module specification

SS5034 - Education Policy in Historical and Social Contexts (2017/18)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2017/18
Module title Education Policy in Historical and Social Contexts
Module level Intermediate (05)
Credit rating for module 30
School School of Social Professions
Total study hours 300
219 hours Guided independent study
81 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 50%   Historical Essay (2500 words)
Coursework 50%   Critical Policy Commentary (2500 words)
Running in 2017/18
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Year North Tuesday Afternoon

Module summary

This module explores educational policy responses in their social and historical contexts, the relations between education and social themes, issues and problems.  The programme of study broadly addresses three related areas – firstly  the module examines debates, education policies and specific interventions,  via institutional, practice or curriculum change,  in response to identified social problems – from  broad cross-cutting themes, such as ‘race’/ethnicity, class, gender, poverty and citizenship to specific topical areas such as sex education, drug education, education for economic and industrial awareness, skills and vocational training; secondly international educational contexts and challenges of uncertain global futures. Finally, it examines the historical and social construction of educational policies, practices and institutions with a particular focus on changing ways of seeing children and childhood, adopting a social constructionist approach.

Prior learning requirements


Module aims

The module aims:

  • To enable students to situate their studies in education in relation to broad social, political and economic policy themes and issues as well as the relationship between these;
  • To examine the role of schooling and social policy in the construction of childhoods and children’s lives in ways that seek, reflexively to validate these policies;
  • To appraise the contested and controversial nature of the curriculum, its relation to wider social goals and appraise its effectiveness as an agent for social interventions;
  • To examine debates surrounding education policy as social transformation or as social control through governmentality;
  • To appraise contemporary and future responses to digital globalisation and the uncertainties of climate change.


Part 1:  Childhood and Education

  • A brief history of Western childhood and schooling before 1762;
  • Childhood, children and education between 1762 and 1870 – Romanticism, Church, State and redemption;
  • Education policy and ‘the public child’, from 1870 to 1988 – landmark education Acts, World Wars, imperial decline, economic re-structuring and social change;
  • 1988 to 2010: social exclusion and Every Child Matters – children’s rights, diversity and difference.

Part 2:  Contemporary debates and policies

  • Curricula, social policy and purposes – utilitarian, liberal humanist, child-centred, transformative; curriculum for the ‘Nation’;
  • Education for industry and/or social justice – social transformation, mobility or stratification?;
  • Schooling and sociological analysis: ‘race’/ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, (dis)ability, poverty, exclusion and ‘pupil’ entitlements;
  • Social problems and educational intervention;
  • State intervention and neo-liberalism: ‘Free schools, academies, ‘standards’ and parental choice;
  • NEETS and the knowledge economy;
  • Higher Education, teacher professionalism and professional autonomy.

Part 3:  Education and global futures

  • Education or schooling, technology and global encounters – new institutions and the case of the collapsing globe;
  • Secularism and faith;
  • Education, international relations and international comparisons;
  • Educational responses to uncertain global futures – climate, population and economic convergence/injustice;
  • Education and childhood across the anthropocene: past, present and futures.

Learning and teaching

Lectures and seminars to support the exploration of key themes and contexts.

Learning outcomes

At the end of the module students will be able to:

  • Discuss the relationship between schooling and the construction of modern childhood;
  • Recognise and read some of the social, political, economic, ethical and environmental imperatives that drive the continual development of education policy;
  • Deploy critical language and understanding in relation to curriculum development;
  • Evaluate education policy initiatives and assess their likely effectiveness;
  • Contribute to informed discussions of contemporary challenges to education and society arising from globalisation, digital technology and climate change.

Assessment strategy

Students will be assessed as follows:

1 Historical essay 2500 words.

2 Critical policy commentary 2500 words.


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