The Need For a Spatial Analysis of Educational Inequities

European Conference on Educational Research 2009 Conference

Kirstin Kerr

“Across Europe, education, disadvantage and place are strongly linked. In areas characterised by high levels of disadvantage, where families most vulnerable to social exclusion are concentrated, children are most likely to achieve poor educational outcomes (Palmer et al 2007). Huge resources have been directed towards breaking this pattern – from strategies promoting school effectiveness and improvement, to area-based initiatives including France’s Zones d’Education Prioritaire, and England’s Education Action Zones (Bénabou et al 2005, Hatcher and Leblond 2001). Yet despite this, the link remains strongly ingrained. Policy’s relative failure in this respect suggests that it has been based on an inadequate understanding of the nature of educational inequities (Gulson 2005, Power et al 2005). Following this, this paper argues that policies need to be informed by spatial understanding of education inequities, which focuses attention on the local structures, processes and relationships which create these. It asks: “What can be learnt from a spatial analysis of educational inequities?” The paper reports empirical data from a spatial analysis of educational inequities in an urban inner-city ward in North West England. This has a number of ramifications – conceptually, and for research and policy: 1. It starts to develop a framework for the spatial analyses of educational inequities focusing on: (1) an area’s observable features (e.g. the locations of schools, demographic characteristics, housing types) (Butler and Hamnett 2007); (2) how areas are experienced and ‘lived’ (Lefbvre 1991); and (3) how these dimensions of space interact and impact on education. 2. It identifies the need for research which can: (1) explain how local dynamics shape educational outcomes; and (2) identify the key underlying factors at work, those which can be acted upon, and by whom. 3. It suggests that policymakers can respond to such analyses by creating broad national frameworks with some scope for strategic development at local level.”

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