This paper starts from the propositions that (a) pedagogy is central to the achievement of socially just education and (b) there are existing pedagogical approaches that can contribute to more socially just outcomes.
Given the ostensible commitments of the current English Government to reducing educational inequality and to the importance of teaching, we set out to explore the conditions that would need to be put in place to enable these approaches to be developed and sustained consistently in disadvantaged schools in England.
We start by analysing classroom observation and interview data from four primary schools with contrasting socio-economic composition, highlighting the different pedagogical practices that emerge in working- and middle-class schools and also in working-class schools in different circumstances.
Interviews with pupils show the impact of these practices on learner identities. We then draw on a variety of literatures on school composition, markets, leadership and teacher identities to present an account of the ways in which these different pedagogies are consciously or unconsciously produced.
We point to systemic constraints:
- a mismatch between student demands and organisational capacity;
- teachers’ attitudes and professional identities; and
- performative pressures on school leaders.