23 SES 06 D, Classroom Practice
Parallel Paper Session
Economic Wellbeing (EWB) was a policy initiated by the former English Labour government under PM Blair. In Every Child Matters (ECM) (DfES, 2004) it described EWB in terms of children ‘living in decent homes’, having ‘access to transport and material goods’ and preparing them for future employment. It is, however, a depiction that is problematic. First, it infers a link between education and a quest for social justice through increased materiality (‘decent homes’, ‘transport’, ‘material goods’). The supporting narrative suggested that education should furnish pupils with the right skills and attitudes to ensure their employment, that work would then raise their living standards and so reverse what the Conservative Party has recently called a ‘culture of welfare dependency’ endemic in England today (Conservative Party, 2009). The paper questions the assumptions embedded in this virtuous spiral. Second, EWB has had implications for the school curriculum. ECM referred to the need for pupils to become ‘financially literate’ (DfES, 2004) and this corresponded with a wider call for schools to develop ‘financial capability’ (e.g. QCDA, 2011) as well as ‘enterprise and entrepreneurial skills’ (e.g. HEA, 2007). It is a curriculum for EWB that the new Coalition Government has said it will carry forward and make statutory (DfE, 2010). The paper argues, however, that the particular curricular initiatives that have emerged for EWB are founded upon questionable assumptions. Third, while there is a sizeable corpus on EWB generally, in educational contexts in England very little has been written, especially in primary schools where it has remained largely un-critiqued.
The aim of the paper is to show how the term EWB is currently used in policy and practice in English primary schools, to suggest where tensions lie, and to reflect upon its preferences and shortcomings. There are three sections. The first aims to unearth core problems, such as:
(a) The illusive meaning of ‘wellbeing’ and its nuanced attachment to a preference for what has been called ‘the project of the self’ (Ereaut & Whiting 2008; Bernheim, 2009; Esterlin, 2003).
(b) Difficulties with the way in which central policy makes simplistic connections between education and employment via EWB (Cameron, 2008; Foucault 1977; Fraser & Gordon, 1994; MacDonald & Marsh, 2005; Wilkinson & Pickett, 2009; Marx, 2007).
(c) The specific role of primary Headteachers in securing EWB within a context that currently seeks to ‘integrate children services’ in Britain, but where a substantial body of evidence would suggest that today ‘joined up services remain complex and highly problematic’ (Barron, I., et al., 2007).
(d) Ideological preferences embedded within what is largely a tacit economics curriculum (Gibson, 2008; Reifner & Schelhowe, 2010).
(e) Problems surrounding OFSTED’s (Office for Standards in Education) inspectorial judgment about a school’s provision for EWB that current focuses largely upon rewarding what appear to be charitable acts and neo-liberal routines.
The second section discusses the substance of interviews with primary school Headteachers regarding these questions and dilemmas (see Methods and Methodology), while the third seeks to explain and interpret their responses (see Conclusions).
Barron, I., Holmes, R., MacLure, M. and Runswick-Cole, K. (2007) Primary Schools and Other Agencies (Primary Review Research Survey 8/2). Cambridge: University of Cambridge. Bernheim, B.D. (2009) Behavioral Welfare Economics. In Journal of the European Economic Association 7 (2–3) 267–319. Cameron, D. (2008) A real plan for welfare reform (8th January). Available online at: www.conservatives.com (Accessed 19 May 2011). Davies, P. (2006) Educating Citizens for Changing Economies. Journal of Curriculum Studies 38 (1) 15–30 DfE (Department for Education) (2010) The Importance of Teaching: The Schools White Paper. London: Crown Copyright. DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) (2011) A New Approach to Child Poverty: Tackling the cause of disadvantage and transforming families’ lives. London: HM Government. DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) (2004) Opportunity for all - Sixth Annual Report Cm 6239. London: The Stationery Office. Ereaut, G. & Whiting, R. (2008) What do we mean by ‘wellbeing’? And why might it matter? London: Linguistic Landscapes/DCSF. Easterlin, R.A. (2003) Explaining happiness. In Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 100 (19). Foucault, M. (1977) Discipline and Punish. London: Penguin. Fraser, N. and Gordon, L. (1994) “Dependency” Demystified: Inscriptions of Power in a Keyword of the Welfare State. Social Politics 1 (1) 4-31. Gibson, H. (2008) Ideology, Instrumentality and Economics Education: on the Secretion of Values within Philanthropy, Financial Capability and Enterprise Education in English Schools. In International Review of Economics Education 7 (2) 57-78. Marx, K. (2007/1867) Capital: A Critique of Political Economy (New York: Cosimo). OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) (Oct 2008) Growing Unequal? Income Distribution and Poverty in OECD Countries. Available online at: www.oecd.org (Accessed 31 March 2011). Wilkinson, R.G. & Pickett, K. (2009) The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better. London: Penguin.
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