The problem with using psychoanalysis on children

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Michael Richards, Edge Hill University

Children with problems or problem children? That is the question often asked by parents and teachers alike. If a child is naughty in school, are they a “bad” child or are they facing mental ill health?

Most analysis focuses on children being the problem – a highly individualistic take which resonates with Sigmund Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis. This is a theory which dates back well over a hundred years, with strong roots in focusing on childhood problems influencing adult behaviour.

Psychoanalysis developed over the course the 20th century, and although the approach has been dismissed by many, we live in a society where there is still an obsession with “psychoanalysing” children. This inevitably labels children as a problem rather than recognising the problems that affect wider society.

What drives behaviour?

Psychoanalysis specifically relates to Freud’s own school of thought, which believes a person’s behaviour is determined by early childhood experiences. According to Freud, a person has instinctive drives within the unconscious that influences their behaviour – unconscious material can be found in dreams and unintentional behaviour.

Freud’s focus was on specific sexual stages of development that influence our personalities as we develop in life. At the oral stage of development for example, (from birth to one year) Freud implied that oral stimulation could lead to an “oral fixation” in later life – such as sucking your thumb in times of stress.

Psychoanalysts believe that therapeutic interventions can bring the effects of this unconscious material into consciousness with the aim of resolving these issues.

Questioning Freud

Freud’s psychoanalytical theory, and other versions of psychoanalysis, are problematic for so many reasons. For a start, Freud’s theories are based on the “unconscious mind”, which is difficult to define and test. There is no scientific evidence for the “unconscious mind”. And it would be difficult to say who would be qualified to make assumptions about this when nobody really knows what the unconscious mind is.

For children, this means teachers, social workers, nurses, psychiatrists and other professionals make assumptions about them based only on their present behaviour – and without considering any wider social issues. This makes psychoanalysis ignorant of difference and diversity, and over-generalised. Particularly so when directed at young children – given that personality and behaviour can change over the course of someone’s life.

There’s no such thing as a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ child. Shutterstock

Research also shows that “naughty” behaviour in schools can be because children lack aspirations and a drive to do well. This can stem from many factors such as low self-esteem and high anxiety – as well as growing up in a low income household. Children who are in care, children with disabilities and children from Afro-Caribbean backgrounds are also more likely to be excluded from mainstream school if they live in deprived areas.

Stop blaming children

It is relatively easy to criticise the use of psychoanalysis, particularly when people are “psychoanalysing” without understanding what it is or isn’t. In this sense, Freud and the general idea of psychoanalysis has become a part of our language – and our analysis of trying to make sense of human behaviour.

And this is not without reason. Freud’s theories still play a role in the teaching and learning of many counsellors, psychologists and psychiatrists today, despite facing much criticism since its inception. Indeed, many types of therapies emerged post-Freud – including transpersonal therapy which is a more humanistic take on therapy – and many people have benefited enormously from these approaches.

But ultimately, the problem with psychoanalysis is that the focus is still primarily on the individual being the problem. And in the case of children, to keep focusing on them as the problem, while ignoring wider, social problems is dangerous.

Labelling a child as a ‘problem’ from a young age can have detrimental consequences. Shutterstock

Psychoanalysis does also not fully acknowledge the power of labelling and stereotyping that takes place within schools and in other aspects of a child’s life. It is almost like there is reassurance in focusing on a “problematic” child because there is always a box to tick, which might provide some idea of the “problem” and then result in a resolution.

But it is impossible to do this properly while ignoring the major issues children face in their world. This includes a lack of resources due to high poverty rates, alongside the increasing levels of mental health issues such as self-harm. Individuality can of course not be ignored but neither can the wider social problems that children face. This is important because ultimately it is these external factors that have the power to really influence the mental health and well-being of children.The Conversation

Michael Richards, Lecturer in Applied Health and Social Care, Edge Hill University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Why conditional offers are better for students

Students in lecture theatre

As we enter the new application cycle, a fresh cohort of prospective students will again be confronted with unconditional offers (not based on their final exam results) or other incentivised offers to persuade them to choose a particular university. As this practice becomes increasingly common, key figures in education are questioning whether it really benefits students – or the university sector as a whole.

