“Labour need to commit to a comprehensive review of private education.”

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The problem of unfairness in the education system is now unavoidable. Labour must initiate a comprehensive review of the role of fee paying private schools. 

This should include the creation of an Office for private schools’ accountability, to monitor their public benefit and loss to the public.

In terms of a review, taxation must be a priority. Fee-paying private schools currently exploit a loophole exempting them from VAT on school fees. There is an oddity here: these schools are effectively run as private businesses, but enjoy special privileges from the state that other businesses do not.

The pendulum would shift with the introduction of VAT on school fees, and it would be state schools that benefit . With VAT at 20 per cent, there is an anticipated minimum of £1.75 billion that would be collected, a sum more than four per cent of the schools’ budget. This income would negate the cost of absorbing around five per cent more children in state schools.

The introduction of VAT has to be understood in the context of private schools paying just £44 million in business rates and corporation tax combined (2017), which is a massive “loophole” given their income of £7.83 billion.

Furthermore, the private schools’ lobby claim that private schools save taxpayers money; create a net wealth for the country’s economy; and that the cost of integrating private schools into the state set-up would practically and financially prohibitive. Unfortunately, it seems that a certain untruthfulness is often at play. Take for example an eye-catching front page headline in The Times: ‘Fee-paying schools ‘save the taxpayer £20 billion’. This is claim was dismissed by Full Fact, who show the calculation is miscalculated and/or designed to mislead.

In addition to VAT exemption, as charities, many private schools are exempt from corporation tax and almost all local taxes on property, but there is little stipulation beyond the general requirement: for free or subsidised access/places; developing links with grant making trusts so as to provide free services; lending equipment staff or facilities; and allowing state school pupils to attend certain lessons or events.

“There needs to be much more accurate and transparent reporting about private schools’ cost and benefit to the public”

However, are these generous general requirements enough to satisfactory their public benefit requirement, as charities?

There needs to be much more accurate and transparent reporting about private schools’ financial and social cost and benefit to the public, especially accruement from imposing VAT and removing charitable status.

This would be the objective of a comprehensive review, which could be undertaken by a Social Justice Commission (SJC) – tasked with advising Labour on integrating private schools, either fully or partially, into a National Education Service.

These changes would be long-term. The education system in the UK is complex because it is significantly stratified and differentiated. It is stratified because there are fee-paying selective private schools that are generally exclusive, and then there are the second stratum of schools that consist of state selective and comprehensive schools.

Importantly, within each of these two, there is significant differentiation among the schools. For fee-paying private schools, hierarchy can be discerned by fees, which range from £12k-£17,800 (the latter being the average ISC schools fee) up to £42,501 (Eton).

“Taxes could be introduced progressively in bands”

Taxes could be introduced progressively in bands to account for differentiation. Progressive taxation could also be introduced to break the feeder system of schools that entrench privilege through the pre-prep and prep schools’ network.

These schools are a pipeline to elite universities. To break this cycle of unfairness, progressive taxation could be extended to higher education in the form of university contextual admissions through levying a progressive admissions quota on universities.

One option here could be that the lowest ranked Russell group universities could admit a maximum of seven per cent of privately educated pupils to represent the same proportion of private school students as in the wider secondary school population, and the higher ranked to be able to progressively admit a lesser percentage.

Similarly, regulation and incentives around employing teachers could be introduced. For instance, consideration could be given to progressively incentivising private schools to employ state-educated teachers, the corollary would be to incentivise the privately-educated to teach in state school.

Such measures will likely mean that some private schools would game the system to pay lower taxation, some may even become fully state maintained, and a small minority would increase their fees to stay competitive in the exclusivity stakes. In the absence of an outright abolishing, these measures would rebalance the education system.

“The introduction of VAT ought to be the embryo for bigger changes”

The proposal of a National Education Service (NES) has an important prefix – “towards”, and the introduction of VAT to private schools fees ought to be the embryo for bigger changes to address unfairness.

