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Equity and Social Justice (Ian Hextall)

Equity is a complex and difficult concept. It has a long history, transcends the boundaries of particular fields, and is intimately connected to questions of politics, economics and social structure. This complexity of definition and application is as true for teacher education/professional learning as for any other substantive area. Within the parameters according to which the TEG Resource was compiled, 77 out of the total of 446 items were identified under the core topic filter of Equity Issues.

One of the complexities concerning Equity arises from the range of social divisions to which this term may be attributed. There is a particular problem concerning the language of equity since using concepts like ‘diversity’, difference’ or ‘dimensions’ run the risk of obscuring political questions of power, discrimination, oppression and conflict. In the GTCS Report Widening Access to The Teaching Profession the following differentiations were identified and analysed: social class/socio-economic status; gender; ethnicity (including refugees and asylum seekers and travellers); bilingualism; religion; disability; sexuality and sexual orientation, and age. These can be found represented in the articles identified within the TEG Resource (there is not space here to engage with some of the ‘boundary difficulties’ and issues of intersectionality which relations between these present). The GTCE Equality and Diversity Scheme (2007) also cites a range of social diversities and identifies the way in which QTS Standards carry expectations of teachers responding appropriately to these.  The TDA Race, disability and gender equality scheme monitoring report (2009) also addresses these issues and dimensions of inequality within teaching. 

The GTCS Report cited earlier further adopted the device of identifying “Phases of the teacher life-cycle” to highlight stages at which particular issues of Equitymay be encountered. These were identified as: pre-application issues; routes into teaching; application and interview procedures for entry into ITE; course experiences, including school experience; moving into employment; career/professional development. (NB: this report also contains a detailed bibliography.)

The advantage of recognising dimensions of social division and career cycle phases is that taken together they highlight targeted points for institutional audits, detailed monitoring and focussed research.

There exists a voluminous literature on all of these topics both in the UK and internationally. There are also many guidance documents produced by bodies such as unions, professional associations, General Teaching Councils, and governmental and non-governmental bodies such as DCSF, TDA, Equalities Commission. See for example, the Teachernet website on equity issues and also the TLRP publication on Widening Participation in Higher Education.



Hartshorn, B., Hextall, I., Howell, I., Menter, I. & Smyth, G. (2005) Widening access into the teaching profession, a systematic literature review (Edinburgh, General Teaching Council Scotland, Research Report No. 1).

Menter I., Hextall I. and Mahony P. (2004) Rhetoric or reality?: the shortcomings of ethnic monitoring in Threshold Assessment,’ in Race, Ethnicity and Education, 6 (4), 308-330.

Banks, J. A. and Banks, C. A. M. eds. (2004) Handbook of Research on Multi-Cultural Education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Ladson-Billings, G. (2005) Beyond the Big House:African American Educators on Teacher Education. New York: Teachers College Press, Columbia University.

David et al 2009,







How to reference this page: Teacher Education Group (2009) The Teacher Education Bibliography. London: TLRP. Online at (accessed )

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