a couple of hours each night to put food on the table for his son. This is not a man with low aspirations but someone with a ferocious work ethic, who wants to improve his situation.

    The working class sets the moral compass of why we should be going above and beyond for children from challenging backgrounds.

    In its early chapters it looks at challenging “neoliberal orthodoxies” and passionately unpicks current educational policy. The later chapters investigate other turbulence factors such as hope, family, belonging, solidarity of communities, shame, agency and diet. All these vital elements are then woven ingeniously through current research to give deeper understanding to the reader.

    The most moving and engaging parts are the personal and heartfelt anecdotes from people who are from communities of high deprivation, providing a brutal, no-holds-barred insight into what it is really like to come from one of “those estates”.

    This passion is clearly visible in Jaz Ampaw-Farr's section, “A message to my teachers”, where she eloquently describes her struggle through education, as a pupil from a very deprived background being taught entirely by middle class teachers.

    Kilkenny, in 'Down but not out', explains the mental exhaustion of being raised by a mother addicted to heroin. This story not only brutally highlights how hard life it is for some of our pupils, but also shows how an awful start can ignite a fire of hope within someone and become the catalyst for them to better their situation.

    These sincere tales are not all grey clouds and thunderstorms, but also demonstrate the strength of community, the loyalty of family, and the unwavering work ethic of people from challenging backgrounds.

    In short, this book drills down deeper than the superficial label of being FSM or Ever6.

    Read this book if you are an NQT, a senior leader, a governor or a teacher. It is about developing empathy and understanding for the “challenging” students in your care. It will help identify the broader and commonly unvisited barriers to learning so that you can help them break them down. It reaffirms the fact that we all should be championing equality at every opportunity in our schools.

    Finally, as a legacy disadvantaged pupil myself from an estate on the outskirts of Greater Manchester, this book resonates strongly with me and my upbringing.

    Click here to read the review on Schools Week's website.
  11. “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.”

    Click here to read the review on The Voice Teachers Union website.
  12. “It is not often that you pick up a book and -” within two pages -” you're reading why the Business Director of the organisation responsible for it doesn't want to contribute to the book and why.

    But then, that's par for the course with Independent Thinking Ltd. There's always another way, as they say.

    The Working Class (Independent Thinking Press, 2018) begins with a Foreword “On Why I Am Not Contributing To This Book”. In it, Dave Harris (Business Director, Independent Thinking Ltd) explains why he doesn't much like the title and why he is not chipping in his two penny's worth. Whether he's being entirely serious is unclear, but for what it's worth, we agree with his point. In a diverse world where our students define themselves by social media participation, gang membership, football team affiliation, music genres etc. the term “working class” seems a little black and white. Harris suggests that the book is about “disadvantage pure and simple: economic disadvantage, social disadvantage, emotional disadvantage, aspirational disadvantage.” And so, one sentence written by someone who doesn't even want to contribute to the book sums up what it's about. Like we say, there's always another way.

    24 years ago, a man decided he wanted to do something to provoke and inspire schools, teachers, students and, if they wanted to listen, those in government. And so, inspired by Delboy Trotter's taste in business names, Independent Thinking was born.*

    *As The Beatles once nearly sang, “It was 24 years ago today / Ian Gilbert taught the band to play.”

    Since then, Gilbert has built Independent Thinking into a collective of imaginative, motivational, sometimes angry, often provocative, always independent voices. These people run courses, write books, inspire and get us to see the good in those we teach. And the theme that runs continuous throughout Independent Thinking's work? A care for the disadvantaged and a belief that there is always another way. Gilbert is a tailor of ideas and this theme is his constant thread.

    The Working Class looks like it might be a dry, policy-filled text book (NB. there is something about policy-filled things that we associate with being dry. Each to their own, though). But, teachers? Everyday teachers? Who'd want to pay money to buy a 500-odd page book on Class unless you're a lecturer in Education, Sociology, it's on your reading list or you need a new door-stop?

    Don't be fooled.

