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Senior lecturer, Education Studies, Bath Spa University

I have worked in, with and on state schooling for over 40 years. After teaching in comprehensive schools in Oxfordshre and Berkshire, I was an Officer in four LAs (Wiltshire, Nottinghamshire, Avon and the City of Bristol, where I was Director of Education for nearly seven years), a consultant and joint head of education at Amnesty International.

I joined Bath Spa in 2009 to teach on the undergraduate Education Studies programme, which I still do, but also teach on the Master's programme and have three PhD students. I have developed into an Education Policy specialism and lead the undergraduate and master's modules on the same.

Before commencing at Bath Spa, my previous university involvements have been at the University of Cambridge, where I was a Visiting Scholar 2002/3 and at UWE, where I have been a Visiting Fellow in the School of Education since 2002.

My scholarly and research interests have developed out of my personal and professional passions, from stepping off a teaching practice bus in the early 1970s to catch sight of my first comprehensive school to being a senior LA officer serving deprived schools, children and communities. How can schools get better? How can they improve the outcomes for all children, especially the disadvantaged? And how can schools contribute to making our society a better and more just one?

My academic path - including my teaching - has been shaped by these questions and has guided the preparation and writing of my three books, all published by Trentham Books, now at the UCL Institute of Education Press. My first, 'Schools for Our Cities' (2003), explored the possibilities of a more flexible urban pedagogy in contrast to the prescriptions of the time, and examined what happens to schools when national policies such as marketisation meet the social and economic reality of middle class market strategies. My second, 'Aspiration, Identity and Self-Belief' (2010), drew on over fifty live interviews and examined the social basis for the development of aspiration and how policy - and schools - can provide working class and more disadvantaged students with the advantages accruing to middle class ones from their place in our social structure.

My third one, 'Equity, Trust and the Self-improving Schools System', has just been published and, as the title suggests, considers how the developing schools system, supervised by Regional Schools Commissioners, can reduce the still abysmal inequities of educational outcomes in England. As all schools will now be academies by 2022, and the old system of LA involvement is replaced by the new, I conclude that this is more likely. But the continuing high stakes accountability regime, and periodically increasing expectations of the schools system, are not sustainable in the long term. The evidence I gathered of developing school to school support (and challenge), however, gives me optimism to think that we can move to a a system based more on trust - of teachers and schools.


  • –present
    Senior lecturer, Education Studies, Bath Spa University