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A young child puts soil in small plant pots wit their hands, helped an adult, who sits in the background. They both wear checked shirts.

Keep Scotland Beautiful launches Pocket Garden Design Competition for nursery and school pupils

Posted 16.01.24 by Alice Hinds

Children across Scotland are being encouraged to take inspiration from “nature’s engineers” as Keep Scotland Beautiful launches the annual Pocket Garden Design Competition.

Held in partnership with the Garden for Life Forum (click here for more), the charity is inviting nursery and school pupils aged three to 18 to design a miniature pocket-sized garden, which includes food for people, something reusable, and items that are good for protecting wildlife.

With the competition aiming to help children better understand the link between sustainability and natural engineering, from bee hives to bird nests, the environmental charity says the new theme of “nature’s engineers” will shine a light on the incredible homes that animals build, reinforcing their role in creating whole ecosystems, and highlighting how modern green technology can be inspired by the natural world.

Open for submissions until Friday 23 February 2024, designers of the best entries will be invited to build and grow their garden at school, with the finished project then filmed or photographed for use in an online interactive garden, which will be launched in June. Members of the public will then be able to vote for their favourite garden.

White text on a blue background saying Pocket Garden Design Competition above an image of garden items including a shovel, watering can and a pair of wellies

Eve Keepax, Education and Learning Officer at Keep Scotland Beautiful, said: “We’re pleased to announce our ninth Pocket Garden Design Competition with its new theme. Nature’s engineers are amazing and we’re excited to see how this theme inspires pupils’ imaginations.

“Schools tell us that their pupils love taking part in this competition and it’s a great way to bring learning for sustainability alive. It’s also a great way for pupils to learn about how they can be part of making Scotland a nature positive place whether they’re interested in bees, beavers, birds or buildings.”

Last year, Keep Scotland Beautiful (click here for more) received almost 200 entries to the competition, and 42 finalists saw their designs included in the digital showcase.

Educators considering taking part in this year’s competition are invited to come along to a Meet the Mentors twilight session on 17 January to find out more. Click here to register

For more information and inspiration from past competition entries, click here to visit the Keep Scotland Beautiful website:

A small child dressed in school uniform is pictured holding a red backpack. They are wearing a grey pleated skirt, grey socks and black shoes, with only their legs and hands shown in the frame.

New resources launched for teachers, parents and carers to help support attendance as schools return

Posted 17.08.23 by Alice Hinds

Teachers, families, parents and carers can now access a range of free resources to support children and young people to “be inspired, be involved and be in school” as they return to lessons after the summer holidays.

Created by the Forth Valley & West Lothian Regional Improvement Collaborative (RIC), as part of a new back to school campaign, the Interactive Attendance Guide provides research, information and advice on truancy, bullying, avoidance and anxiety, as well as many more common issues relating to school attendance, which experts say has been in decline since the pandemic.

With more than 100,000 Scottish schoolchildren missing at least one day of lessons every fortnight, according to recent figures from the Commission on School Reform (click here for more), it is hoped the new guide will remove barriers and help to improve both attendance and attainment.

The organisation (click here for more), which aims to improve opportunities and outcomes for children living in the Clackmannanshire, Falkirk, Stirling and West Lothian council areas, say the resources aren’t just about books and tests, but ensuring young Scots develop social skills, learn routines and build friendships for life, too.

As part of their mission to improve attendance, the organisation also recently held a “soundbites” competition, which saw eight school children record voiceover adverts at the Forth One radio studios, while a further poster contest for pupils will be launched soon.

For more information and to access the resources, click here to visit the Interactive Attendance Guide landing page:

A woman wearing a large rucksack and holding a cardboard sign with a whale painted on it. She is standing up to her waist in the sea and has a concerned expression

News: Climate-conscious theatre performance tours Scottish schools

Posted 22 February, 2023 by Nina Joynson. Photo credit: Andrew Perry

Activism and the climate crisis is the focus of 'Maya and The Whale', a new theatre production touring Scottish schools in February and March.