In conclusion, a comprehensive review is needed for strategic short- and longer- term planning to create more egalitarianism in and through the education system. The review agenda could include, among others:

  1. creating a robust, accurate, and transparent reporting framework for private schools’ financial and social cost and benefit to the public, especially accrued from imposing VAT and removing Charitable status.
  2. exploring the feasibility of progressive taxes, regulation, and incentives to break entrenchment of elitism and privilege.
  3. creation of an Office for private schools’ accountability to monitor their public benefit and loss to the public.

Ultimately though, it must countenanced that a reformist ‘softly softly’ approach will not do, and a more strident revolutionary approach is needed to shake-off the shackles that private schools puts on life chances of working class pupils, females, BAME, and other minorities – ultimately, undermining equality.

Dr Alpesh Maisuria is associate professor of education policy in critical education at the University of the West of England. He writes widely about issues of social class, educational policy, neoliberalism and Marxism, as well the proposal of a nationalised education service; academy and free schools; private schools; Swedish social democracy and class.

Republished with kind permission from the independent think tank Private School Policy Reform

Keep calm and carry on learning – Part 4

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Talking about values and developing heroes while at home.

In the fourth in a series of blog posts, Dr Verity Jones, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Education and Childhood at UWE, and Online Project Lead looks at how the Covid19 pandemic has provided opportunities to talk to young people about the kind of people they are and want to be.

Four weeks in …

The Easter holidays are now over and we are back at home school. The news is still  awash with ever increasing numbers of people suffering from the effects of the covid19 virus. However, amongst these horrors lie the good news stories – communities coming together to make a positive difference. Whether you’re nearly one hundred years old and you’re walking round your garden to raise money for the NHS, shopping for a vulnerable person or making PPE in your backroom; there have been thousands of stories of kindness that inspire the nation to carry on. So, now might be just the time to talk to our young learners about what it is to be a hero.

Children may well feel helpless in the current conditions and feel the possibility of being a hero too far removed from their everyday experience. Being a hero is not an easy journey where the road to heroism is simple, neat and easy without any problems or challenges. Being a hero does not necessarily mean grand acts, saving lives or raising oodles of money. Being a hero can start at home.

Last week I was delighted to receive the Geographical Associations Silver Award for the book I co-authored called DRY: The Diary of a Water Superhero. A free online copy of this picture book can be accessed here with associated teaching materials here.

This story tracks the life of a child in Year 6 and how she, bit by bit, works towards making a difference in her local community. The focus of her project is water usage; thinking about how we can save water and why would we want to anyway. She has lots of ideas and help on the way, but also suffers set backs, before becoming a water superhero.

Sharing this with your children may be a route in to thinking about how they can be heroes in their own home.

What is it that they could do?

It might be becoming the household Recycling Legend, Gardening Guru, Compost King or even Fashion Revolutionary – after all it is Fashion Revolution week this week and there are all sorts of activities going on across the world to help support a more sustainable supply chain. Checking out the clothes in your cupboard and sharing love stories about your favourite garments are all ways to raise awareness. Check out the Fashion Revolution website here for more details, or follow them on twitter or instagram

 Taking control and having a positive role to play can help support children’s well being as they continue their time at home, as well as help them to develop their moral compass.

Dr Verity Jones is Senior Lecturer in Education at the University of the West of England, Bristol. Online Learning Project Lead and Acting Associate Head of Department for Learning, Teaching and Student Experience.

Keep calm and carry on learning – Part 3

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How do we help our children keep well during lock down?

In the third in a series of blog posts, Dr Verity Jones, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Education and Childhood at UWE, and Online Project Lead looks at how we can support our young people’s well being and mental health during the Covid19 pandemic.

Two weeks in …

Yes, schools are closed and learning is now being provided remotely. But, this is just the tip of the iceberg for millions of young people trying to make sense of their new world. The parks are locked, access to green spaces is restricted, extra curricula clubs and lessons have halted bar a few online alternatives, adults are at home (many with concerns over job security and finance), dinners are without usual foods, access to friends has all but dried up, people wear masks and gloves when they leave the house, domestic violence is on the rise and every media channel is pasted with rising death tolls as the invisible menace of Covid19 comes ever closer.