In their recent report on the subject, UCAS stated that the number of unconditional offers made to 18 year old students from England, Northern Ireland, and Wales has risen significantly over the past five years – from 2,985 in 2013, to 67,915 in 2018. In the most recent application cycle, 22.9% of this group of students received at least one unconditional offer, an increase of 29% on the previous year.

The Government has been critical of this sharp rise in unconditional offers. Universities Minister, Sam Gyimah, has criticised the practice as “completely irresponsible” stating that it “undermines the credibility of the university system”. Gyimah says that “unconditional offers risk distracting students from the final year of their schooling, and swaying their decisions does them a disservice – universities must act in the interest of students, not in filling spaces.” His comments have been echoed by Robert Halfon, Chair of the Commons Education Select Committee, who claims that the practice is putting “funding” before “standards”. Gyimah has promised to closely monitor the number of unconditional offers being issued and has empowered the Office for Students to take appropriate action if necessary.

Head of Student Recruitment, Simon Jenkins, said: “At Edge Hill, we believe that going to university is a rewarding, life-changing decision and that choosing the right university is vital. Students should select where they are going to spend the next three years on the basis of which university and course is right for them, rather than which university is prepared to make an offer unconditional if a student chooses them.”

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, highlights the long-term dangers of unconditional offers saying that they “can lead to students making less effort in their A-Levels because their place is assured. That can then hamper their job prospects later down the line if potential employers take into account their A-Level grades.”

Edge Hill has always had a policy of not making unconditional offers to applicants who are sitting their A-Level, BTEC or equivalent qualifications for this reason.

“We are very conscious that exam grades are not just about getting into university,” said Simon. “We set what we believe are stretching entry requirements and we encourage applicants to work hard to achieve the very best grades that they can.

“We have strong academic standards as a university and we want students who are passionate about their subject and who want to be part of an exciting and dynamic community of lecturers and like-minded students. We also want students who are committed to their own success. For that reason, we will not compromise our standards by making unconditional offers to applicants in order to encourage them to come to us regardless of the grades they achieve.”

Third year Geography student Max Beaton turned down two unconditional offers from other universities to take up a place at Edge Hill. He said: “I chose Edge Hill as my firm choice as I could see myself studying and living here. The unconditional offers didn’t really sway my choice – visiting Edge Hill on open days and applicant days definitely sold the University to me and allowed me to talk to students and staff and get a real feel for the place.

“I do think I made the right choice. Being a student here and being a member of the Edge Hill community actually exceeded my initial expectations.”

Max advises students starting off on their application journey to choose the university that is best for them.

He added: “Unconditional offers do look great and very encouraging and the university might really want you to choose them, but if it’s not the right choice for you, no matter what they are offering, you have to do what is best for you.”

Kazia Cannon, a 3rd year Drama student, also received two unconditional offers before deciding on Edge Hill. She said: “Edge Hill was just a lot more suited to my needs both academically and in terms of student support.

“When you’re visiting universities, you have to think ‘is this somewhere I can imagine myself in three years?’ That’s what I did every time I went to an open day and that’s how I made my decision in the end.”


Parents are pulling children from RE lessons – so they don’t learn about Islam

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Paul Smalley, Edge Hill University

Religion has always been a feature of schooling in England. The Education Act of 1944 made the study of Religion the only compulsory subject in school and it was to be accompanied by a “daily act of worship” for all pupils. Back then religion was largely synonymous with Christianity.

But a recent survey from the National Association of Teachers of Religious Education shows there appears to be a growing problem with parents taking their children out of school RE lessons. The findings show that parents are withdrawing children from lessons on Islam, or visits to the Mosque, calling into question their preparation for life in modern Britain.

Recently published research suggests that “withdrawal” has been requested in almost three quarters of schools. More than 10% of those withdrawing are open about the fact that they are doing so for racist or Islamophobic reasons.