Aimed at upper primary and lower secondary classes, Maya and The Whale follows a young climate activist who comes face-to-face with a dying whale.

Creator Hazel Darwin-Clements plays Maya the teenage activist while the school audience takes on the role of the whale, creating an interactive experience for pupils. 

First shared during COP26, the play is a response to the youth climate strikes and explores activism and the climate crisis as experienced by young people. 

The creators are also providing schools with learning resources and contacts for local projects to encourage them to continue discussions on and engagement with climate resilience after the performance. 

The play is suitable for P6-7 and S1-2 and performances are taking place in Edinburgh, Glasgow and the Lothians until Friday 3 March, before the show tours more widely across Scotland until the end of March.

Produced by Theatre in Schools Scotland – the schools touring project managed by National Theatre of Scotland and Imaginate, the show is created and performed by Hazel Darwin-Clements with live music from Nik Paget-Tomlinson.

Climate-minded touring

The climate crisis is a central theme of Hazel Darwin-Clements' work, prompting her to develop a more sustainable way of touring her theatre performances.

All props and costumes for the show have been borrowed or bought second-hand with consideration of ethical supply chains and product longevity.

The performer and accompanying musician are also travelling to schools exclusively by e-bike and public transport, and the play was written to be performed without a stage set or lighting so that time usually spent in set-up can be given to longer travel times, and equipment doesn't need transportation.

Everything for the performance is small and light enough to fit in bike panniers or a backpack.

The company is also booking dates in Scotland with travel and distance in mind, to reduce the tour's carbon impact.

Early reviews

Having started its tour on Monday, Corstorphine Primary School in Edinburgh has been one of the first to see Maya and the Whale.

"I thought it was amazing how the actor told the story using all the different characters!", one P5 pupil said.

While Tanya McLaughlin, a teacher at the school, said:

"The show deepens the impact of the curriculum and the children's learning about climate change and its impact on the world in an engaging, entertaining way.

"It captured the imagination of all the children and allowed them to access their learning out of the classroom."

Click here to learn more about Maya and the Whale


A computer screen with a coding programme open. In front of that is a laptop, with a woman's hand and arm in shot, pointing at something on its screen

News: Pupils encouraged to learn digital technologies with new funding

Posted 8 February, 2023 by Nina Joynson

Applications are open for a digital fund that supports tech initiatives which enhance the development of young people's digital skills.

Now in its eighth year, the Digital Xtra Fund has opened applications for schools and organisations looking to access funding towards extracurricular digital skills education.

Improving digital skills

Launched in 2016, the fund has so far secured almost £1 million to deliver coding and tech clubs and initiatives across Scotland.

The fund was established to increase the number of young people who study tech-related disciplines and further tech careers by encouraging Scottish pupils to learn digital and computing skills.

In the 2022/23 round, the Digital Xtra Fund is supporting 45 initiatives across 24 local authorities, and projects that more than 7,400 young people will be engaged, including a 50% take-up by girls and young women.

Rebecca Court, Head of Marketing at Incremental Group (one of the fund's industry backers) said:

“The Digital Xtra Fund undertakes such important work across Scotland. The team’s commitment to addressing the alarming digital skills gap while also focusing on increasing diversity and inclusivity in the tech sector, a sector where women continue to be underrepresented, is key to everyone’s future success. 

It is vital the corporate sector and government recognise that when we support grassroots initiatives, especially for young people, it is a win-win for communities, industry, and Scotland as a whole.”

Industry support

The fund receives support from donations, sponsorship and grants, and distributes these funds to eligible organisations that advance the use of digital and computing science education in Scotland.

It is currently in negotiations with several companies to increase the level of funding awarded. The Scottish Government has also pledged to match industry support.