When the world seems to be going crazy we need to make sure we don’t forget to check in with our children. Are they okay? If the answer is no, what can we do and where do we go for help?

Structure can be a powerful tool in combatting anxiety. The structure of the school day and week has been taken away from our children. Think about how you can reinstate some of this. Have regular work, play and meal times. Try setting timers to keep everyone on track. The Pomodora strategy can work well as it chunks time into 25 minute doable chunks.

Healthy, regular meals are essential to keep a healthy mind. Cooking together can be a great time to talk to children while making something delicious to share. It doesn’t have to involve lots of ingredients, sharp knives and hot utensils. Check out the BBC who share 16 non cook ideas.

Or, start following great family friendly food writers like Claire Williamson and her 5 O’ clock Apron for tasty ideas

Talk is essential. Make the time to talk about what’s going on and how children are feeling. Reactions to the changes may result in physical, emotional or behavioural changes. Check out the government’s guidance on what to look for at different ages. Children might not want to talk to you about how they are feeling so finding routes to support is crucial. Childline is offering support for all children on their website and through their helpline (08001111). Last week the government gave key worker status to those working in this call centre in recognition of the need for this service. For 11-16 year olds think Ninja have updated their wellbeing app in light of Covid19.

Share some time together. Social distancing is not social isolation. Watch a film or play a game. How about trying something new and catch The Royal Opera House streaming Opera and Ballet performances during the outbreak via this website. Find out if you love or hate it and share those experiences!

Next week: apps that help reduce social isolation

Dr Verity Jones is Senior Lecturer in Education at the University of the West of England, Bristol. Online Learning Project Lead and Acting Associate Head of Department for Learning, Teaching and Student Experience.

Dr Verity Jones twitter

Keep calm and carry on learning – Part 2

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How do we maintain home learners’ focus?

In this second in a series of blog posts, Dr Verity Jones, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Education and Childhood at UWE, and Online Project Lead shares some top tips on how to motivate and inject some fun into the learning.

One week in …

The novelty, if there ever was one, may well have worn off for remote school learning as we move into week two of lockdown in the UK. With millions of young people away from the structure of a school learning environment, motivation may well be waning. So, what can we do to help?

It’s long been known that a bit of exercise can really make a difference to concentration levels. So, starting the day with a burst of energy might be just the ticket to get our young people in the right mood for learning.

YouTube is littered with fantastic videos to get everyone moving. Taking the nation by storm is Joe Wicks, with his 9am Kids Home Work Out.

If that’s a bit too energetic, then take a look at Storyhive’s Yoga for Kids and spend thirty minutes focussing on breathing and controlled movement.

While the exercise may get young people concentrating and ready for learning, motivation may well still falter. Sometimes a little friendly competition can really help re-engage…

With the excitement of the BBC Radio 2s 500 word short story competition over for another year, your budding writer may need a new focus – so, what about some poetry competitions? For a really comprehensive list of all the poetry competitions around for young people check out the Young Poets Network.  Of particular interest might be The Foyle Young Poet of the Year Award – now open for entries (age 11-17years).

How about getting creative with Environment 2020’s children’s art competition (age 0-16 years) and create either hand crafted art or a photograph to reflect the theme, ‘The Environment and the Home’. No need to go outside for this one, so perfect in our current restricted movement conditions.

Oxford’s Colleges run a number of academic writing competitions and deadlines are coming up for those interested in science.

Sometimes the thought of ‘doing’ a subject can put off some young people, so why not enhance  thinking, problem solving and skills needed to work together and check out  Channel 4’s Task Master’s daily #HomeTasking on Twitter. This invites families to a new challenge every day. All you need to do is upload short clips of the challenge set and the cast choose the best ones. Engaging and hilarious by equal measure!

Next week I will be sharing more great learning opportunities to do from the comfort of the home. Watch this space …

Dr Verity Jones is Senior Lecturer in Education at the University of the West of England, Bristol. Online Learning Project Lead and Acting Associate Head of Department for Learning, Teaching and Student Experience.

Dr Verity Jones twitter

Keep calm and carry on learning

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How do we encourage continuing engagement with learning when schools and colleges are shut?