    This is an excellent, eclectic read -” it really is. And if it were ever to be used as a text book (which it should), it would be the most interesting text book on your reading list, guaranteed. -˜The Working Class' features 46 sometimes-punchy (as in short) and sometimes-punchy (as in hard-hitting) chapters (essays, articles, poems, reminiscences, anecdotes, lists) with each one touching on a theme that links to the concepts of poverty, education and our disadvantaged students.

    [A side note: hat tip to the design team at Independent Thinking Press who have used the same fonts on the front cover to match the author who wrote that particular chapter on the back cover. We appreciate little touches like that!]

    So, why would you want to read a 517-page book on the Working Class? What if neither you or your students could be described as disadvantaged? Wherever you teach and whatever your background, we are all in this education business together and it is vitally important that, where we can, we make changes that build communities, smash wrong perceptions and lift students to the level they deserve, no matter what circumstances may be holding them back. Quite often the problem is with ourselves and The Working Class forces us to take a good, hard look at what our expectations are as teachers-¦ “The kids round here won't ever [FILL IN THE BLANK WITH SOME POSITIVE ACHIEVEMENT]. It's not that sort of area-¦” doesn't cut it.

    This is a book to dip into (we decided to read Nina Jackson's vivid memories of her grandfather first -” not least because many of the places she discusses are just down the road!). It's interesting to read other reviews that tell the same sort of “dipping into” story. As such, each reader will take different things from it. For some, it will be the sections containing the angry, sometimes controversial, poetry and prose that will hit home the hardest. Others will look for suggestions as to how we can change a system that seems to place value on exam results and not recognise that progress can sometimes simply be a student having a week without absences.

    Presumably the danger with a book like this is that it could become a rambling scrapbook of an affair. And so, to ensure a degree of cohesiveness, each chapter begins with an introduction written by Ian Gilbert. And so he drives the narrative, keeps it going and explains how the next theme relates to what has gone before. The tailor keeps his thread running throughout.

    For us, this book is about voices (its subtitle is -˜Poverty, Education and Alternative Voices'), five voices in particular. That's what we got from it and it is these five voices that will keep us returning to it.

    Firstly, and most importantly, it's a book about our students' voices. It's a book about empathising with them, regarding them with unconditional positivity and seeing them as so much more than a test score. It's about what we can do to break some of the cycles of disadvantage, whether this be a result of lack of teacher belief, expectations, resources, hope, support etc. If you want to read a book that leaves you fired up to help your students be the best they can be, this is for you. It'll make you question your own attitudes. This book gives your students a voice through those who have stories to tell. Listen to it.

    Secondly, it's a book about their families-¦ It's about understanding what our what our students go home to each night and how this shapes who they are. It's about recognising the communities we serve, the disillusionment that is so often there and the mistrust of the education system because it has failed them in the past. It's about not giving detention to the girl who didn't do her homework because there was a car burning outside her house all night and it kept her awake (true story). It's about recognising that our students may come from families where they are now the third or fourth generation without a job -” so, what hope do they place in school?

    The third group of people -˜The Working Class' is about is Government / Authority / Ofsted -” what they should have done (but haven't), and what they can now (but probably won't) do to change things. It doesn't provide concrete conclusions, but it does offer answers. It's about trying to lead those in power to recognise that how outstanding a school is is not based on the number of children it can get to jump through test hoops. Instead, it's about how valued, respected and loved our children feel when they step onto school soil. For some, this is the nearest to a feeling of “home” they will get. Someone has to be the voice to Power for these children and this book is that. If Independent Thinking Press have a spare copy or two, they should send them to some of our more open-minded policy-makers. How else are they going to hear these voices?

    Fourthly, it's about the teachers, coaches, leaders, educationalists, poets, speakers and authors whose voices make up the book. Each chapter is written by a different person. For us, those chapters that spoke most powerfully were those that were the most personal:

    - Will Ryan's description of a walk around Rotherham, showing us how primary schools in his area are supporting and encouraging their communities in some of the most difficult circumstances. There is hope.

    - Gill Kelly's description of life at a PRU.