The cost of living crisis and economic downturn has put a strain on charities and organisations that support the Fund, and now Kraig Brown, the Fund's Parternship and Development Manager, has called for new partners to invest, especially those in the corporate sector.

Currently, Baillie Gifford, J.P. Morgan, Accenture, ScotlandIS, Skyscanner, and Incremental Group are on board as industry sponsors, amongst others.

Click here to learn more about applying for the 2023-24 grant

Photo. A child of preschool age with a black jacket, blue bag and green cap stands looking at a nursery notice board. The picture is taken from behind.

News: Young people to face impact of school strikes planned for September

Posted 23 August, 2022 by Jennifer Drummond

Children and young people in nine local authority areas are likely to be affected by strike action planned for next month.

The action has been confirmed by Scotland’s largest local government union amid ongoing pay disputes.

The union, UNISON, has said school and early years staff in Aberdeenshire, Clackmannanshire, East Renfrewshire, Glasgow, Inverclyde, Orkney, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire and Stirling are preparing to walk out for three days in September.

Staff from schools, early years centres and nurseries will join council colleagues from waste and recycling centres on strike for three days from 6-8 September. It is understood teaching staff will continue to work.

Coming just weeks into the new school year, the action is believed to be the largest strike action among council workers since the Trade Union Act was introduced in 2016.

It comes after talks with COSLA, the local government body, failed to reach an agreement over pay and as the Bank of England predicts inflation to rise to more than 13% over the next few months.

Commenting on the ongoing discussions, Johanna Baxter, Unison Scotland’s Head of Local Government, said:

“We are in urgent negotiations with the employer to try and find a solution, but so far we have only had an offer of talks – we have not had a pay offer.

“Until we can explain to UNISON members how a pay offer might impact on them, council workers have been left with no choice but to strike.”

Following further talks with COSLA today (Tuesday 23 August) Ms Baxter confirmed there had been “no breakthrough” with both parties now calling on the Deputy First Minister to put additional funding in place for local authorities in order for talks to continue.

Update from the Editor, 2 Sept: A fresh pay offer has been tabled for council workers. GMB, Unison and Unite have all agreed to suspend strike action until their members have had a chance to vote on the new offer. 

Two hands holding a smart phone, the person is out of focus looking at the screen

News: Student helpline set to open as Scottish results day looms

Posted 27 July, 2022 by Nina Joynson

With thousands of young people soon to receive SQA exam results, Skills Development Scotland is opening its careers helpline to support students in deciding what to do next.

More than 140,000 pupils in Scotland are set to receive their National, Higher and Advanced Higher results on Tuesday 9 August 2022.

Those pupils, along with their parents and carers, are being offered support with results through the dedicated helpline established to offer impartial careers advice.

Created by Skills Development Scotland (SDS), the helpline is marking its 30th anniversary of helping students over the phone this year.

The helpline – 0808 100 8000 – will be live from 8am on results day to assist anyone who needs support on their next steps.

Staffed by more than 50 careers advisors, pupils can get advice on colleges and universities, Confirmation and Clearing, apprenticeships, jobs and volunteering options.

The helpline aims to curb anxieties that many students face after receiving their results. After calling in 2021, one pupil noted that:

“This was just incredible. I went from worrying and panicking about what my next step would be and all my doubts were cleared plus more, thank you very much for that.”

Sharon McIntyre, Head of Career Information, Advice and Guidance Operations at SDS, said:

“We know that receiving results has been a very different experience for young people and their families over the last couple of years, and although a sense of normality prevails, there is still a lot of anxiety and uncertainty at this time for pupils, parents and carers.

“It’s important to reassure people that whatever their results are, our advisers are there to provide support and expert advice on their many options, no matter where you are in Scotland.”

The helpline will be open until Thursday 17 August, after which time students and their parents or carers are urged to visit their local SDS centre, visit the My World of Work website (link below), or speak directly to a school advisor.

