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16 August 2022

Measuring and understanding contemporary English educational inequalities

The orthodoxy within the field of education, and amongst politicians and policymakers, is to express concern about educational inequalities whilst failing both to engage with many of the main drivers of inequality, and to grasp the complex and dynamic interplay of educational structures, processes and practices.

Educational inequality is not one thing but an intricate and complicated amalgam of many different factors. The dominant political view regarding education is one that accepts the efficacy of the market, and does not question the consequences of the preoccupation with performativity and outcomes for learning processes and pedagogy (Warmington, 2015).

Furthermore, there has been a general endorsement rather than challenge of social mobility as the main mechanism of social justice in education, an acceptance of private schools, and an influential movement within the discipline that promotes the notion of knowledge as power rather than any strong concern with analysing and understanding the workings of power within education. I will focus on all these trends and their consequences for educational inequalities, taking a multi-disciplinary approach that brings together insights from sociology and psychology as well as education. However, first I will examine the issue of measurement in relation to educational inequalities.

Cite this as:

Reay, D. (2022), ‘Measuring and understanding contemporary English educational inequalities’, IFS Deaton Review of Inequalities,