In 2017, the RE Council set up an independent commission to review RE. This Commission on RE has heard much anecdotal evidence of Islamophobically-inspired withdrawal. Teachers up and down the country have stories of parents not wishing their children to learn about “that terrorist religion”. This conflicts with the duty of schools to promote “British Values” of tolerance and respect and to challenge extremism.

Recently, the teaching union, the Association of Teachers and Lecturer, passed a motion condemning “racist” parents who pull their children out of RE lessons. The union has urged the government to put a stop to it.

The law on withdrawal

Parents are able to pull their children out of RE lessons by drawing on the 1996 Education Act, which states that a parent can request that for their child to be wholly or partly excused from religious education and religious worship in the school.

A voluntary “conscience clause” existed in some church schools since the 1820s and became part of the 1870 and 1944 education acts. Put simply, if the only school in the village was a Roman Catholic school, and Anglican and nonconformist parents did not want their children indoctrinated into Catholicism (and vice-versa) they could be excused from the religious instruction offered there. They could then provide their own denominationally suitable religious instruction either at school or elsewhere.

Some parents didn’t want their children to visit a mosque. Shutterstock

For decades this clause appeared to cause few problems. Indeed research I carried out suggests that there was little to be worried about. In a handful of schools, occasional families with a particular background – often Jehovah’s Witnesses – would not take part in assemblies or RE lessons and would instead, work quietly on their own materials. But it seems now, times are changing.

RE has changed

Unsurprisingly, the study of religion in schools has changed dramatically since a Bible Studies syllabus was envisioned in 1944. The subject must still be provided for all pupils in school, but now the RE Council states that:

Religious education contributes dynamically to children and young people’s education in schools by provoking challenging questions about meaning and purpose in life, beliefs about God, ultimate reality, issues of right and wrong and what it means to be human.

In RE they learn about and from religions and worldviews in local, national and global contexts, to discover, explore and consider different answers to these questions. They learn to weigh up the value of wisdom from different sources, to develop and express their insights in response, and to agree or disagree respectfully.

These are essential skills and knowledge that all pupils need to be able to develop in order to play a full part in modern multicultural Britain.

Time for a rethink?

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers are not the first to call for an end to withdrawal. In 2015 the former secretary of state for education and home secretary, Charles Clarke, and religious studies academic, Linda Woodhead, proposed a “new settlement” in which they claimed there was “no case for a right to withdraw a child from ‘religious education’”.

RE lessons are an important part of school life. Shutterstock

They pointed out that the European Convention on Human Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child mean that a child should be free to express his or her religious beliefs – rather than those of their parents. The Commission on RE’s Interim Report found a significant majority of stakeholders advocating the removal of the right to withdrawal.

Humanists UK are one of the few voices who defend the right to withdraw claiming that withdrawal protects pupils from what they still claim can be indoctrinating teaching – particularly in faith based schools.

The ConversationDespite these conversations, too often politicians have shied away from difficult decisions on religion and education. But pressure is mounting on them to act. And this is important, because as things stand, children who are removed from RE lessons are not going to be prepared for life in modern Britain.

Paul Smalley, SOLSTICE Fellow and Senior Lecturer in Religious Education, Edge Hill University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Five top tips for an outstanding UCAS form

Sarah Wright, Edge Hill University

As the final UCAS deadline looms in mid-January, it’s understandable to worry that you don’t have time to complete a quality application that will bag you that place on the course of your dreams. But fear not, because here are some tips for putting together a successful, stand out application.

1. Check your own understanding

Hopefully, you have done your background work on your course by attending open days, reading blogs and poring over prospectuses. But even if this is the case, do you really understand the course you are applying for?

Go back through the UCAS entry profile and double check that the course you have selected meets your needs and does what you think it does. Students who have misconceptions about the content of a course often reflect this in their application which does not make for a good start.

