Giving Up the Ghosts

‘Song Lines to Impact and Legacy: Creating Living Knowledge through Working with Social Haunting’, funded by the AHRC Connected Communities programme, has brought together a team of artists, academics and community partners, including Manchester Metropolitan University, Unite Community, the Co-operative College and folk musicians Ribbon Road.

The project has used the idea of a ‘social haunting’ and a range of arts methods to inquire into how difficult feelings, carried into community life from contested pasts, can be harnessed as energies for benevolent and productive change. Based on community workshops run across the north of England, musicians Ribbon Road have created an original song/image piece.

To celebrate the end of the project, you are welcome to join us at the New Vic Theatre in Newcastle-under-Lyme on Monday 27th November from 6.00pm where Ribbon Road will performing the songs created for the project. This is a free event, but please email or phone 0161 247 5104 to reserve a ticket.

21st Century Man (ESRC Festival of Social Science)

This unique, one-day inter-disciplinary conference will explore the challenges and complexities facing men in the 21stcentury. The topics debated will cover a range of themes on everything from hidden male voices to male childlessness; from youth loneliness and belonging to male victims of honour-based violence.

Colleagues from across Manchester Metropolitan University will showcase their research and invite debate and discussion from a guest panel of experts and an audience of experts from across the fields of health, law, education and society as a whole.


12.00pm – Registration and lunch

12.45pm – Event Starts with introduction from Dr Jenny Fisher

1.00pm – Panel debate chaired by Dr Michael Carroll with guest speakers:

  • Dr Kellie Payne – Research and Policy Manager, Campaign to End Loneliness
  • Ally Fogg – Writer, journalist and a co-founder of the Men and Boys Coalition
  • Professor Steve Robertson – Emeritus Professor, Leeds Beckett University
  • Rani Bilkhu – Founder of Jeena Charity

2.00pm – Banter in spaces of care and truce // Dr James Duggan, Research Fellow, School of Childhood, Youth and Education Studies, Faculty of Education; and Brian McShane (Goldsmith’s College)

This session explores the challenges and tensions in conducting research and practicing youth work with young men at the interstices between cultures of care and research, and forms of masculinity and difference. The talk aims to explore banter as a relation and the ontological positions of this. We consider the different ways speech acts operate based on group contexts and the ways that banter reaffirms but also refigure hierarchies of belonging

2.30pm – ‘How is a man supposed to be a man’ // Dr Robin Hadley, Research Associate, Research Institute for Health and Social Change

This session is draws on Robin’s autobiographical research studies on childless men who wanted to be a father. Childless men are invisible in statistics and their experiences are absent from most literature. This presentation draws on interviews with men who wanted to be a ‘Dad’ and will show how the impact of not becoming a father lasts across the life course and has serious implications for mental and physical wellbeing, economically and socially.

3.00pm – Break

3.15pm – ‘Sperm function and fertility’ // Dr Michael Carroll, School of Healthcare Science

Research over the past 15 years suggest that sperm quality is declining. This decline can be attributed to lifestyle and environmental factors. This talk will give an overview on sperm function and factors that can impact on the quality of sperm and male fertility

3.45pm – ‘Boys Don’t Cry – using multi-media mobile technology to talk to men about mental health’ // Dr Jenny Fisher, Department of Social Care and Social Work

This session is based on a co-produced research project that took place in Summer 2016. Health and social care professionals, social science researchers and volunteers who work with men around mental health are increasingly using digital technologies to engage people in discussions. We used a mobile multi-media method to engage men to talk about mental health in a variety of community spaces across the North West of England.

4.15pm – ‘The Forgotten Voices: Men, Honour-Based Violence and Forced Marriages’ // Maz Idriss, Manchester Law School and Trustee of the Management Committee of Derbyshire Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse Service (DDVSAS)

This title explores men’s experiences of honour-based violence and forced marriages in the United Kingdom. As a group, male victimisation is often overlooked; this session will aim to highlight the lack of support offered to such men by society as well as exploring a series of recommendations to support men experiencing HBV violence.

4.45pm – Closing plenary chaired by TBC

To register for this event please go to the Eventbrite page.

Dates for your diary! Arts based methods sessions

Dates for your diary! Our programme of arts based methods sessions this semester will be as follows:

Monday 2nd Oct, 4-5pm, Drama Studio, Brooks Building 

In the Teaching Spaces we Inhabit

Becky Patterson and Alison Ramsay


Weds 22nd Nov, 3-4pm

Tuning in to Loneliness

Janet Batsleer and James Duggan


Mon 4th Dec, 4-5pm 

Image and Word on the Street; using images and words reflexively to explore street-connectedness

Andrew Stevenson


Mon 22nd Jan, 4-5pm 

Walking as propositions for research-creation

Sarah Truman


For more information visit our Arts Based Methods website.

Graphic Lives: telling Bangladeshi migrant women’s stories through graphic narratives

This joint project between MMU and Hyde Community Action sees women from the British Bangladeshi community in Hyde (Greater Manchester) exploring their own life stories and the historical narratives of their communities through workshops on life history, cross-cultural storytelling and digital skills, as well as visits to Manchester Museum, the Whitworth Art Gallery and MMU Special Collections to engage with collections. The women will use a simple online comics creation tool to communicate their own multimedia story using photographs; drawings; and text and sound in any language.

