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How learning more about poverty is enabling us to serve our tutees better

Findings from the first stage of our place-based social justice research project are already prompting important discussions amongst our staff team.


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The year-long project, funded by the University of Manchester, is described as ‘slow research’ by its creators, Dr Carl Emery and Louisa Dawes. The two, Lecturers in Education and Social Justice at the University of Manchester’s Institute of Education, are specialists in poverty, power, and place.  They run the Local Matters programme which advocates a different response from schools and community organisations to addressing the needs of children and families living in poverty.

Carl and Louisa have run similar research projects in schools across the North of England, with the findings supporting teaching teams to work more closely with parents, and the local community, to improve pupil outcomes.  As the first Third Sector organisation to take part in the research project, we’re hoping that our team will bring a fresh new perspective to the work.

We launched the project at the end of October with a staff-wide survey examining our attitudes to poverty. The findings, analysed by Carl and Louisa and shared for the first time with the full staff team today, have already sparked discussions about how poverty might affect the young people we support and their educational opportunities.

Carl and Louisa describe the survey as a learning tool, to prompt us to think differently about poverty:

We recognise that poverty is highly complex and contextually driven; it takes many different forms without a neat beginning, middle, and end.

"We are very much looking forward to working collaboratively with our colleagues at The Tutor Trust to explore these complexities and, using research, build thick, critical, local knowledge to shape tailored responses to support pupils served by the organisation.”
Dr Carl Emery and Louisa Dawes, the University of Manchester

The idea behind the ‘slow research’ is that it’s an iterative, ongoing process for change.  As a learning organisation, we welcome this process to reflect on, and learn from, findings at every stage of the journey, giving us the opportunity to look at how we might do things differently to better support pupils living in more disadvantaged communities.

Over the next 12 months, supported by the University, we will carry out a series of critical seminars, attitudinal surveys, research training and action research activities. We will critically explore what is known about poverty, both locally and nationally, and apply this knowledge to make changes to organisational practice and policy.

It’s a privilege to be the first charitable organisation working on such an important piece of research. It is already making us think differently about what we know and understand about poverty, and how it might affect the life chances of the young people we serve.

“The findings from the survey show how we are thinking as a team, but it’s just the start. There is a lot for us to unpick, but we have already had some really valuable discussions about what we mean by certain terms, what we might do differently, and what our tutors might do, to support our tutees even more effectively.”
Abigail Shapiro, Co-Founder and Executive Director

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