The Elusiveness of Equal Access to Educational Opportunity: Scotland, After a Decade of Inclusive Policies



Adam J & I'Anson J (2020) The Elusiveness of Equal Access to Educational Opportunity: Scotland, After a Decade of Inclusive Policies. Scottish Educational Review, 52 (1), pp. 36-51.

The achievement of equal access to educational opportunity is an international policy imperative that remains as elusive as it is desirable. Despite a plethora of inclusive policies and initiatives in Scotland such as Getting it Right for Every Child (2008 & 2012), Curriculum for Excellence (2009) and the Scottish Attainment Challenge (2015), significant numbers of young people cannot be said to experience equal access to educational opportunity. This paper draws upon complementary sociological and philosophical perspectives to explore why such barriers to equality of educational opportunity persist, before suggesting ways in which serious engagement with such theory might counter deficit assumptions in play and offer possible new ways forward. The point of departure is Bourdieu’s typology of various forms of social capital which highlights how possession of capital is advantageous to upper and middle class families, whereas lack of such capital serves to restrict educational opportunities for young people from working class and disadvantaged backgrounds. Such an analysis argues that reproduction of social conditions, styles of thinking and decision-making, coupled with oppressive societal structures, all serve to disempower young people and impact negatively upon their educational attainment. This paper explores a variety of ways in which theory might challenge and interrupt assumptions informing discourses associated with inequality and their associated remedies. Through engaging a series of problematics within current framings of inequality, the paper argues that a more sustained engagement with theory offers the possibility of more nuanced understandings of inequality and a provocation to imagine otherwise. Engaging in such imaginative work might, moreover, enable the barriers to equality of educational opportunity to be better addressed.

agency; transgenerational disadvantages; adaptive preferences; capital; habitus

Scottish Educational Review: Volume 52, Issue 1

Publication date10/07/2020
Date accepted by journal18/12/2019

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Dr John I'Anson

Dr John I'Anson

Senior Lecturer, Education