    - Jaz Ampaw-Farr's three things she wanted to say to her middle class teachers. And, if you haven't read Jaz's story, you really need to.

    - Mark Creasy's “magnificent seven” set of tips to work with children and their families in challenging circumstances-¦ Special mention to this chapter -” we found ourselves nodding away all the way through it. “Really, really, get to know them” is his first tip. Have you ever sat and eaten lunch with your class? Just chat to them -” not about work or school -” just about life-¦ You'll find that you see them (and they see you) in a new light. What a chapter!

    Finally (and this we found particularly fascinating) this is a book about the voices who influenced the voices who wrote the book. The “voice” of a cassette of French reggae. The “voice” of a group of teenage girls who decided to do something about poverty themselves. The “voice” of a newspaper photo of a boy with a fish. The “voice” of an old, yellowed piece of paper with an inspirational story neatly typed on it. The “voice” of a child dragging their heels -” not wanting to be taken home in an emergency situation as home is not somewhere they want to be. The “voice” of a protective teacher standing outside a library making sure the abused little girl on the inside is safe until a social worker arrived.

    Each of these “voices” influenced the writers of this book. Somewhere along the line someone demonstrated to these authors that there is another way.

    May their words do the same for you. For the sake of your students.” 

    Click here to read the review on Sparky Teaching.
  13. “Social mobility is a buzzword flying across EduTwitter.

    Social mobility is defined as the ability for individuals to move within or between social classes.

    The definition of social mobility, as defined by Hope (me), is the ability for individuals to achieve the unexpected and break through the social barriers that typically stand to inhibit their chances.

    I prefer my definition as it captures the aims of teachers as we leap onto the battlefield (school grounds) seeking to slay the dragons that strangle the dreams and joys of some of our most vulnerable pupils. However, what it fails to acknowledge is just how warped modern-day Britain is as it holds the comforts of class that acts to oppress the masses.

    As a young, Black, female teacher of working-class background, I often ask other young black millennials what they think acts “against us” in Britain today. Many, in the line with the tides of social media headlines and angry YouTube video titles, state that it is racism. I don't disagree. What they fail to acknowledge is the tide of the classist structure that individuals of all ethnicities must swim against as they pursue their goals.

    I aim to inject my children (I'm 23 but my 12 - 17-year-old students are all my children) with enthusiasm and love for learning every day, I hope it will act as a potent antidote for the woes of rejection in a highly selective borough and failure to pass the 11 plus. So, as you can imagine, the task to read and review Ian Gilbert's 500-page book of thought, poetry, academic writing, recommendations and write a review in 10 working days came as a welcome privilege this Easter holiday.

    Ian Gilbert introduces all 46 chapters with opinions on issues ranging from metacognition (tackled beautifully by Julia Hancock), language (my favourite chapter, by Dr Brian Male), race and the removal of class. Ian's voice knits the words of all writers seamlessly, pushing the reader to consider unfamiliar situations, put down their privilege-laden defences and really question unconsciously imbibed mind-sets determined by current societal structures.

    “The Working Class” book delves into the minds of experts in aims to discuss the following: Each author adds their take on social inequality; it's proven links to educational disadvantage and life outcomes.

    Who are working class kids?

    Why must we be working class teachers?

    Will policy liberate working-class children?

    Throughout the book, writers thwarted negative assumptions made of working-class children. I was inspired to return to the nascence of my desire to be a teacher and plan to gear my classroom environment towards equitable teaching. All voices agreed that the working class is not a homogenous group. Authors tackled matters of gender and race; they discussed the necessity of community in order to sustain some of the most vulnerable members of our schools. I chuckled at the various anecdotes shared that reminded of me of some of my children, tears welled while I read reflections of my siblings and myself as writes told stories of the struggles that some of the leading voices in education endured. This book tugs at your heartstrings with the realities of the lives of many working-class children.