2. Get the fine tooth comb out

No eye rolling, I know you have probably been told this a million times, and I’m going to say it again … this document could effectively change your life – and proof reading and drafting is essential.

Ensure you check everything on your form, from your personal details to your course code, everything needs to be perfect. Admissions tutors will be eagle eyed when it comes to grammatical and spelling errors, so check it once, check it twice, and then check it again.

Your university application may well open doors for you, so make sure it’s perfect. Pexels

3. Make up your mind

Your personal statement is the most substantial aspect of your application. This is where you really get to show your potential university who you are. It’s therefore essential that your statement does that, evidences you as a future scholar who oozes enthusiasm for their chosen subject and course.

The most crucial thing admissions tutors will look for in your personal statement is a strong rationale as to why you want a place on their course. If you’re applying to multiple institutions this can be a tricky ask. So this is why it’s best to keep your course choices consistent – because applying for four primary education courses and then an engineering degree isn’t going to make things easy for you.

4. Make it personal

The personal statement should also do what it says on the tin – it should be personal to you. This is your opportunity to shine in terms of talking about your academic and personal achievements. It can be easy to fall into lazy language when you’re doing this. If admissions tutors had a pound for every time they read the word “passion” in a personal statement, they’d probably be living on a tropical island by now.

Draw on all your experience to make your application as unique as you are. Pexels.

Put the effort into your explanation. Talk concisely about your achievements, then show the impact they have had on you. So, rather than “I am a passionate member of the local outdoor pursuits club”, try “being a member of the local outdoor pursuits club has helped me hone my leadership, problem solving and collaboration skills”. See the difference?

Work hard with your language. You want to grab the attention of your reader and avoiding generic statements such as “I have always had a passion for …” is your first step in doing that. You should also talk about specific aspects of a subject that fuel your interest, and the more you can evidence this, the better chance of acceptance you have.

5. Two pairs of eyes

Your application should now be a glowing reflection of who you are and your hopes and ambitions for your academic career. This can make some people reluctant to share it with even their closest family and friends. But unfortunately, this is a must.

Make your application into a family affair – a second pair of eyes is important. Pexels.

Think how many times you check a social media update before you post it to the world, this is a million times more important. Do you really want to hit submit before having it checked? Have at least one other person read over your application, they could pick up on a missed word, incorrect spelling or fantastic achievement you have overlooked. The more input you can get the better, so if you’re up for sharing get as many people as you can to take a look at your final draft before you submit it.

The Conversation

Sarah Wright, Senior Lecturer in Education, Edge Hill University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

NQT boot camp: five things to remember about setting up a classroom

Students Raising Hands in Classroom

In the first part of her summer advice series for newly qualified teachers, teacher educator Sarah Wright shares her tips for preparing and creating a learning environment.


The excitement of finally getting your own classroom can be overwhelming. Whether you have been hoarding supplies all through your PGCE or are about to embark on a summer shopping spree, you will no doubt be keen to make your mark on your new temple of learning.

Here are a few things for you to think about:

  1. Consider the needs of all learners

    When you are setting up your classroom, test out your seating arrangements; can you sit and see the board without craning your neck? Think about your colour scheme. Your hot pink and turquoise combo might have looked brilliant on Pinterest, but will it give some children a headache or be an unwanted distraction? And while you may have banked a million display and “area” ideas during your training, remember you have to put the needs of your children first.

  2. Don’t expect a blank slate

    You might be imagining walking into a crisp and clean classroom, ready to work your magic. I can tell you now that this is not happening. Your room will probably be cluttered with the remnants of the last teacher to inhabit it and their displays will most likely still be up. But be positive about it, embrace the cathartic clear-out and take care of things without any grumbling; you don’t know who your new room belonged to last ? or how many of their friends are still working at the school.

  3. Create curiosity

    Your new children will be keen to get to know you and your personality, so don’t be afraid of sharing it. Whether that’s through an interesting memento on your desk or your favourite book in the reading area, it will help to start conversations and build rapport.