In this first in a series of blog posts, Dr Verity Jones, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Education and Childhood at UWE, and Online Project Lead has identified some brilliant online learning opportunities – all completely free.

Don’t panic … help is at hand!

With the world feeling more than a little topsy turvey at the moment, and children having to adapt to isolated living and learning, it is a huge relief to see the online community coming together to support teachers and parents. While we frantically try to plan innovative ways of enabling engagement and learning under movement and resource restrictions creative juices may be running dry. This blog is here to help.

Having scoured the ether it’s not hard to find some incredible learning opportunities becoming available – free – for learners of all ages. Here’s this week’s collection that caught my eye …

Encounter Education is fantastic for your young scientists. Free resources now available, and amazing free live lessons to book onto for the budding marine biologist from 23-27th March. Submarine STEM 2020 offers pupils a new way to learn about the deep ocean and life around it while exploring the physics of submersible exploration and inspiring STEM careers. The lessons will be hosted from the expedition research vessel, with potential links to the DSV Limiting Factor, the first and only manned-submersible certified to dive to the deepest point in the ocean. So Exciting! Encounter Education

The British Library are providing a plethora of exciting activities to support reading and a love of books. Activities to explore belonging, animal tales and beautiful illustrators are all available. Nonsense dictionaries, poetry prompts – it’s all there to open up and explore. British Library

With home isolation it is perhaps inevitable that we will have more children watching more television than usual. Let this be a positive learning experience and draw on the fantastic work of Into Film who are offering their amazing resources for free. Dive into activities that get the creative juices flowing with hair, makeup and costume design activities, as well as film review templates and viewing maps. Into Film

For quite a comprehensive list of many free online resources now available to parents and teachers please check out: Kids Activities Blog

Next week I will be sharing more great learning opportunities to do from the comfort of the home. Watch this space, as I explore how to motivate our home learners.

Dr Verity Jones is Senior Lecturer in Education at the University of the West of England, Bristol. Online Learning Project Lead and Acting Associate Head of Department for Learning, Teaching and Student Experience.

Dr Verity Jones Twitter

BRIDGE Inaugural Doctoral Success Event

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The Department of Education and Childhood is very pleased to celebrate the doctoral success of Dr Jane Carter, Dr Juliet Edmond, Dr Ali Rouncefield-Swales and Dr Jacob Bacon. The speakers will present about their doctoral journey and research. The event is open for everybody, including family and friends.

Jane Carter – The Year 1 Phonics Screening Check: Listening to the voices of children and their teachers.
This thesis explores children’s and teachers’ evaluation of the statutory
phonics check and the impact of the check on the teaching and learning
of reading.

Juliet Edmonds – The Beliefs, Practices and Development of Three Teachers of Science in the Primary School
This thesis explores three teachers’ beliefs about effective primary science
practice, and the ways these develop in a climate where there are few school resources for primary science teacher training.

Ali Rouncefield – Apprentice to Graduate: narratives of navigating a pathway into and through higher education
Ali has explored the experiences of Apprentices who have embarked on HE.
She draws upon rich narrative interviews and reflects on the connection
between relationships, personal identity and self.

Jacob Bacon – FE Sports Lecturer Professionalism: ‘Freedom to Play’, or ‘Do as I Say’?
The primary aim of this research was to investigate how Further Education
(FE) Sports Lecturers defined their sense of professionalism with reference
to the contexts in which they worked.

To register, Click here.
This will be on 26th June,4:30- 6pm, Room 2S704, Frenchay Campus, the University of the West of England.

Autism and Technology: Placing autistic people at the centre of research

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The field of autism and technology, or put another way technology used to help support autistic groups and individuals, is a field that has existed for over 40 years. Over this period of time the field of research has grown and diversified in many ways. Researchers first started looking at multimedia applications in the 1970’s and since then we have seen a range of technology used to help support (and enable) autistic groups. In particular, researchers have looked at educational opportunities, testing social skills, supporting language skills and more recently routes to employment; all with the aid of technology. Each of these efforts have been within the context of supporting specific needs in relation to diagnosis (i.e. difficulties with social communication and interaction, repetitive motor movements and restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests, or activities; see this link for more information.  The range of technologies that have been employed within this field consist of: multimedia, virtual environments, virtual worlds (i.e. Second Life, Minecraft), virtual reality head-mounted displays and touch-screen devices.