    The truth that socioeconomic poverty is inextricably linked with poor performance, negative attitudes to work and fear of change is echoed throughout the book. The common response to this is often one of egocentric disappointment; teachers shake their heads with “they're so lazy”, or are bolstered up with their middle-classed privilege and seek to so gallantly save their pupils from their desolate backgrounds. Daryn Egan Simon highlighted wealth in the history and identities of working-class environments, his words echoed that of my mother “we have culture and should be proud of it”. Working class children don't need saving, they need to realise the magnificence of self.

    This leads me to the responsibility of working-class teachers; chapter 31 discusses power and structure. Wrigley tackles the idea of class and challenges all teachers (not private schools) to accept their part in the working class “whether they like it or not”. His words emphasised the power structure of exploitation we operate in, we act to serve the richest by training those who will work for them.

    All writers acknowledge the power of teachers as “servant leaders”. The writers implore teachers to pry themselves away from the tendency to consider data before children. We are encouraged to ensure that daily practice realises and address the nuance of pupil experience with simple gestures that show a genuine interest in the lives of the children we interact with. The value of acts of service is captured so beautifully by the words of Jaz Ampaw-Farr and Paul Bateson. Their voices sound from opposing ends of this issue as Jaz shares the brokenness reinforced by those who should have been forces of calm, consistency and kindness in her tumultuous childhood; whilst Pauls speaks of the impact of his shared love of reggae with a highly resistant drama student. These accounts allowed me to reconsider my outlook on standard five of the teaching standards. Not only must I provide suitable resources, scaffold sufficiently and differentiate to meet the needs of my students, I must consider who they are, how they feel and what challenges they may have already dealt with before entering my classroom at 8:30 am.

    Practical lists are shared by a number of writers and insight into the research-informed methods undertaken by David Rogers and colleagues to restructure curriculum to focus on character building as well as the love of knowledge. The need for this practice is echoed by all as they address the idea that working-class children are devoid of aspirations and ambition. They call for consideration of the lives of the children and how school is often the only arena for conversation, structured interaction and expectations to operate under the authority of adults just because they have to.

    My favourite chapter (The Theory of Triple Jeopardy) weaves concepts of language development, with social experience, schema and the ability to learn more. Male's words interwove learning theory, pioneered by the likes of Piaget and Vygotsky, with cognitive psychology and poor performance of working-class children reported by the HCEO. This chapter magnifies the malignancy of inequality that begins its impact on the mind and learning experience from such a young age. It calls for school systems to review aims of the curriculum and interventions so that the root cause education gap may be dealt with, rather than symptoms of it. Maybe we can save teachers and students from the depressing trips to school on wet Saturday mornings as we lead up to exam period if we just consider how learning is a continuous experience that happens unconsciously and is often richer when it is reinforced by interactions with the arts, literature, sports and so much more!

    Laced with satire, the words of Phil Beadle, unveil the toxicity he experienced at the hand working-class male schools of thought. He addresses misogyny and ignorance, and speaks on the tendency of some members of the working class to promote divisiveness in our society as they are incentivised by misleading claims made by policymakers that have led to the mess that is Brexit and my fear of walking past homes with Union Jack and England flags stuck to their front room windows.

    The third question I have suggested that these writers answer is “will policy liberate working-class children?” The current socio-political climate pits ethnic minorities (a term I hate) against white British people. Claims such as “ethnic minorities outperform white working class males” suggest that brown, black and eastern European individuals are the embodiment of wealth, health and educational theft. Authors, particularly, Professor Terry Wrigley and (Real) David Cameron direct the discussion to the tumour itself. The divisive nature of class and vulnerability of the poorest is only potentiated as we rely on the system that thrives on social immobility. These writers speak against neoliberalism and its focus on the individual struggle and neglect of people and flaws in a system that serves the richest whilst the poorest wrestle for scraps they can afford. Currently, it seems as though, the education sector is the perfect scapegoat for leaders, teachers and schools are blamed for education gap. But leaders “gift” us with autonomy, free schools and academies are on the rise and schools shift from one distant hand of control to another. The words of the authors emphasise the need for shared practice, we don't know when the gulf between policymakers and practitioners will be narrowed. What we do know is that teachers know their pupils, school know what favours progress.