Click here to find support from My World of Work

A black and white image of a man from the enck up. He is smiling, has dark hair and is wearing glasses.

Q&A with James McEnaney: Scottish schools and the attainment gap

Posted 1 February 2022, by Jennifer Drummond

Ahead of his webinar for Children in Scotland, former teacher, journalist and author James McEnaney (pictured) spoke to Nina Joynson about the attainment gap and the impact of Covid-19 on education

In your latest book, Class Rules, you argue that 'closing the attainment gap' is little more than a slogan. Is specific change possible here, or is it about addressing wider issues?

It is little more than a slogan, certainly as far as the government has been concerned. Even on its own terms (and using data designed to make the government look as good as possible), there has been almost no progress whatsoever in closing the gaps in recent years.

The problem is that genuinely closing the attainment gap would mean taking radical action to address social inequality, but that’s hard. On the other hand, making promises you’re never going to keep is actually very easy.

We're now into a third academic year affected by Covid-19. Has the pandemic changed discussions of the attainment gap?

Yes and no. The 2020 results scandal in particular highlighted the long-standing issues with the exam system and gave us a really powerful insight into some of the ways in which our policy decisions exacerbate rather than mitigate the gaps between rich and poor. That sparked all sorts of brilliant discussions around how the exam system could be completely reformed to make it not just fairer, but also more reliable.

There’s no escaping the fact that poverty and deprivation will affect educational outcomes but that doesn’t mean that the system is powerless and, as a result, it is in fact possible to make things better. Unfortunately, the powers that be seem desperate to shut down these sorts of discussions and force us all back to their cosy status quo, which I believe would be a betrayal.

The attainment gap is a huge topic. What's the focus of the webinar going to be?

The session will be asking what we really mean by ‘the attainment gap’, how we define it, and whether all the rhetoric around ‘closing the gap’ is even possible.

We’ll consider the existing data on attainment gaps – such as Achievement of Curriculum for Excellence Levels (ACEL), exam results and positive destinations – what we have learned over the last couple of years (especially the 2020 results scandal) and ask to what extent schools are actually able to close gaps driven by powerful socio-economic factors, rather than educational failings.

Who would benefit from attending and taking part in this webinar?

I think anyone whose work involves the educational impacts of poverty and deprivation can benefit from understanding the scale and definitions of the ‘attainment gap’, as well as the limits of what schools can do to tackle it.

I often hear from such people that the narrative of the last few years has left them feeling like they are not doing enough or are letting young people down and that worries me.

We need a much more realistic view of what individuals and organisations can really do, and a discussion of how we might be able to work together to push the structural and systemic changes that are actually necessary.

Interview by Nina Joynson

Click here to read more about Class Rules: The Truth About Scottish Schools (Luath Press, 2021).

A full version of this interview first appeared in the Children in Scotland Learning Guide (Issue 2), published in January 2022. Click here to view and download the Guide.  

Teacher in class room with school pupils raising their hands.

News: High absence levels and continued ventilation issues as term starts

Posted 11 January, 2022 by Nina Joynson

As children return to classrooms, schools are experiencing high levels of teacher and pupil absences while trying to handle ventilation responsibilities.

Following a festive season of record-breaking numbers of coronavirus cases, councils are facing increased levels of Covid-related staff and pupil absences.

Amongst the highest was Aberdeen City Council, which reported 222 teacher absences at the end of the first week back to school, representing 6% of teachers in the area. Figures were similar elsewhere with data from West Lothian Council suggesting approximately 5% of the teaching workforce is off for Covid-related reasons.

Return to remote learning

While many schools across Scotland have returned from the holidays to in-person teaching, a number have had to utilise remote learning in some capacity due to the high level of staff absent.

Local authorities across Scotland, including Aberdeenshire, Clackmannanshire, East Ayrshire, East Lothian, Falkirk and Highland each reported having at least one school that had to operate remote learning for one or multiple year groups.