However, and despite the increasing and growing research in this field of 40 years, the evidence for outcomes using technology tools for autistic groups remains somewhat limited; as does the design and deployment of these technologies. In addition, research examining the views and opinions of autistic groups is even more limited within this arena. What this means is that the voices, suggestions and opinions of the key users of technology (designed for them) are not being effectively captured or used in framing research. This has been changing (although slowly), and efforts are afoot to consider placing user groups (in this case autistic people and stakeholder groups) at the centre of technology designed and deployed with the aim to support them in areas of education.

In a recent example that I’ve been involved with, we have been examining the potential of virtual reality (VR) head-mounted displays (HMDs). Here we’ve (researchers and schools) been working to discover what the educational opportunities might be within this ‘space’. As this field is at a very early stage of development (as our recent review published in the Journal of Enabling Technologies highlights the limited evidence-base. we undertook a project that sought the views and experiences of autistic children in school settings. In order to best understand the opportunities and limitations of VR HMDs use by young autistic people, what better way to go and ask them; examine it through their lived experiences. Would they mind wearing the VR head-set? Would they report enjoying the software/content displayed to them? Would they like to continue using the VR HMDs? Which device would they most prefer? Without wishing to be too radical, we thought these questions would be best addressed in a place they were learning (i.e. school) and to ask them these important questions. Results from this work are still being written up, but some overview information can be found here.

In doing this, and even before formulating these questions, I worked with a mentor. Nothing too unusual in the research arena per se, but on this occasion, my mentor was also autistic and had a range of experience of working with technology. By working with him in this context I was able to see things and learn more closely about ways the research might be undertaken, what ethical, health and safety obstacles I might have neglected to see, and other insights that were not even on my radar. In short, by working with an autistic mentor, I was able to devise safe and ethical working practices in addition to ‘seeing’ and understanding constraints and problems with some of my research questions. After this my research framework became more solid and autistic-focused.

This was only a starting point to involving autistic voices and a range of important stakeholders. Autistic school children we also asked to contribute their views on what should be important in research like this. Teachers were asked also. Both groups were asked before, during and after the study. In addition, pupils’ parents were invited to use, test and feed into the process form the outset at a ‘show ‘n’ tell’ event at the school. Finally, the work was disseminated back to the autistic community and practitioners at a National Autistic Society event held in September 2018, click here. Search #autismtech to see what people said/thought about the various presentations and work on display.

While we are still in the process of writing up the results of our autism and VR-HMD study, I wanted to share aspects of our work that has sought to involve autistic participants (participation) and autistic voices in our research; especially as I feel this field can learn so much by doing so. It also makes no sense to me to build a field of knowledge around autistic users of technology (and exploring the possible benefits therein), without first asking them to be involved in defining the research and participating in the generation of data. We have firmly moved away from researching about autistic people and shifted research to researching with autistic people, as researchers, we stand to learn so much more (thus adding to the evidence in this field) and have far better reach and impact with our work in doing so. I look forward to working with the autistic community (and their stakeholders) in future work.

Link/Ref to JET article:

  • https://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/full/10.1108/JET-01-2018-0004
  • Bradley, R., & Newbutt, N. (2018). Autism and virtual reality head-mounted displays: a state of the art systematic review. Journal of Enabling Technologies.

Author: Dr Nigel Newbutt is a senior lecturer / researcher in Digital Education at the University of the West of England (UWE), Bristol. His research has involved working with a range of technology and autistic users with the aim to best understand how, where and why technology can play a role in educational opportunities. He was also the Chair of Autus and now a trustee of the charity, who’s vision is to: create exciting opportunities for growth, learning and work for young autistic people; using innovative and engaging virtual environment to help build confidence and develop social communication, digital and employability skills.

This post was originally published on Emerald Publishing, 12 November, 2018.