    Ian Gilbert and all authors he was gifted to work with taught me that: I thoroughly enjoyed this book and recommend it to the NQT, the disaffected teacher frustrated by omniscient SLT members, leaders of change, policymakers and anyone who cares equality and equity in education. This book serves to inspire educators.

    Working class children are children. They are young and therefore malleable. Do not write them off before they've had a chance to prove that the plight of the poverty is an environmental factor that can be undone.

    Teachers are classroom superheroes. Whilst you may not have billions flocking to cinemas to watch you slay villains, you have children that are often counting on you to save the day with the consistency of classroom expectations and teacher-pupil banter.

    Working class children do not require a middle-classed teacher to show them the way. Never enter a classroom with your sword of privilege with the intention to destroy your children's working class outlook. Acknowledge the wealth of the children that sit before you.

    The curriculum is a tool for change. We can follow the lead of individuals who shove curriculum reform on our tables and panic at the task to teach difficult concepts to our pupils, or we can work collaboratively to make it a launch pad for inquiry, exploration and discovery.

    The working class aren't a homogenous group of people who experience social, economic and health poverty. But, they are also relentless and resilient.


    Throughout the book, writers thwarted negative assumptions made of working-class children.

    The truth that socioeconomic poverty is inextricably linked with poor performance, negative attitudes to work and fear of change is echoed throughout the book.

    All writers acknowledge the power of teachers as “servant leaders”.

    Practical lists are shared by a number of writers and insight into the research-informed methods undertaken.

    Authors, particularly, Professor Terry Wrigley and (Real) David Cameron direct the discussion to the tumour itself.”

    Click here to read the review on UKEdChat's website.
  14. We are often told that -˜poverty is no excuse for underachievement'. Poverty is not an excuse - it is an explanation, and the contributors to this edited collection powerfully remind us that poverty matters. There can be no understanding the -˜achievement gaps' in schools without shining the spotlight on poverty and class in society today. This book does just that, and forces us to reject the lazy stereotypes of bad teachers and feckless children. The contributors remind us that if we mean what we say about inequality in education then we must take bold action to support working class children and their teachers, and at the same time confront the wider inequalities in society that blight the lives of children who live with poverty.

    These contributors do not offer excuses. On the contrary, The Working Class is a manifesto of hope and humanity. It deserves to be widely read.
  15. This wide-ranging collection of essays and articles should be compulsory reading for those teachers, parents and children who feel worn down and worn out by the meagre diet of coaching, cramming and rehearsal that constitutes so much of young people's daily experience of formal education.

    The Working Class shows that it doesn't have to be like this, however. We have brilliant educators who want to put the child at the centre of educational policy, and we have equally brilliant children with a whole range of varied talents that need to be discovered and developed.

    The contributors know what the problem is - a neoliberal, marketised view of education as a commodity to be pre-packaged and delivered - and, by contesting the politics behind this view and promoting practice that challenges it, demonstrate that another world of genuine learning, informed by thoughtful pedagogy, can benefit us all.
  16. For a number of reasons, The Working Class represents an original contribution to the literature around social class and education in the UK.

    Firstly, it has a clear sense of who its readership is yet does not assume that they are already steeped in the theoretical canons, so where theory is used it is clearly explained and fully exemplified within each chapter. Secondly, the chapters come from a wide variety of contributors with quite different backgrounds in academia, schools and the arts, which enables a range of distinct voices to be heard and offers insights into the multiplicity of different sites of social class reproduction. A third strength of the book is that, although it is an edited volume containing a diverse range of contributors, there is a coherent narrative voice to bind the collection together. This is achieved through the use of an editorial introduction to each chapter that links it with the previous one, and through the tone of the book - the predominant shade of which is a real burning sense of anger at the persistence of the injustices it documents. I am slightly ambivalent about this last point because, although I think this makes it an invigorating and stimulating read, there are some places within the book where this anger tips closer to polemic than argument. This, however, is only a relatively moderate criticism of a very good book.

