I’m pleased to say the ‘Place of Aspirations’ seminar on 14th May went really well.
The event was attended by just under 20 people, including a trio from Malmo University in Sweden (more about them later…). Many of the participants were directly involved in the delivery of widening participation projects and this led to some very fruitful discussions that were particularly focused on policy and practice.
Prof. John Storan from Continuum at the University of East London and Sumi Hollingworth from the Institute of Policy Studies in Education at London Metropolitan University both gave fascinating papers that really helped broaden the afternoon’s debates and put my own work within a broader context.
What I found particularly interesting about Sumi’s paper “Choice or Coercion? Policies and initiatives aimed at increasing urban pupils’ engagement and aspirations for post-16 participation“ was how similar the aspirations were of the young people we have worked with in our respective studies. Sumi had mostly worked with young people attending six schools across London who were deemed to be at risk of leaving school and not engaging with education, employment or training. In contrast, the teenagers I worked with in South-East London in 2007 were all relatively high-achieving students who were engaged with their studies.
The seminar left me with several ideas to think about for the future, including some potential follow-up studies, and I’m sure I’ll post more about some of these over the summer. But the most exciting conversations of the afternoon were with the delegation from Malmo, who are interested in researching the aspirations of young people in their city. The potential for an international comparative study is tantalizing, as is the prospect of thinking about educational aspirations in a political culture where the language of ‘aspiration’ has not saturated policy debates in recent years.