  4. Exercise restraint

    Your laminator is smoking, you have staple-gun blisters… stop. The excitement of setting up your first classroom can put you into a pre-term giddiness of filling every last inch of your space with wiggly-bordered loveliness. But a cluttered space won’t create a good learning environment. Think about having room to learn and to move.

  5. Resist the urge to create the finished article

    Yes, you want to “wow” your new class with their beautiful learning environment, but you have to remember that it it belongs to them as much as to you. Your classroom needs to grow along with your children. Ensure they have the space to put their stamp on it, too.


Sarah Wright is a Senior Lecturer in Primary Education at Edge Hill University.

This article was originally published on the TES website.


Stressed out: the psychological effects of tests on primary school children

Students Raising Hands in Classroom

Some parents are so angry with the testing regime facing their children that they have come together in an attempt to boycott primary school exams. Preparation by teachers for these standardised achievement tests (SATs) in England have involved a narrowing of the curriculum, including a specific focus on spelling, punctuation and grammar.

Parents believe that their children should be stimulated instead by more enriching activities and projects. There is also a worry that the tests may cause undue stress and pressure on their young children to perform well. These beliefs are widespread: more than 49,000 parents have signed a petition to abolish SATs altogether.

An awareness of pressure

Teachers are under considerable pressure for pupils to perform well on SATs. Performance-related pay and position in school league tables depend on test results. Parents believe that exam results will have a bearing on their young child’s future and understandably want them to do well.

But the children are also well-aware that their performance on the SATs is important to their teachers and parents. Teachers may unwittingly transmit the stress they are under to their pupils. Children can also pick up on their parents’ attitudes and associated behaviour and feel under pressure to make them proud.

Too much, too young? Shuravaya/

This pressure from parents is perhaps the largest source of stress for children aged ten to 11 who are working towards their Key Stage 2 exams. One Year 6 pupil my colleagues and I interviewed described the source of the pressure he felt:

You want to get them [SATS questions] right because other people want you to get them right and, like, you don’t want to disappoint people.

Test anxiety

Stress and pressure about forthcoming exams can result in what education researchers have termed “test anxiety”. This can present itself via a number of symptoms.

Children can suffer from negative thoughts such as: “If I don’t pass this test, I will never get a good job”. They can also suffer physiological symptoms such as tight muscles or trembling and distracting behaviours such as playing with a pencil. The effects of anxiety during a test can influence the child’s ability to process and understand test questions and perform at their best.

It is well established that pupils with high levels of test anxiety perform more poorly in their exams. The overall prevalence of test anxiety in primary school children is on the increase and it is fairly common for children at the end of primary school. Year 6 pupils report experiencing anxiety either some or most of the time when asked two weeks prior to their exams.

But there are differences in how SATs are viewed by different children. Some perceive them to be stressful, while others view them as a challenge. As well as pressure from parents, pupils in Year 6 have cited the demands of the testing situation as a cause of stress. This includes completing exams under timed conditions and having no contact with classmates or teachers. There are also concerns about exam results being used to influence which set a child will be put in at secondary school. Another Year 6 pupil my colleagues and I interviewed said:

You look at your booklet and you’ve got like loads of questions left and you’re like, ‘I can’t do this’. You just want to just sit there and go ‘I can’t do this’ and walk off.

The extent to which children aged six to seven, working towards Key Stage 1 exams, feel test-anxious, is unclear. Very little research has been conducted exclusively with them. Some younger children, however, have been found to display clear signs of anxiety or stress during the period leading up to the SATs.

Reducing the pressure

How resilient a child is can reduce the negative effects of test anxiety on performance. Specifically, children who believe they can succeed, trust and seek comfort from others easily and who are not overly sensitive, can be better at combatting the problems associated with test anxiety. Parents may therefore help their children by attempting to nurture and boost their resilience.

Keeping SATs “low-key” is crucial to minimising anxiety and stress among children. Parents should reassure their children that results are not critical and that the most important thing is that they try their best. In the classroom, teachers should direct time and effort towards familiarising children to the format and procedures involved in standardised testing. For instance, practising with past test papers while children sit at individual desks, could help.