A lack of aspiration is not the problem

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Late last year, when Education Secretary Damian Hinds told universities and schools in the north-east of England that they had to “raise aspirations among all working class communities”, he was following in a venerable, if thoroughly ill-informed, tradition.

Twenty years earlier his predecessor, David Blunkett, invoked a “poverty of aspirations”, later reflected in the 2003 White Paper which stated (without evidence) that “aspirations are low” among “families without a tradition of going to HE”. This was echoed more recently by OfSTED Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman’s speech to the ‘Festival of Education’ in June, which asserted that white working class communities lack “aspiration and drive”.

Indeed, this trope – that disadvantaged young people are under-represented in higher education because they have low aspirations for education or their lives in general – has thoroughly permeated policymaking and practice. The national strategy document uses the word ‘aspiration’ 23 times and it’s asserted to be a key element in various vignettes of ‘good practice’ that it showcases.

Where’s the evidence?

The problem, as we explore in our recent paper in the British Educational Research Journal, is that there is very little evidence to support this. Research using large-scale datasets has demonstrated that young people in general have high aspirations and that there are few differences in aspiration between different social class groups. In fact, many more disadvantaged young people say that they want to go to university than actually do, so it seems unlikely that it’s a lack of aspiration that prevents them from doing so. Asking a young person if they expect to go to university may be a better indication of what they are likely to do years in the future. Importantly, expectations don’t just reflect whether someone wants to do something, but whether they feel they will able to, given the personal and social constraints that they face. Arjun Appadurai refers to this as being a different ‘capacity to aspire’. Why then does the idea of “aspiration-raising” continue to hold such sway? It is now such an ever-present element of the discourse around access to higher education, but it was largely abandoned in the final years of New Labour’s Aimhigher programme (2004-2011) before creeping back into social policy once again during the Coalition – and as we explore in our paper, it’s now where outreach managers believe they are most successful.

The violence of aspirations

Pierre Bourdieu used the term “symbolic violence” to describe how a dominant social group successfully normalises the position of a subordinate group as being just due to their inherent shortcomings or malfeasance – making the arbitrary disadvantage appear natural, or even necessary. This is achieved by bringing the subordinate group to consent to the arbitrary criteria as being both objective and fair. In some ways, it is similar to the idea of “blaming the victim” in common speech. However, it has the added dimension of relying on the victim to (unknowingly) collude in the process of normalisation – not to critique the system that sees them being becoming its victim. We propose that the discourse of low aspirations and aspiration-raising is a clear example of symbolic violence. It is little more than a middle class conceit to explain away the manifestly unequal. It is easier to assert that working class young people are responsible for their unfortunate position than to concede the severity of the challenges and constraints that they face. This, after all, would carry with it the moral obligation to act to tackle these inequalities. By setting out to persuade disadvantaged young people that it is their aspirations that need to rise, policymakers are setting an unrealistic challenge that it will be impossible to meet – positioning another generation to fail and further entrench the idea that they who are to blame. It will not impact the status quo, but it will make it feel more just.

Moving to more fertile ground

One alternative starting point might be to explore the belief that working class communities have about the linkage between educational success and life outcomes. Lynn Raphael Reed and colleagues explored communities with the lowest participation in higher education and concluded that “many young people grow up in environments where they rarely encounter educational or economic success – or the relationship between the two”. This is clearly distinct from aspiration and links more closely to the idea of expectation touched on above. However, the unavoidable reality is that by far the strongest predictor for participation in higher education is attainment in school. Working class young people do not progress to higher education because they lack ambition, but because the accumulation of disadvantage throughout their childhood becomes embodied in their qualifications. Indeed, the modest diversification in higher education has closely echoed changes in attainment patterns over the last decade. Therefore, the clearest route to widening participation in higher education is to support the achievement of disadvantaged young people.

A ‘possible selves’ approach might be one way forwards. Demonstrated to be successful in a wide array of social fields – but with little use yet in education – it focuses on how we make links between future visions of ourselves and our current actions. Importantly, it sees the individual in their social context and supports them to build their own ways of getting to where they want to be, rather than berating them about their aspirations.