Self isolation period reduced

In an update to Parliament last week regarding the reduction of the self-isolation period from 10 to 7 days, Nicola Sturgeon said that “our priority is to keep schools open and to minimise further disruption to education”.

She also promised the Government’s coordination with councils “to ensure the guidance issued before Christmas is followed to keep schools not just open but as safe as possible.”

Ventilation concerns

In an ongoing and long-running debate about the air quality in classrooms, teachers have been instructed to make their own judgement on ventilation during the winter months, balancing pupil comfort with necessary air circulation - advice which has not been well-received by the teaching community.

Scottish Teachers for Positive Change and Wellbeing, a community group founded in 2020, has criticised the approach, arguing that no changes have been made to improve ventilation despite the issue first being identified in May 2020.

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament today, Nicola Sturgeon announced additional funding for local authorities, with £5 million made available to support any remedial work that councils need to do to increase airflow in learning environments. This comes in addition to previous funding for the provision of carbon dioxide monitors in classrooms.

Third sector services 'must mobilise' to give children and communities support in the fight against Covid-19

20 March 2020

Children in Scotland has responded to yesterday’s statement by the Cabinet Secretary for Education (click to read), John Swinney, on schooling and childcare in Scotland during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Our Chief Executive Jackie Brock said:

“We welcome the statement from the Cabinet Secretary for Education and in particular its repeated emphasis on the need for immediate proactive support for vulnerable children and families. This is we hope a reflection of a shared societal view and sense of priority across Scotland and the UK prompted by the Covid-19 crisis.

Linking help for families with human rights

“While the proposal of vouchers for families currently in receipt of free school meals is an understandable response, alongside Child Poverty Action Group and others organisations who wrote to the First Minister on Wednesday, we believe a cash payment in lieu of free school meals would be more appropriate, avoiding stigma and respecting human rights.

“We are encouraged by the pledge that schools will be used as hubs for the different services that can provide support to the priority groups of young people children and families reliant on free school meals; learners most dependent on educational continuity; and children whose parents are key workers. This will encompass active schools co-ordinators as well as teachers.

“The Food, Families, Futures programme which we have run in partnership since 2016 has provided valuable, relevant learning about how schools can be highly effective hubs for consolidating services and support.

Meeting the challenge on childcare

“Changes in childcare as a consequence of Covid-19 represent a massive challenge for children, families and services. In this incredibly fast-moving situation there is understandably uncertainty about what and where childcare will be provided. We are seeking greater clarity for children and families as soon as it can be provided."

“Core consideration of vulnerable families and key workers is right and proper, but many other families will face a very difficult challenge of meeting needs. As the Resolution Foundation (click to visit) has said, only around one in 10 of the bottom half of earners can feasibly work from home. In this light, the support available for families and employers in these circumstances needs to be very carefully considered.

“In terms of supporting ongoing childcare services, any identification of vulnerable children must be non-stigmatising, and the community support model will need to operate with a fundamental understanding of this.

“Support for the role of the third and private sector childcare providers will be absolutely crucial as this is an especially vulnerable time for them.

Additional Support Needs: local action and continuity vital

“We welcome acknowledgment of the fact that the impacts of Covid-19 are particularly unsettling for children and young people with additional support needs. This now needs to translate into local action, with continuity for children with ASN essential.

“Flexibility on schools opening during the summer holiday period will be helpful in supporting transitions.

“The Cabinet Secretary made the point that practitioners know their children well and we fully support this focus. Practitioners must have the autonomy and resources to respond to individual needs for as long as schools and communities are affected by the virus.

“We agree that Education Scotland plays a key role in providing support and guidance to schools at this time and to parents through Parentzone. Their role and support must be explicit and consistent for all.

Valuing children’s participation and voices

“The Cabinet Secretary’s focus on engaging with partners around giving good quality information to children and young people was also very welcome and must be a priority. But we can take this further and make part of our effort asking children and young people what guidance and information they want to see through direct consultation with them.