Both parents and teachers could also keep a conscious check of how they may subconsciously transmit feelings of stress or tension to young children. Pupils who display signs of test anxiety require more space and understanding, both at school and home – this includes increased tolerance during the testing period.

These strategies may go some way to reducing the pressure of tests on young children. It is essential that schools and teachers take the time to focus on the social, emotional and mental health and development of children.

The Conversation

Laura Nicholson, Researcher, Faculty of Education and Associate Tutor, Department of Psychology, Edge Hill University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Why cutting Parent Governors out of schools matters

Students Raising Hands in Classroom

Professor John Diamond (Director of the University’s Institute for Public Policy) comments on the Government’s White Paper on Education:

The significance of the many changes announced by the Government recently will be taken up by a number of groups over the next few months.

Clearly the headlines have focused on the way teachers are educated and assessed as full and potentially excellent teachers. I will return to that in future blogs but I want to pick up on the role of parent governors.

The announcement that the requirement or expectation to have parents as members of governing bodies is to be relaxed so that they may cease to be present, reflects one of the many contradictory features of the current Government.

The idea that service users should be involved in decision making is not the preserve of progressive interest groups. It sits quite easily within the framework of seeing service users as consumers. They are one of a number of so called ‘stakeholders’ who have rights to be consulted and to participate in the governance and oversight of professionals or administrators running public services.

There is a litany of failed public services from hospitals to schools to social work departments, where it is claimed lack of suitable arrangements for the governance of those services excluded users from having a voice.

Indeed in the recent budget, the Northern Powerhouse initiative and the associated agreements with local public authorities in the setting up of city regions, include governance as a non-negotiable element. In this case it’s the election of a city mayor as part of the package.

So what do the new developments in education tell us? There is a plausible argument which says it’s difficult to recruit, train and retain parent governors; the role and expectations are complex and require significant commitment; and the growing needs of schools especially financial ones require more professional expertise than is always available. These are familiar arguments but not necessarily new ones.

There are a secondary set of arguments which are not explicitly stated and they include the restructuring of school based education takes it away from local oversight  – the creation of academies or trusts detached schools from a sense of the ‘local’ or the ‘neighbourhood’ and as such parents are actually only have temporary interest in the school.

What is needed are individuals who are there for the long term and who see the needs differently from local parents or local interests. It is the logical perspective if you do not see schools are rooted in specific geographies and communities.

There is an additional pragmatic argument too. Parent governors are likely to be resistant to changes and maybe become oppositional to the current funding decisions. I think we can anticipate changes in governance elsewhere across the public services as the space to be critical is closed down.

Changes in the voluntary sector are good examples of where this is already happening. I think this is the issue. It’s not parent governors in principle, but local voices being excluded and critical or different perspectives being excluded too. That seems to me to be the big story behind the White Paper.

Why universities need to turn on their listening ears

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Professor John Diamond (Director of the University’s I4P) suggests a pattern of responses is not just a coincidence.

Judge Judy has many memorable phrases and “you need to put on your listening ears”, is perhaps my favourite.

It’s been very noticeable over the past month or so that as I have sat and listened to policy makers, local residents, community activists and a wide range of professionals talk about the links with their local universities, a common theme has emerged: we don’t feel listened to.

This sense of distance from their neighbourhood institutions has to be something more than coincidence. The discussions have included references to at least ten universities in the UK, so it’s not something which is special to one particular place or type of university. The particular circumstances and the specific details of why people don’t feel listened to will , of course, vary but the sense that there is a gap between universities and the communities in which they are located is not in question.

The range of issues raised in these different conversations (spread over three different events and including being involved in planning an event where university/community relationships is the theme), highlights the fact that those of us who work in higher education and seek to promote and encourage strong links between our institutions and the localities within which they are sited, cannot take much for granted. So even in those places where you might expect there to be a positive story to tell, the experience is very uneven.

