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Education Policy: Divisions & Inequalities - SPY00051H

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  • Department: Social Policy and Social Work
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Aniela Wenham
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2024-25

Module aims

Why do class, gender and race inequalities persist in education? Do elite universities operate in a meritocratic society? How do education systems and structures relate to ideas surrounding social justice and equality?

This module looks at the development of education policy in the British context. The module will take a broad view, focusing upon different phases of education, i.e. the early years, schools and higher education. In applying theoretical frameworks to challenge how we think about education, students will assess the main lessons that can be drawn from policy developments and educational reform. After understanding the development of education policy, students will then explore how school systems can create divisions and inequalities. This component of the module will look at is the differences (and explanation) in educational attainment between social groups defined by class, gender, disability and ethnicity. In assessing the reproduction and persistence of educational inequalities, students will question the degree to which education provides a ladder of opportunity.

Module learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module students will be able to:

  • Understand the theories surrounding education, society and social justice.

  • Understand key transformation in the UK education system since the Education Act 1944

  • Apply theoretical frameworks to help understand the development of contemporary education policy

  • Understand the historical and cultural construction of education

  • Assess the organisational structures and purposes of education systems.

  • Evaluate contemporary debates on education policy

  • Assess aspects of difference and diversity, i.e. gender, class, disability and ethnicity, relate to educational inequalities

Module content

  • Critical engagement with the historical context and development of education policy.
  • An exploration of recent educational reform, i.e. the Academies Act 2010, and its potential impacts.
  • Critical engagement with current debates on the purposes of education and how this relates to ideas surrounding social justice and equality.
  • Explanations surrounding educational inequalities, i.e. differences in educational attainment that relate to gender, disability, class and ethnicity.


Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Module feedback

Feedback will be given in accordance with the University Policy on feedback in the Guide to Assessment as well as in line with the School policy.

Indicative reading

Ball, S. (2017) The education debate. Bristol: Policy Press.

Cosin, B. and Hales, M. (eds) (1997) Families, education, and social differences. London: Routledge.

Reay, D. (2017) Miseducation: inequality, education and the working classes. Bristol: Policy Press.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.