    As a lecturer in this field, I would recommend The Working Class as a perfect text for any course in education studies or in related areas such as sociology.
  17. Packed with insightful and expert knowledge, The Working Class may be one of the most important books in education for many years. It is especially welcomed by those of us who still believe that -˜experts' have a role to play in society, despite their tendency to offer such annoyances as carefully researched facts and years of experience in their fields.

    But that is not what makes it great. What makes it great is love. The love this group of writers share for the importance of education and the aspiration for every child - irrespective of social, cultural or economic wealth - to have the best possible chance in life.

    Many of these writers are fighting that battle from the front line, and they are fighting with a mighty heart. Because that's what this battle needs.
  18. Passionate, lyrical and compelling, The Working Class provides a rich variety of perspectives that collectively challenge contemporary neoliberal orthodoxies. Its chapters are both moving and inspirational, combining sociological imagination with heartfelt narratives. But most importantly the contributors provide a different vision of social class in education - one that prioritises inclusion, value and respect for all.

    The Working Class is essential reading for all those concerned with inequalities in education.
  19. This book about education and class pays homage to working class life not only through academic research, but also through an eclectic ensemble of styles ranging from conventional academic writing through to raw, personal narratives expressing the pain of marginalisation.  

    Reading The Working Class is a visceral experience. The senses and the intellect are awakened and at times assaulted by the passion expressed by the contributors, whether teachers, academics, writers or poets. It is a journey with pit stops mentioning classic theorists on social inequality and education such as Erving Goffman, Paulo Freire, Pierre Bourdieu, Ruth Levitas, Diane Reay and Bell Hooks. The many chapters, a staggering forty-six, cover as many topics - starting with failure and activism, and getting to dreams, destiny and diet towards the end. The chapters are interspersed by short interludes or provocations around the topic and are energised by anecdotes from diverse literary and media sources. Sir Humphrey of Yes, Prime Minister fame makes an entrance, as do references to the contemporary films Forrest Gump and I, Daniel Blake. Chapters are punctuated with quotes from current and ex ministers including Thatcher, Cameron and May as well as a slew of former education ministers such as Gove, Morgan and Greening.

    Although long, the book is not plodding. It is a romp peppered with statistical data and clips from newspapers, as well as extracts from classic tales - from authors such as Victor Hugo, Charles Dickens and Alan Sillitoe - depicting working class misery. Passages written in more conventional, academic styles are offset by gritty and deeply moving first person accounts of life in austerity-worn Britain - such as that of Jaz Ampaw-Farr, whose contribution rebukes her uncaring, prejudiced, middle class teachers. Most contributions are relatively short, yet there are exceptions, such as Phil Beadle's - entitled -˜Working Class Pleasures'. Beadle's contribution is a chilling first person account of living and growing up in abject poverty that focuses a razor-sharp, critical lens on upper class Tory rule, which saturates lives with capitalism, nationalism, tobacco, alcohol, pornography, gambling, addiction, right wing tabloid newspapers and TV programmes promising instant fame. It is both a homage to Beadle's dad and an exposition of how a working class upbringing in the 1960s and 1970s creates masculinity. Folded into its primary narrative is a series of footnotes which provides ten -˜factors' affecting working class engagement in education and which exposes the double bind of a working class male position in which pride and identity meets an almost compulsory culture of tough, anti-academic machismo. As Beadle writes, -˜People who do not read are easy to manipulate' - and in walks public school-educated Nigel Farage. 

    There are many moving first-hand accounts of growing up, written with rage and passion, exposing what is really happening in the UK. The seemingly intuitive, untethered accounts manage not to rant, however. Some depict pain and achieve poetic profundity, and their language appeals to the senses, depicts contexts and provides attention to detail. Rhythm and pace create multiple layers of meaning, and language becomes a working class weapon.

