In this paper I reflect on the findings of a number of loosely related research projects undertaken with colleagues over the last ten years. Their common theme is equity, in formal education and beyond, in wider family and social settings, and with inequity expressed as the stratification of a variety of educational outcomes. The projects are based on a standard mixture of pre-existing records, official documents, large-scale surveys, observations, interviews and focus groups. The numeric data were largely used to create biographical models of educational experiences, and the in-depth data were used to try to explain individual decisions and disparities at each stage of the model. Data have been collected for England and Wales, in five other countries of the European Union and for Japan. A meta-view of these various findings suggests that national school intakes tend to be at least moderately segregated by prior attainment and socio-economic factors, and that learning outcomes as assessed by formal means, such as examinations, are heavily stratified by these same factors. There is no convincing evidence that compulsory schooling does very much to overcome the initial disparity in the resources and attainment of school intakes. On the other hand, there are indications that the nature of a national school system and the social experiences of young people in schools can begin to equalise educational outcomes as more widely envisaged, including learning to trust and willingness to help others, aspirations, and attitudes to continuing in education and training. The cost-free implications of the argument in this paper, if accepted, are that everything possible should be done to make school intakes comprehensive, and that explicit consideration, by teachers and leaders, of the applied principles of equity could reduce potentially harmful misunderstandings in educational contexts
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