13 Nov 2023
Matt Bromley and Andy Griffith’s new book, The Working Classroom serves as a huge morally-driven call to arms. The whole book focuses on how we can support and change the lives of our most socially disadvantaged children. If you work in a school in a disadvantaged area or if you are considering working in such a school then this really is the book for you. If you are also hard-wired to change children’s lives for the better, then look no further.
The book is hugely compelling and engaging. The introduction goes straight for the jugular and actually leaves you feeling angry. Not angry in a ‘I hate the world’ sense. Angry in a ‘this isn’t right and we really must do something about it’ way. The book really taps into the inner moral purpose of why we do this job and why supporting working-class children is so important.
The Working Classroom is neatly packaged into three big sections. Each consists of several clear chapters that serve to underpin its overall messaging and narrative. The first section hones in on why secondary school currently doesn’t work for working-class children. Very timely, given the issues many schools are facing at present with attendance, safeguarding and behaviour.
Its real focus though is on curriculum. Bromley and Griffith identify curriculum design, curriculum assessment and the hidden curriculum as significant issues. Whether you agree or not, their points are clear and I guarantee they will make you think hard about the issue of classism.
The second section is an equally thought-provoking look at what we can do to support working-class students. There is a real focus on knowledge, be it disciplinary, cultural, personal or social. What I really like here is that Bromley and Griffith hone in on what I call the acquired knowledge effect.
Some children appear, because they always answer questions in class, to be brighter than their peers. However, this is a false proxy for intelligence. What it often signifies is where a child has more acquired knowledge than their counterparts because of the social, cultural and educational investment that their parents have put into them.
There is a distinct difference between a child who has visited lots of museums and cultural sites, been on trips abroad and is well-read versus a child who has not had these opportunities. With that in mind, what are we doing to support the latter? This section doesn’t offer many solutions, but it does get you to do what many educational books often fail to do: think!
The final section offers seven clear chapters that focus on the how. It invites the reader to really engage with how to tackle the issues identified earlier and it is where the book really comes into its own. Again unlike other educational titles, it provides an array of really practical approaches and considerations that you can apply as of tomorrow to your educational thinking and approaches.
The whole point behind this section is to help readers really consider how they can develop the potential of the children they teach. There is a real focus on how to arm our students with the knowledge domains that their more fortunate counterparts possess. Working full-time in a school myself, the one thing that I am conscious of when reading any educational book is the reality that time is a scarce resource. Bromley and Griffith really respect that and set out equip their readers with practical strategies and approaches that could otherwise take a lot longer to source and consider.
If you are looking for a book full of waffle, self-indulgence and verbose language, this is not the book for you. If, like me, you want a book that will really make you pause, think, reflect and arm you with practical approaches, it is money well spent.
Very few educational books have made me angry at the start and then filled me full of energy, drive and enthusiasm. The Working Classroom does that incredibly well. It is a genuine accomplishment.