This post was originally published on WONKHE on 11/01/ 2019.


Neil Harrison is Deputy Director of the Rees Centre at the University of Oxford.

  Richard Waller is Associate Professor of the Sociology of Education at the University of the West of England

UWE Bristol to Tackle Gender Based Violence

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UWE Bristol is taking a pro-active action and working collaboratively with students, UWE Student Union, staff and the city of Bristol to tackle Gender Based Violence.

I (Helen Bovill) recently spoke at two events in Bristol, at City Hall; exploring the research and provision at UWE aimed at interrupting and preventing gender based violence (GBV). I was really pleased to be invited to be part of the panel closing the day in the Bristol Zero Tolerance room (BZT) at the Bristol Women’s Voice (BWV) International Women’s Day celebration on March 2nd 2019. I joined in conversation with an expert panel of speakers from Safegigs4women, Somerset and Avon Rape and Sexual Abuse support (SARSAS), Stand Against Racism (SARI) and feminist performers Deborah Antoinette and China Fish. At this event I discussed the research I am involved in regarding GBV and UWE’s proactive approach to GBV as part of SpeakUp – this is a UWE collaboration between: UWE students, UWE Student Union, UWE staff, and external Stakeholders; (BZT), (SARSAS) and (SARI). The SpeakUp campaign asks students and staff at UWE to speak up when a situation does not feel right. The campaign emphasises safety first and foremost, and aims to work with students and staff to develop the knowledge and skills to be pro-active bystanders. It has developed films (see below) which have a tag line of ‘inappropriate behaviour, appropriate action’. The campaign is focused on enabling and sustaining ‘an inclusive campus where diversity is celebrated, antisocial attitudes and behaviours are challenged and any type of harassment, assault and discrimination aren’t acceptable. We want you to SpeakUp if you see or hear something that’s not right, and be an active bystander.’

Students, staff and the Students’ Union at UWE are committed to developing and cultivating an inclusive campus for all our students to thrive within. We are proud to work in close partnership to continually review our approach to sexual violence and harassment on campus and ensure we have effective proactive campaigns in place, as well as vigorous support mechanisms. Rachel Colley (Community Manager at The Students’ Union at UWE), Dr Helen Bovill (Associate Head of Department Research and Scholarship), Ana Miguel Lazaro (Student Inclusivity Project Officer, UWE) and Charlotte Gage (Bristol Zero Tolerance) recently spoke at a second event in the City. This time at the Bristol Forum ‘Creating positive action through research and collaboration’ event on Friday March 29th 2019 at City Hall.

They spoke about ‘Collaborative problem solving to address the challenges students face in relation to sexual and domestic violence’. Helen discussed bystander intervention as part of the SpeakUp campaign, Ana and Rachel spoke about the wider work of the campaign within UWE and the involvement of the Student Union at UWE within this. For example, discussing that more than 5000 UWE Fresher’s students received messages from the SpeakUp campaign during induction. The five short films, developed by UWE as part of the Office For Students (OFS) funded social norms campaign, formed part of this induction. These films explore issues of: ‘unwanted touching and groping’, ‘consent’, ‘inappropriate use of social media’, ‘domestic abuse’, and ‘initiation and humiliation ceremonies’, they can be found here.  Helen, Ana and Rachel talked about student involvement in the research that underpinned the social norms campaign, with UWE students identifying these five social norms as problematic in student life. They also discussed how UWE works with students and the city of Bristol, with an understanding that UWE students are ambassadors for the University in the city of Bristol and beyond. Charlotte Gage from BZT discussed working with UWE on this campaign and the collaborative approaches used. She also considered the wider work regarding GBV and BZT within Bristol such as the Stop Street Harassment Campaign. Both talks demonstrated that UWE sees itself at the forefront of measures to counteract GBV, and is working in a pro-active and collaborative manner with both students and the city of Bristol.

If you are passionate to support this work, why not join the new Speak Up Society!

For more information, please click the following links:

Author: Helen Bovill, Associate Head of Department Research and Scholarship, the Department of Education and Childhood, the University of the West of England.