Discussing Inequality: Materials for the classroom and beyond

Lead Research Organisation: University of York
Department Name: Health Science


The best-selling book The Spirit Level: why equality is better for everyone (Wilkinson & Pickett, Penguin 2009), brought together several decades of research, to which a great many people contributed, covering the health and social effects of income inequality on societies. It suggests that societies with bigger income differences between rich and poor suffer more of most of the problems which, within societies, have social gradients making them more common at the bottom of the social ladder.

The Equality Trust is a politically independent, not-for-profit company that aims to make the evidence on the impact of larger and smaller income inequalities more widely known.

The proposed project is a collaboration between the academic authors of The Spirit Level and The Equality Trust, which aims to collect together research evidence on the impact of inequality and make it relevant, interesting, accessible and compelling to young people in secondary education and to produce short factual summaries of research which will be provided free of charge for interested people and organisations across society including politicians, civil servants, business leaders, trade unions and charities. The materials will be developed by a working group including Professors Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson, The Equality Trust, teachers from Stantonbury Campus and other schools, representatives from educational charities including ASDAN, youth workers and young people themselves.

The project will:

Produce teaching packs for different curriculum subjects and age groups
The evidence relating to income inequality fits clearly with a number of different subjects in the national curriculum, particularly in social sciences and statistics. We will take advantage of this synergy by developing template lesson plans for the most relevant subjects, adapted for different age groups. The materials will be developed with creative input and critical feedback from young people and will include clearly understood, eye-catching visual representations of the data and interactive games or other activities. The resources will be provided to teachers free of charge; electronic versions will be available to download online and printed copies will be available from The Equality Trust.

Produce a 30 minute film
As part of their performing arts course, 16-19 year old students at Stantonbury College will write, produce and appear in a 30 minute film about the impact of inequality on their lives. This film will then be produced as a DVD, which will be widely distributed free of charge with supporting materials.

Produce a series of Research Summaries and Research Updates
The Research Digests will provide summaries of particular areas of research, such as the relationship between inequality and crime, or between inequality and economic growth. The Research Updates, with a format rather like a press release, will draw attention to individual pieces of research related to inequality - whether on recent trends, or on topics related to mechanisms through which inequality could affect social, economic or environmental outcomes. These will be distributed to politicians, trade unions, industrialists, local councillors, charities, media correspondents and via electronic media. Members of the public will be encouraged to use the research evidence.

Planned Impact

The direct and indirect beneficiaries of this Follow-on project are:

Direct beneficiaries:
(a) young people & their teachers
The project will benefit young people and their teachers by helping them to understand the scale and effects of inequality of income and wealth on their lives and the advantages and challenges of building a more equal society. The project will also encourage young people to understand data and think critically about the evidence, tools which are essential for everyone, and in particular for those who wish to pursue scientific or political careers.

(b) elected representatives
This project will also benefit elected representatives by informing them of how they can improve the lives of their constituents. For those who wish to be politically active, our materials will provide a rigorous evidence basis to consider. The work of local Fairness Commissions (established in Islington, Liverpool and York to date) will also benefit.

(c) citizens
The resources we provide will benefit citizens who wish to engage with issues of inequality, empowering them to engage critically with the evidence, and speak authoritatively about the issues to others.

Indirect beneficiaries:
As the research evidence suggests that extreme income inequality is damaging across society, it could be argued that all members of society might benefit from wider dissemination of research and discussion of inequality.

If the UK's inequality were half its current level, reducing it to levels seen in Japan and Scandinavia and in the UK in past decades, we could anticipate improvements to physical and mental health, educational performance, community and family life, and much more. The improvements would have most impact in the most deprived communities (which currently suffer most) but the positive effects would be felt by almost everyone across the spectrum of income and wealth.

Prof Alex Stevens recently reported evidence that policy-makers find it very difficult to challenge the status quo, even when they are convinced by evidence that supports such a change (Stevens, A. (2011). Telling Policy Stories: An Ethnographic Study of the Use of Evidence in Policy-making in the UK[21]. Journal of Social Policy, 40(2) 237-256). This has been supported by recent research by WWF (http://www.wwf.org.uk/what_we_do/campaigning/strategies_for_change/).

The proposed Follow-on project aims to make a timely and significant contribution to debates on economic and social strategy. In particular, the project aims to develop and enhance young peoples' and citizens' capabilities to influence local and national policy makers to incorporate evidence from the social sciences into policy.


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Pickett KE (2017) Immorality of inaction on inequality. in BMJ (Clinical research ed.)

Description We developed materials to teach young people about the impact of inequality, and created materials to inform the public, policy makers and politicians about new research on inequality
Exploitation Route Others can access our data and materials as a source to develop new educational ideas and materials
Sectors Education,Government, Democracy and Justice

URL http://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/get-involved/take-action/learn-and-play
Description Our educational materials are free to download and the Young Person's Guide to Inequality website has received 8500 visits to date. Within the Watch section of the web-based resources are links to Wilkinson's TED talk, which has been viewed over 2 million times and the Broadbent Institute's video, which has been viewed 15,000 times. The Cambridge University education faculty forum on Youth Participation in Democracy, invited us to contribute to their working group. Economicon has been played in more than 5 schools in North and West London. The resource has been well received by students and teachers and is now being included as a key learning tool in economics A Level classes. The Workers Educational Association includes our materials in their inequality curriculum and have been working with Dr Henry Tam of Cambridge University to promote our Read resource. They promoted awareness of the problem of inequality through reading groups and online discussions in June 2014 and are developing a series of social purpose learning activities, including a Facebook discussion and reading group. More information can be found at http://weaedi.wordpress.com/a-novel-approach-to-inequality/ A website section About Inequality developed to provide a comprehensive but accessible account of inequality, its scale and trends, causes, effects and attitudes towards it went live in October 2013 and has received over 48,000 page views. The Young Person's Blog is one of The Equality Trust's most popular, containing its two most highly viewed blogs, with combined page views of 3,446. The Young People's Guide to Inequality was presented to the Resilience Forum at the University of Brighton. This has led to interest from the University of Brighton Business School, and the charity Teens and Toddlers, who work with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Research Updates and Digests are available free for download and are distributed to The Equality Trust email distribution list of 5489.
First Year Of Impact 2012
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Societal

Description Department for Education visit 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact A meeting with senior civil servants at the Department for Education, to discuss inequalities in educational outcomes; our work was presented and discussed
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
Description The Young Person's Guide to Inequality 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact http://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/education

Through this grant, The Equality Trust is developing interactive learning materials for 16-19 year olds. This website is the hub for the modules and resource guides for teachers and young people.

Please see impact narrative for grant as a whole
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012,2013,2014
URL http://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/get-involved/take-action/learn-and-play