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IOE Blog


Expert opinion from IOE, UCL's Faculty of Education and Society


Political engagement shouldn’t be a question of class. A new project is examining the gap and what to do about it

By Blog Editor, IOE Digital, on 4 June 2020

Jan Germen Janmaat.

Social mobility is a widely shared ideal in practically all western countries: your family background should not matter for your education, your professional career and for where you end up in life. Consequently, social mobility has been a key concern of social scientists for decades – an interest reignited by the way the Covid crisis is fuelling inequalities in health, education, and the labour market.

Far fewer academics have been interested in the influence of family background on political engagement – i.e. interest in politics and the desire to participate in it. This is surprising as a lack of inter-generational ‘political’ mobility is likely to be as detrimental to social cohesion as a rigid class society. Democratically-elected governments are more incentivised to serve the interests of those who vote than those who are politically disengaged.  Since middle class people have higher levels of political engagement, this may contribute to a vicious circle in which people from disadvantaged backgrounds withdraw their support for democracy altogether. In other words, the passing down of disengagement across generatations may lead to a permanent and alienated ‘political’ underclass.

This is why the Nuffield Foundation has funded our project, entitled “Post-16 Educational Trajectories and Social Inequalities in Political Engagement” (April 2020 to September 2021), which aims to investigate: (more…)

‘Kids are speaking out but still adults don’t take us seriously’: children show the way on rights and the future

By Blog Editor, IOE Digital, on 20 November 2019

By youth activists Isabelle Mathews and Sivitha Sivakumar and members of the Eco-club of Manchester Enterprise Academy Central with Claire Cameron (IOE)

20 November 2019 is the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. What does this landmark framework for global and local children’s rights mean to young people themselves?

At UCL we brought together young people, activists, researchers and policymakers to debate the the future outlook and current state of children’s rights and participation in matters of importance to them.


Are 16-year-olds prepared for politics? Or are they over-protected from controversy and debate?

By Blog Editor, IOE Digital, on 14 November 2019

Alex Standish.

Increasingly, children and young people are stepping into political arenas that have been considered the realm of adults. In an insecure world, they are campaigning for their own lives and futures.

In the UK this year, students joined school ‘strikes’, taking to the streets to demand that more be done to tackle climate change. In the USA children and young people took a lead in the March For Our Lives protests in response to gun violence and school shootings.

More children are being invited to contribute their opinions on television and radio programmes. Greta Thunberg’s addresses to Westminster and the UN are a case in point. And, of course, social media has made it easier for young people to join in debate and to organise.


Russell Brand is wrong: young people should vote and schools should do more to encourage them

By Blog Editor, IOE Digital, on 10 March 2015

Germ Janmaat
Britain has the dubious reputation of topping the league table on the generation gap in voting. In no other western country is the difference between old and young people so large. While only 44 per cent of people in their twenties turned out to vote in the 2010 elections, almost 80 per cent of pensioners did so. Obviously this is not good news for democracy. Politicians will not be inclined to pay much attention to the interests of young people as there are few votes to win among these groups. Consequently, government policy will become slanted in favour of older generations and other influential groups in society. This, in turn, might discourage the young from casting their vote still further.
Have young people’s low voting rates not alarmed politicians in Britain? Yes they have. In fact concern about declining (more…)