What do you hope your research will achieve? How do you think your work contributes to the world?
I hope my research will help people realise that the achievement gap we have in England and the rest of the UK is malleable, and that there are fairly simple ways of ensuring that children from all socioeconomic backgrounds have a more equal footing when it comes to schooling. I say, “fairly simple” because what my research shows is that the work that needs to be done isn’t terribly expensive… but it does require a change of heart from a lot of people and that may be even more difficult than finding funding. I’m not going to give up, though – because kids only get one chance to go through the schooling system and that chance needs to be fair for all.
How do you build or serve communities outside your institution through your academic work? Why do you do those activities?
I give lots of speeches and talks, either directly to schools or for groups that bring schools together, or other practitioners. I work with local authorities, as well as government groups. And I answer *a lot* of emails from people who have seen my work (the advantages of social media) and write in to discuss it. I’m also hatching a cunning plan to get The Imagination Library up and running in my local community.
What’s a common myth about your field?
That once the students go home, we’re free and clear and have nothing to do. A) That’s when we write, which is a major part of our role and B) We teach teachers – we teach when they are NOT teaching – ergo, we teach all summer.
What are the perks or rewards of your job?
I’ve been very fortunate to work in places which resembled the high old ideal of the academy – I can interact with intelligent, likeable, helpful people just by sticking my head out into the corridor or knocking on someone’s door for a chat.
I also find working with students incredibly rewarding. My students are all working in schools – and seeing them grapple with problems and think through how to apply what they are learning with us, in their classrooms and schools, is a fantastic part of the job.
And finally, this job has allowed me to access all kinds of people and relationships I’d never have had without it – I work with people in other countries, with policy makers and practitioners.