What might a positive story look like? It could include real and explicit partnerships between community based organisations and individuals, individual departments or courses. These could include community partners acting as ‘hosts’ for student internships or placements, being involved on programme advisory groups, jointly running workshops or professional development sessions with tutors for staff or students, and jointly bidding for research funds.

All of these (indeed any part of them) would be a sign of a healthy relationship. But whilst they are necessary they are not sufficient. It is clear that we need to do more and we need to be better at some of the following: not taking the relationships for granted, not assuming our needs and their needs are the same or even close, respecting that as benefit from community based organisations acting as ‘home’ to our prospective teachers, social workers and health workers what are the benefits for them?

We need to remember too that our timelines and reference points are not theirs, and that sustaining relationships and helping them to develop requires a lot of listening, reflecting and then suggesting.

Maybe those that work in the higher education sector need to think more carefully about what we can offer and how we might support that, before we go looking for ‘partners’ when we are not clear ourselves about how to construct such a relationship.

Why is it difficult to work with universities?

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Professor John Diamond (Director of the University’s I4P) on why higher education needs not to assume that their world view is shared:

Looking to develop good university, community or locality relationships is a recurrent theme and plea from practitioners and policy makers.

On March 21st we are co-hosting an event in Manchester (click here for details), which brings together three different approaches to this issue, from Brighton, Durham and Liverpool, to an audience of voluntary sector organisations and activists across Greater Manchester.

Why? Partly because the demand from universities on the voluntary sector has been growing. Students want to enhance their CVs, and universities have a multiple set of arrangements with community networks, from formal placement for vocational or practice based programmes (teaching, social work, planning and architecture), to a general recognition that voluntary organisations need volunteers.

Whose needs are being met? In a virtuous circle everyone’s. In an unequal world, probably the student and the university. Universities also need the outside world for their research led impact case studies.

Are everyone’s needs met here? Possibly not. Perhaps sometimes.

Are we good at spreading what works and sustaining relationships and networks? Oftentimes no. Despite a major investment in public engagement, universities capacity to resort to short term memory is fascinating but frustrating.

How to change it? First step accept the problem exists. Second step adapt more proactive strategies of engagement. Third step seek to consolidate sustainable relationships. Fourth step remember what step one was!

The possibilities for shared learning are huge. But for that to happen we have to accept the potential exists. It’s that shift which is critical. But it also has the potential of radically altering the perspective through which universities view their communities. Now that would be fascinating to realise.

The importance of linking ideas, policy and practice when working with children


Professor John Diamond (Director of the University’s I4P) argues for making explicit the links between ideas, policy and practice:

Listening to Professor Tom Cockburn – who is Head of the University’s Social Science Department and has extensive experience of thinking about and researching childhood studies – give his professorial lecture, I was struck (again) by the need to make explicit the links between ideas, policy and practice.

As Tom observed, we are working in a University with both a rich tradition of working with and preparing a key set of professionals (teachers) to work with children, and for over 20 years we have worked with and prepared another key professional group  – nurses and medical staff. And yet two quite separate things were set out in Tom’s talk (and they are recurring themes across a number of the talks and workshops in the Festival of Ideas and they are also part of the remit for I4P).

Firstly, the need for professionals to listen and speak to each other. The case for collaboration is well known. And we know – as Professor Sally Spencer from the Faculty of Health illustrated this week in her workshop – talking has to be facilitated and enabled. The power of the silo (even here) is such that separate developments detached from like-minded ways of seeing and thinking about the world can happen quite easily. And that’s before we address professional notions of territory and space.

Secondly, having conversations is only a first step. It needs to be accompanied by thinking about how we effect change. And so making the links between ideas, policy and action requires us to bring into the conversation another set of voices: those who we are talking about – children and young people and, if necessary, their advocates / supporters.

We should not assume that we can broker these conversations and develop ways of working which will generate trust and engagement. The challenge, I think, is how we make those connections and what we learn from them. And that’s the final part of this process: what do we take back and learn? And are we up for that part of the process?