    The book's structure works to juxtapose a cacophony of different kinds of voices; from poems to personal polemics, from critical theory to heart-wrenching narratives. Academics reflect with honesty - in almost confessional tones - on the unimaginable changes seen since their upbringing, when the public education system in the 1970s and 1980s provided grants to attend university for free. They admit to their personal upward mobility while mourning the fact that the communities they grew up in have sunk deeper into economic depression. The ache reverberating throughout the book cries of a divided society in which those born on the wrong side of the neoliberal capitalist machinery are skewed tighter and tighter while access to the educational opportunities that created upward mobility in the past recedes into a distant, vanishing point on the horizon.   

    As a collective diffraction of voices, styles and historical lenses, The Working Class does not shirk from complexity and admits of no easy answers - indeed, it leaves any final message open, although darkly ominous. Yet, as a rush of sheer, unadulterated, no-holds-barred  passion, it reminds us that we are human and that class is a living, willing, desiring disharmony of divergent as well as collective forces that will not be stilled. It is this passion, manifested through a multiplicity of styles - from sprawling, raw biographical prose to the contained rationality of academic critique, and via anecdotes, quotes and remembrances inflected with humour, irony and pain - that is the book's ultimate message. This brimming, unfettered multiplicity of forms is an antidote to the bleak, sterile, smooth diktats of neoliberal rhetoric.

    Read this book if you are a new teacher and want to find your moral compass; read it if you are an experienced teacher and feel that you are losing your way, to know that you are not alone and that the madness is not in your head alone. It's the madness of late capitalism that remorselessly creates and recreates working class inequality.
  20. Educational inequality is a blight on our society which leads to intractable and persistent disadvantage across generations. Teachers and schools cannot fix, and must not be held responsible for, society's failure to provide equal opportunities for all of our children, but teachers who actively engage with The Working Class will stock up the armoury of knowledge they need in order to help them transform young lives and campaign for change. 

    A must-read for all concerned educators.
  21. Love them or hate them, Michael Gove's so-called -˜enemies of promise' are fighting back - and they're angry.
  22. Empathy is a revolutionary emotion. This collection of essays, insights and stories is full of empathy.

    If we are going to talk about revolutionising education - which we must - The Working Class is a brilliant place to start. 
  23. Showcasing a range of diverse voices and experiences, The Working Class shows that we urgently need fundamental social and economic reforms in order to transform the lives of the majority of our children. It demonstrates that ability and talent are subjective measurements which reinforce and justify the subordination of the majority, and reveals that aspiration alone - whether of children or of teachers - cannot overcome the obstacle of economic inequality.
  24. The Working Class is a book of commentary, ideas and reflections on what it is to be working class and on how educators and policy makers have responded - some successfully, others less so - to the challenges faced.

    I recommend The Working Class for its rich description of generations of experience and of the consequences of not acting upon the depth of concern regarding what is needed in order to change thinking, policy and practice. Several chapters focus on the plight of the working class when faced with teachers, leaders and employers who have misunderstood them; many provide detailed accounts of how access to education has enabled, supported and developed those who are perceived to lack opportunity; and various others imply that the purpose of education and learning is to enable and give choices to those who would otherwise face the relentlessness of unfulfilling employment.

    To this end, The Working Class will enable readers to begin to understand why change is needed.
  25. The Working Class is an important, powerful and wide-ranging book. The contributors deal with a complex and multifaceted subject from a range of perspectives and with an understanding that is frequently borne out of lived experience.

    Among its many and varied delights are chapters on the importance of the arts, the unique value of a library, the importance of being brave enough to go on trips, what it is really like to grow up in poverty, and a beautiful multisensory rhapsody about nature tables. I also love the way the contributions range in form - here you will find poetry, stories, anecdotes and analysis all sitting side by side and helping to communicate the key messages of the book. We hear from voices within the working class community and from those who have dedicated their working lives to helping children and families in these communities, and we hear stories of poverty, of politics, of teachers, of children, of dreams and of the awe and wonder that learning can inspire.

    I find myself energised, inspired and fired up reading this book. It challenges the political narrative of the -˜undeserving poor' and acts as a call to action for educators everywhere.

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