Bhopal K and Maylor U (eds) (2014) Educational Inequalities: Difference and Diversity in Schools and Higher Education, London: Routledge

288 pages

This book was published in 2014 and is essentially a collection of work from across part of the globe focussing on the key issue of educational inequalities. This is an ambitious goal in itself but then to consider both schools and higher education makes the task even more difficult.
The editors have sought to bring together the arguments made by a number of distinguished academics into a structure and to give a sense of holistic argument. This is a difficult task and they have sought to do this through an introductory chapter and a conclusion. The introduction works much better than the conclusion as the former is able to set out the stall for how the book will function. Having said that there is little that can then be added as a conclusion as it has been said already in t he chapters.

The task of both defining educational inequalities and moving between schools and higher education is challenging. The introduction sets to define what is meant by educational inequalities by focussing on gender, race and class and the issues of identity that then need to be addressed. However, readers looking for an exploration of issues relating to disability or the UK phenomenon of under achieving white working class boys will be disappointed. The key focus across the chapters is essentially on race with a range of contributions considering gender in the sense of female opportunities and performance. These aspects are covered well through a range of thought provoking contributions with particular reference to looking through the lens of whiteness and how middle class white professionals can classify by stereotyping such as Muslim girls needing to be saved from the veil, or the issue of the scarcity of appropriate role models from particular cultures.

As is often the case with a collection of this nature the statistical base used in the contributions varies by country and year so the reader has to carefully think through some of the issues in relation to timing. For example some of the critiquing of UK coalition policy is unlikely to be based on evidence given the issue of timing of the policy and publication of the book. It is unfortunate that there is a factual error in the first sentence of the introduction as the UK coalition government did not introduce tuition fees , it was the previous Labour Government that was responsible for that change.

It is difficult to address issues relating to schools and higher education in any one book. In essence where the book focuses on a particular educational sector it tends to focus on schools

The contributions are essentially focussed on relatively western or Anglophile perspectives with no reference to Asia, Africa or South America

The volume is structured  into 3 parts

Difference, Diversity and Inclusion
Understanding Difference: Policy and Practice in Education
Educational Inequalities: Identities, Inclusion and Barriers

The  initial chapter sets the scene and explains the structure of the book. There are a number of perspectives from different countries but this is not an analysis of data  on participation, attainment and engagement but more an assessment based on qualitative study and based on approaches to the issue of identity and the issues of individuals report about inequality as a result of that identity

There are some excellent contributions which focus clearly on what the issues are and there is much to learn from the contributors ranging from inclusion in Sweden to how staff feel about issues of ethnicity in New Zealand. The contributors pose the challenges for the reader to take away, reflect , discuss and to think about practice. If the book gets us all to do that it has made a significant contribution .

Professor Geoff Layer, University of Wolverhampton: