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Disputed narratives and contested conversations: Bruner’s influence on the study of language development

Jerome Bruner made a profound contribution to our understanding of the process of education and to the development of curriculum theory. With his death last year at age 100, it is important to celebrate Bruner’s contribution to education and to research in Oxford’s Department of Education where he led an ESRC early years research programme in 1974-1978.

The memorial lecture will be given by Catherine Snow, the Patricia Albjerg Graham Professor of Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a former Dean of the School. Professor Snow is an expert on language and literacy development, focusing on how oral language skills are acquired and how they relate to literacy. The title of her lecture will be: Disputed narratives and contested conversations: Bruner’s influence on the study of language development.Professor Snow is currently working in partnership with the Boston Public Schools to improve literacy outcomes. Her work is a compelling example of how to bridge the theory-practice gap in ways that inform both sides of the divide. For this reason, her lecture will be a lively way to celebrate the educational work of Jerome Bruner.

The lecture will be held 5-6 pm in the Wolfson Lecture Theatre, followed by a drinks reception and a celebratory supper.


5-6pm The Oxford Education Society 7th Annual Lecture delivered by Professor Catherine Snow, Patricia Albjerg Graham Professor of Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education in the Leonard Wolfson Lecture Theatre.
6-6.45pm Drinks reception in the Cafe area.
7-8.30pm Celebratory sit-down supper in The Hall or the Haldane room (depending on numbers).


Annual Lecture and Drinks Reception: no cost, but registration required. (Please note that there will be a limited number of free tickets for the Annual Lecture/Drinks Reception as we need to make sure that those attending the celebratory supper will also be able to attend the lecture).
Celebratory supper (including sit-down supper, wine and soft drinks): £28.00

‘What are universities for?’

Keri Facer is Professor of Educational and Social Futures at the University of Bristol, UK.

Her work is concerned with understanding the future role of universities and schools in the context of environmental, economic and technological disruptions. Since 2012 she has been Leadership Fellow for the UK Research Council’s ‘Connected Communities’ Programme, a unique £30m + experiment in bringing together academics and civil society groups to share expertise and knowledge in areas ranging from health and wellbeing to sustainability and cultural heritage. This programme comprises over 300 projects across the UK and is a global flagship for critical and reflexive collaborative research activity.

Prior to this, she was Research Director at Futurelab, and led the Beyond Current Horizons project for the Department for Children, Schools and Families. In recent years, her focus has shifted away from technologies toward a particular concern with the ways we imagine the future, and the alternative futures that might be envisaged and used as a resource for creativity and social change. In this area she has been working with UNESCO amongst others, to encourage the exploration of the role of universities as a social resource for anticipatory practices in conditions of uncertainty. Her recent books include Learning Futures(2011) and Towards a Critical Politics of Education and Technology(2013).

‘Theories of potential and the creation of inequality in education’

Danny Dorling joined the School of Geography and the Environment in September 2013 to take up the Halford Mackinder Professorship in Geography. He was previously a professor of Geography at the University of Sheffield. He has also worked in Newcastle, Bristol, Leeds and New Zealand, went to university in Newcastle upon Tyne, and to school in Oxford.

Much of Danny’s work is available open access (see With a group of colleagues he helped create the website which shows who has most and least in the world. His work concerns issues of housing, health, employment, education, wealth and poverty. His recent books include, co-authored texts The Atlas of the Real World: Mapping the way we live and Bankrupt Britain: An atlas of social change.

Recent sole authored books include, Injustice: Why social inequalities persist in 2010; So you think you know about Britain and Fair Play, both in 2011; in 2012 The No-nonsense Guide to EqualityThe Visualization of Social Spatial Structure and The Population of the UKUnequal HealthThe 32 Stops and Population Ten Billion in 2013; and All That is Solid in 2014.

Before a career in academia Danny was employed as a play-worker in children’s play-schemes and in pre-school education where the underlying rationale was that playing is learning for living. He tries not to forget this. He is an Academician of the Academy of the Learned Societies in the Social Sciences, Honorary President of the Society of Cartographers and a patron of Roadpeace, the national charity for road crash victims.

This event is generously supported by the Oxford Review of Education.

The lecture will be followed by the customary drinks reception at the Department of Education.


‘Higher Education: commodity or common good?’

Higher education changes lives and has huge benefits for all who experience it; in this sense it is a private good. But higher education is more than that – it is also a public good, a common good, which enriches the lives of the nation and everyone in it. But if it is a common good, do we currently have the right funding model to support it?
In this talk Baroness Kennedy will argue that there is now a consensus that the supposedly sustainable funding model imposed on higher education two years ago is already proving unsustainable; the raising of fees has not worked, and there are now many people unable to repay loans. The reason is that the assumptions on which this funding model was based are unsound. No robust theoretical justification for the model has ever been provided, nor has any sizeable body of empirical evidence been produced to support it.

In these circumstances she will argue that we now have to look again at the system of higher education funding and decide whether the education of our young is a priority for our society or not. If it is, she will argue, it needs our investment. As a common good, as a public good, higher education needs to be supported from the public purse.

Helena Kennedy has been the Principal of Mansfield College, Oxford since 2011. Earlier appointments include being president of the School of Oriental and African Studies at London University from 2002 and the first Chancellor of Oxford Brookes University from1994. In 1995, she was a member of National Commission on Education and chaired a committee that looked at further education. She is currently the president of a small foundation that provides bursaries for disadvantaged students moving from further education into higher education, and is interested in the role of further education in providing a second chance for people to enter higher education.

The third annual Annual Oxford Education Society lecture will be delivered by Reeta Chakrabarti on 20th September 2013 in the Simpkins Lee Lecture Theatre at Lady Margaret Hall.

Reeta will look at changes in education policy under the Coalition government and the challenges of reporting them.

The speaker will be introduced by Professor Richard Pring, incoming President of the Oxford Education Society. Richard was previously Director of the Department of Education and is currently Senior Research Fellow in the department.

About the speaker

Reeta Chakrabarti has spent many years in broadcast news. Before her present role as Education and Social Affairs Correspondent at the BBC, she was a Political Correspondent based at Westminster. Prior to that she reported on Community Affairs, Home Affairs, and Health. She has also been a presenter on the BBC News Channel, BBC World, and Radio 4’s The World Tonight. She has a degree in English and French from Exeter College, Oxford.

The second annual Oxford Education Society Lecture will be delivered by Sir Peter Lampl on Friday 14th September 2012 in the Simpkins Lee Lecture Theatre, Lady Margaret Hall.

An enthusiastic audience – consisting of OES members, staff and students of the Department of Education as well as Oxford alumni visiting for the Annual Alumni Weekend – was welcomed by Professor Anne Edwards, Director of the Department of Education, to hear Sir Peter talk about why he set up the Sutton Trust, discussing the Trust’s key research and findings and major projects.

He talked about the Education Endowment Foundation which was established to improve the performance of children on free school meals in the country’s lowest performing schools and went on to outline the future direction of the Sutton Trust and the Education Endowment Foundation and his thoughts on improving social mobility in the UK.

Sir Peter and Lady Susan Lampl joined the audience after the lecture at a Drinks Reception held in the Department of Education.

A video and an audio recording of the lecture can be accessed on the University of Oxford’s Alumni Weekend Podcasts site.

About Sir Peter Lampl

Sir Peter Lampl is acknowledged to be the UK’s leading educational philanthropist, having personally invested tens of millions of pounds and devoted the last 15 years to strategic educational philanthropy.

Peter is the founder and chairman of the Sutton Trust which aims to improve social mobility through education. The Trust has funded over 100 research studies in the areas of social mobility and education but it is primarily a ‘do tank’. The Trust has initiated and supported a wide range of projects, from early years, through primary and secondary schooling and access to higher education and the professions. The most promising of these have been thoroughly evaluated and as appropriate scaled up with Government or private funding.

In April of 2011, in competition with 15 other charities, the Sutton Trust as the lead charity supported by Impetus Trust was awarded an endowment of £125 million by the Government to improve the performance of poor children in the worst performing schools. Peter is chairman of the Education Endowment Foundation, the new foundation set up by the Sutton Trust to manage this programme. The Foundation intends to spend over £200 million over the next 15 years, made up of the original endowment of £125 million, plus income from the endowment and fundraising.

Before establishing the Sutton Trust, Peter was the founder and chairman of the Sutton Company, a Private Equity firm with offices in New York, London and Munich and became one of the 200 wealthiest people in the UK.

Peter holds a Bachelor and a Masters degree from Oxford University and a Masters degree from the London Business School.

Was there ever a golden age? What really has happened to state education in the last fifty years and what will the present reforms, promoted by the coalition government, lead to? Is it ever possible to combine the ‘autonomy’ ‘choice’ and ‘diversity’ beloved by all politicians with the ‘equity’ and ‘equality’ at first espoused by the left and now accepted by the coalition? And what is the impact of ‘accountability’ through OFSTED and league tables on schools? What of the universities now and in the future?

About the speaker
Professor Sir Tim Brighouse has spent his entire career working in education. Most recently he has served as London Schools Commissioner, working to improve education in the Capital. Before that his career started in the classroom and has taken in the role or Professor of Education at Keele University, as well as Chief Education Officer in both Oxfordshire and Birmingham Local Authorities.

Download a transcript of the event here