Our role and offer

“We should remember that the safety nets being removed as a result of this virus are not just financial. The challenge will be how quickly and efficiently we can mobilise third sector services to give support. The sector can play a critical role in supporting children and young people, which is why we welcome the community hub approach highlighted by the Cabinet Secretary.

“However, this approach must build on existing local effective community hubs or fill gaps where these are not available. These hubs must be inclusive, offering dignified, non-stigmatising provision and be developed across a partnership of local communities, voluntary and statutory sectors.

“We should be looking at the local assets, resources and learning that we can help to marshal, and the powerful networks, relationships and sense of solidarity that exists in our communities.

“We want to support the wider education workforce as they adjust to new ways of working, and help ensure that children and young people’s voices and perspectives are included in this changed landscape.

“As an organisation that represents the children’s sector with convening power to bring organisations and interests together and forge partnerships at a local level, we have a role to play and stand ready to help.”

Click here to read the Cabinet Secretary's statement in full

Letter to the First Minister: Covid-19

We were a signatory to the CPAG-led letter about support for families

Click to read the letter

Covid-19: impact on our work

A statement about our status in relation to the COVID-19 virus (updated 17 March)

Click to read our statement

Food, Families, Futures

Our project challenging food povertyhas been working in communities since 2016

Click to find out more

“There is so much more bullying in schools in more unequal societies. But why?”

12 December 2018

As part of our 25 Calls campaign we spoke to Professor Richard  Wilkinson, co-author of the groundbreaking book The Spirit Level and its 2018 follow-up The Inner Level. In part three of our interview, he discusses the effect inequality has on cultures of bullying, and the importance of positive social relationships for bolstering emotional and physical health

Children in Scotland: There’s evidence that in schools where the young people have been allowed to lead on the anti-bullying strategies, and there’s very strong effective leadership from the Head, and a values-driven culture in the school, that there’s less bullying. Do you feel there are examples like this we should pursue and highlight which could counteract what you’re describing?

Richard Wilkinson: Well, I do think first it’s very clear from several studies that there is enormously more bullying in schools in more unequal societies. There’s a close relationship between inequality and the frequency of bullying. There’s 10 or 12 times as much bullying in schools in more unequal societies [Elgar FJ. et al. School bullying, homicide and income inequality. International Journal of Public Health 58, 237-245, 2013]. But I do think you can protect children from it by creating a different social environment in the school where children then learn to adopt other strategies which are less damaging, and cause less misery and conflict. But if you think of monkey dominance hierarchies, they are bullying hierarchies – bullying behaviour is about ranking, not necessarily by money but by any means possible to put other people down to build yourself up, and to use whatever strategy seems appropriate in the setting.

CiS: What ways do you think we have to counteract the stress caused by social comparison before we’re able to produce the mass movement that you were talking about? One could argue that the popularity of mindfulness for example, which is basically a repackaging of meditation, might account for more and more people looking for ways of escaping that kind of stress.

RW: Well, we wrote our most recent book, The Inner Level, partly because I think how people are most intimately affected by inequality is through the way it increases all those self-doubts and anxieties, that sense of awkwardness in social meetings, our worries about how you’re seen and judged. And, of course, they serve to separate us from each other. Because it makes social contact more stressful, we withdraw from it.

But as studies of health and happiness show, to be able to enjoy good quality social relationships and to be involved with friends, family and community is essential to human wellbeing. The quality of social relationships, people’s involvement with each other, has been shown repeatedly to be crucial determinants of both health and happiness.

