Social Justice and education

Diane Reay is an educational researcher in England. Whilst she is not a geographer her research and writing about working class children’s experiences of schools reveals that for many children the education system still reinforces class inequality.   

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Watch Diane discussing her book ‘Miseducation’,  and consider to what extent the structures and policies both within schools and at a national level reinforce rather than negate existing social inequalities.

Ask yourself ‘Is my school, classroom and national education system socially just’?

TIME             TOPIC

07.00-12.00: Working class children’s curriculum experiences

11.54-15.09: Segregation and inequality within the education system

15.13-22.14: Who has power and agency within the education system?

22.14-29.26: The role of assessment and testing on reinforcing inequality

35.24-38.53: Proposals for a more socially just education system



There is a ‘geography of education’, namely a clear relationship between spatial inequalities and educational outcomes

Brock (2016) presents the case for educational success being something of a ‘post code lottery’, a position supported by Weeden and Lambert (2010) who found in England that young people living in areas of social deprivation and attending state-funded low-performing secondary comprehensive schools were less likely to be given access to the kind of geographical education and thus geographical knowledge GeoCapabilities advocates than their better-off peers, and instead, they were more likely to experience a generic curriculum where the focus was on skills development rather than knowledge learning.

There are many topics in school geography curricula that can be taught through the lens of social justice. Whilst GeoCapabilities 3 is focused on Migration, topics such as:

  • Climate Change, 
  • Resource distribution and exploitation, 
  • International conflict, 
  • Food security, 
  • Biosecurity, 
  • Political ecology, 
  • Health inequalities, 

can all be taught through the lens of social justice and injustice, thus helping young people to understand the ways in which  the ‘social processes and institutional decision making’, mentioned by Hopkins (2021, p 352) shape and influence their own lives and those of others.

‘In order to better understand the diversity in the teaching workforce, the following resource from the European Union might be of use and interest:


Brock, C. (2016) Geography of Education: Scale, Space and Location in the Study of Education. London: Bloomsbury.

Hopkins, P. (2021) Social Geography III: Committing to Social Justice, Progress in Human Geography, 45(2): pp382-293.

Weeden, P. and Lambert, D. (2010) Unequal access: why some young people’ don’t do geography. Teaching Geography, 35(2): pp. 74-5.

Reay, D. (2017), Miseducation: inequality, education and the working classes. Diane Reay, Bristol, Policy Press.