Using the concept of relational justice to apply fairness in schools


  • Karen Laing Newcastle University
  • Laura Mazzoli Smith Durham University
  • Liz Todd Newcastle University


social justice, fairness, relational justice, dialogic


This paper makes the case for fairness as a driver towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of equitable quality education. We outline a dialogic fairness framework attending to the principles of relational justice in both the service of reducing educational inequalities and improving democratic qualities. The prominence of education as a theme in Fairness Commissions from many UK municipal councils afforded the opportunity to find out if and how fairness could be considered a driver of change towards greater equality in education. Our work with the Newcastle Fairness Commission generated a number of principles of fairness and education, as well as a framework to help operationalize these principles in schools, that we detail in this paper. The framework that was generated was one that recognizes fairness as a form of relational justice arising from a dialogic approach. It was based on a process that used multi-stakeholder interviews and a roundtable inquiry. Views arising from the process interviews and roundtable discussion were consistent with other research into young people’s understandings of fairness and education. More research is needed to find out how fairness is understood and enacted by education stakeholders and how these conceptualizations, perspectives, and experiences might combine to improve educational equity and democratic qualities.






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