Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Education and poverty: mapping the terrain and making the links to educational policy

Raffo, Carlo; Dyson, Alan; Gunter, Helen; Hall, Dave; Jones, Lisa; Kalambouka, Afroditi


Carlo Raffo

Alan Dyson

Helen Gunter

Dave Hall

Afroditi Kalambouka


Although there is widespread agreement that poverty and poor educational outcomes are related, there are different explanations about why that should be the case. The purpose of this paper is to provide a conceptual synthesis of some of the research literature on poverty and education. From our readings the debates cohere, to a greater or lesser extent, around three different foci: ones that focus on the individual and that we have termed the ‘micro‐level’; some that focus on ‘immediate social contexts’ that might be located in families, communities, schools and peer groups and that we have termed the ‘meso‐level’; and others again that focus on social structures and/or are linked to notions of power and inequality and that we have termed the ‘macro‐level’. In addition, the various literatures highlight a fundamental difference in the way they understood the role of education in producing what we might call the ‘good society’ – and hence what counts as ‘good education’. These two broad positions we have termed as functionalist and socially critical perspectives and together with the micro‐, meso‐ and macro‐foci provide a mapping framework by which we organise the literature and through which we examine a number of educational policy interventions in England that have focused on educational outcomes and disadvantage/poverty. The analysis suggests that perhaps too much policy intervention focuses on the more accessible and amenable meso‐level (and to lesser extent the micro‐level) with too little emphasis on the macro‐level. At the same time many interventions appear disjointed, often lack coherence and seem to eschew issues of power. Different ways of responding to these apparent deficiencies are explored through current developments and potential in full service extended schools and through notions of democratic pedagogy and governance possibilities suggestive of the ‘new localism’ agenda.


Raffo, C., Dyson, A., Gunter, H., Hall, D., Jones, L., & Kalambouka, A. (2009). Education and poverty: mapping the terrain and making the links to educational policy. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 13(4), 341-358.

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Jun 17, 2009
Publication Date 2009-06
Journal International Journal of Inclusive Education
Print ISSN 1360-3116
Electronic ISSN 1464-5173
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 13
Issue 4
Pages 341-358
Keywords Poverty and education; Conceptual framework; Socially critical; Functional; Macro/meso/micro level of analysis; Educational policy
Public URL
Publisher URL