Social justice has been part of the discussion within Scottish Parliament since it was established in 1999 with one of the first policy programmes focusing on social justice (‘Social Justice: A Scotland Where Everyone Matters -Scottish Executive, 1999). Social justice is concerned with socially marginalised groups and how society responds to this. Inclusion is education’s response to social justice and social justice can only be achieved through inclusive schools and teachers (Dyson, 1999).
A key feature of social justice is the provision of equal opportunities, where everyone is treated equally and considered on the same level. However, recognising every child as equal can see inequality being reproduced (Bourdieu and Passeron 2000). Accessibility of learning may be hindered if these different starting points were not acknowledged, making it privileged to certain children. Instead of treating every child the same, it is imperative to recognise the range of needs, abilities, circumstances, backgrounds and aspirations held by an individual and eliminate the barriers which hinder them from reaching their full potential. Individual differences are key influencing factors in deciding how to provide for children in the classroom and that some may require additional support to achieve.
Social justice recognises this and attempts to overcome issues of discrimination, emphasising that no child should be stigmatised because of their circumstances(allan essay). Inclusion goes beyond simply providing access into mainstream schools to all children, focusing instead on adapting current systems to allow for participation of every child, eliminating all forms of exclusion enabling everyone to achieve, develop and contribute, becoming valued members within the school community (Barton, 1998). The UN Convention of the Rights of the Child (1989) states that school based education should be accessible to everyone and this is echoed within Scottish education which has a history of equity of provision, where education is available to all. Equity in education is often viewed as equivalence however, a more insightful way to view equity is through the lens of ‘fairness’.
There are situations in which people view equal treatment and unequal treatment as fair. This suggests that, when it comes to equity, fairness precedes equality. In an equitable school, students’ special needs and unequal socioeconomic backgrounds are recognised and teaching and resources are distributed unequally in an attempt to counteract disadvantage, with equity being achieved by prioritising fairness over equality (Stamans, C, Sheskin, M & Bloom, P (2017). Why people prefer unequal societies. Nature Human Behaviour. Vol 1, Article No. 82) Social justice and equity are inter-linked concepts and are embedded in Scottish policy. Since the reopening of the Scottish Parliament the Government has produced various legislation, policies and initiatives with the aim to support more vulnerable groups in the population.