Local Matters

The University’s Manchester Institute of Education have developed Local Matters, a new participatory research and teaching approach to understanding and responding to poverty and building social justice in place.

The programme is led by Dr Carl Emery and Dr Louisa Dawes and based at the Manchester Institute of Education. Current project partners include the Tutor Trust, Manchester Museum, Blackburn Diocesan Board of Education, Central Manchester Foodbank and the National Education Union as well as a range of schools across the North-West of England.

Poverty and socio-economic disadvantage are major determinants of educational outcomes in England. Research from Manchester Institute of Education shows that classroom interventions funded through the Pupil Premium will be insufficient to Tutor Trust educational outcomes for poorer pupils.

Organisations who explore and understand staff attitudes towards poverty, develop strong understandings of local context and are willing to change core practices (curriculum, pedagogy, extracurricular activities, finance, professional development, HR, marketing and communications) based on this knowledge are more likely to successfully address poverty and disadvantage and create more socially just structures.

Local Matters is a different approach to the traditional, intervention driven, one size fits all model that currently dominates practice and policy. We work alongside and empower the organisation, staff and local community through a range of research and professional learning skills and principles to develop an evidence based local response to local issues. This approach recognises that poverty is different in different places; Manchester is not the same as Winchester, so requires localised knowledge and localised answers. Essentially, it supports participants to become place-based social justice researchers.

At the local level Local Matters has led to primary schools in North-West England revising curriculum content to illuminate local assets and knowledge. Moreover, 74% of school participants indicated that completing the attitudes to poverty survey impacted policy and practice in their school. At the regional level the programme has powerfully shaped area-wide education policy regarding how poverty is measured and resourced in schools through the enactment of new, localised metrics. In one Local Authority this resulted in a new £1.8m investment to widen access for Free School Meals for 2024. Alongside this the Tutor Trust, based on findings from the action research project, have changed both the language used to describe poverty on their website and external communications and rewritten their organisational survey questions to reflect new knowledge regarding recognition and representation of children living in poverty.

Contact information

Email Carl: Carl.emery@manchester.ac.uk

Email Louisa: Louisa.dawes@manchester.ac.uk

Manchester Institute of Education

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