I think an important first step is maybe to start admitting to each other that we all have those social anxieties, so they cease to be so divisive, hidden like a guilty secret, and become something shared. Most people treat their social anxieties as if they were a private psychological weakness. Rather than show weakness, we put up a pretence that we’re confident and don’t have these self-doubts. Maybe we could get nearer a social movement with deeper roots by overcoming the divisiveness of those anxieties and realising that we all share them. But that needs to be coupled with a recognition of the things like inequality that increase these problems. Only then will we be able to act together really effectively. Rather than things like Facebook being used as a narcissistic self-presentation, I hope we’ll get a new trend in Facebook where people are open about how stressful and difficult life can be. We must learn to see through the smiling faces saying that life is wonderful which we put on. We need to share the reality and start to get to grips with it.

To recognise that whether we go in for narcissistically bigging ourselves up or whether we withdraw from social life and become depressed, both are responses to the same kind of anxieties about how we are seen and judged. We must recognise that that’s part of our common humanity that should unite us rather than separate us, and can be reduced by reducing inequality.

CiS: Research seems to suggest that young women’s mental health becomes poorer in many cases in teenage years. Do you think that’s about social comparison at that point in their lives becoming intensified?

RW: Yes I think it’s that social comparisons become more acute in your teens. For teenagers, whether or not you have a boyfriend or girlfriend becomes a real influence on self-esteem. For some it’s absolutely central to self-esteem. The breakup of a relationship is pretty appalling for anyone, but for many people, particularly young people, their whole sense of self-worth is dependent on feeling appreciated by a partner. So much is focused on that that, it puts a huge burden on those relationships, and shows the need for other sources of esteem to do with feeling more confident about how one’s seen and judged and one’s abilities.
CiS: How would you explain the concept of social capital to an audience who don’t know about it?

RW: The concept of social capital involves social connections. Whether people are able to come together as a community and do things together in our common interest, or whether the public arena is something to be exploited for your own benefit. It includes involvement in community life, neighbourliness, public-spiritedness, a sense of public service, all those things. But that embeddedness in community life with each other, with social purposes, is enormously beneficial to us as individuals. A society that is really atomised, in which we have so little to do with each other, is damaging to us. We no longer get that sense of self-worth, of self-realisation, through our activity and relation to others. But you see so clearly in the data that each step rise in inequality leads to lower levels of trust, weaker community life. There are even studies that show that people are less willing to help each other in more unequal societies, less willing to help the elderly, the disabled, and so on. And of course you also get the very well established rises in violence, as measured by homicide rates, that go with greater inequality.

Moving from societies where there is a good deal of reciprocity and people are willing to help each other, through to societies in which trust breaks down, community life weakens and violence increases, represents the continuum from a good society to an antisocial, atomised kind of society. And if you look at the most unequal societies like South Africa or Mexico where income differences are much bigger than in societies like the United States or Britain you see that people are actually afraid of each other. There are bars on windows and doors, razor wire around people’s yards and so on. They are more likely to have a gun culture, because you feel you have to defend yourself. Research even shows that the proportion of the labour force involved in what is called guard labour – security staff, police, prison staff – goes up with inequality because those are the people who we use to protect ourselves from each other. It’s just an appalling picture of how fundamentally destructive inequality is of the social relationships which we are all psychologically dependant on.

Click here to read part one of the interview

Click here to read part two of the interview

Click here to read part four of the interview 

Richard Wilkinson is Professor Emeritus of Social Epidemiology at the University of Nottingham, Honorary Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health at University College London and Visiting Professor at University of York. He co-founded The Equality Trust with Kate Pickett.

The Inner Level is published by Penguin.

Interview by Chris Small. Edited by Morgaine Das Varma.

About the interviewee

Co-author of 'The Spirit Level', Richard Wilkinson is a world renowned expert on inequality

Click to find out more

25 Calls

We spoke to Professor Wilkinson as part of our 25 Calls campaign

Click to find out more

Read part 1 of the intrerview

"To challenge inequality, we need a mass movement"

Click here to read the Q&A

Read part 2 of the interview

"We use social media more antisocially than we would in an egalitarian society”

Click to read the Q&A