To share the comics more widely, we are organising a celebration event for the local community and showcasing the project at local and national events and festivals including Oldham Libraries; Rochdale Literature and Ideas Festival; and the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. We will also be running sessions in local schools and a workshop for teaching/social work students in autumn 2017. One of the project outputs will be a resource pack to encourage and support other organisations wishing to undertake similar activities.

Graphic lives: telling Bangladeshi migrant women’s stories through graphic narratives has been supported by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Thanks to National Lottery players, we have been able to widen representations of migrant heritage in order to raise awareness; change attitudes and behaviours; and ultimately, improve understanding and cohesion.

Read the comics created by the women:

Download (PDF, 9.08MB)

Download (PDF, 5.44MB)

Download (PDF, 11.04MB)

Download (PDF, 7.69MB)

Download (PDF, 7.23MB)

Download (PDF, 14.62MB)

The comics are also available at:

You can see more of the project activities in this booklet:

Download (PDF, 6.17MB)

If you would like to try making comics for yourself, this pack has instructions for all the activities we did:

Download (PDF, 3.43MB)

Below is a list of the events we’ll be at over the next few months. Do come along if you can – and please share with other people/networks you think would be interested.

Event Date Location
Oldham Libraries workshop Saturday 30th September, 10.30-12.00 Oldham Central Library: free, but please book a place
Lakes Comics Festival Saturday 14th & Sunday 15th October Kendal Clock Tower:
Rochdale Literature & Ideas Festival workshop Saturday 21st October, 11.00-3.00 4 workshops at Karvan travelling caravan:
Workshop and display @ MMU  Wednesday 15th November Workshop:  Special Collections, 11-00-12.30 (free, but please pre-book):

Display: All Saints Campus, room TBC, 12.45-2.00

Celebration event at Hyde Town Hall Saturday 25th Nov, 12-00-3.00 Please email  if you would like an invitation

Sarah McNicol

Digital comics and stories of heritage, lives and experiences

Over the past 6 months, I’ve been working with British Bangladeshi women from Hyde Community Action in Tameside on a Heritage Lottery funded project to make digital comics telling the stories of their heritage, lives and experiences. We’ve been doing a wide range of activities including: planning stories using pinboards; visiting museums and galleries; developing digital skills; and discovering how to tell stories using words and pictures. You can see more of the activities here.


Every member of the group is creating her own comics using an app called Book Creator. The comics will be finished by early autumn when we start the dissemination phase. This includes workshops in schools, libraries and at MMU; stalls at comics and literature festivals; and a celebration event at Hyde Town Hall.

In our last session before the school holidays, I asked the women about their experiences of the project so far. These are some of the things they said:

I’ve enjoyed telling my story. It’s helped me to remember my background and given me an opportunity to talk about the past.

I learnt how to use comics tools and how to express myself using pictures and writing to make a story.

I was able to express myself about personal issues.

I feel like I’m a writer now!

If you want to know more about the project, or about the events we’re running in the autumn, please email

Sarah McNicol

Final exam results are becoming less valid – Prof. Harry Torrance

There are good reasons, rooted in traditional assessment concerns for validity and reliability, to involve teachers in setting and marking national test work in their own schools (coursework, project work and so forth).

Validity demands that the pursuit of broader curriculum goals such as analysing data, applying knowledge and developing practical skills be underpinned by broader methods of assessment. These wider skills and abilities cannot be tested by written final papers alone. For example, final papers can test knowledge of how to conduct an experiment, but not the actual practical skills involved or the collecting and recording of data over time.

Equally, reliability demands that these and other skills and abilities should not simply be measured by a one-off test, but assessed on several occasions over a longer period: the larger the sample of assessed work, undertaken under a variety of conditions, the more reliable the result is likely to be.

Now, however, history, experience and good educational practice are being set aside as the Conservative government moves back to an entirely final exam-based system. The argument is that the previous Labour administration allowed too many flexible teacher-assessed elements into school exams, lowering educational standards and inflating pass rates.

Yet teacher assessment has been a key element of education for many years under Conservative and Labour, while pass rates at GCSE and A-level have risen consistently under both parties since the 1970s.

Given that these upward trends have extended over so many years, there is likely to be some element of a genuine rise in standards driven by the better socio-economic conditions of students, higher expectations of educational outcomes by students, parents and teachers, and better teaching underpinned by better training and resources.

More recently, however, this trend has been combined with and compounded by an increased focus on passing exams because of the perceived importance of educational success for school accountability, teacher career progression and student life chances.

Research evidence indicates that the pressure to raise results at almost any (educational) cost is a key driver of grade inflation. Thus, identifying a possible problem of grade inflation is one thing; assuming that eliminating coursework and teacher involvement in assessment is the only solution is quite another.

Pursuing new curriculum goals demands new forms of assessment to report grades with validity and reliability – coursework, fieldwork, oral work and so forth can capture different outcomes from end-of-course written tests.

When we also add in ideas about formative assessment and changes in pedagogy – including students drafting work, receiving feedback on it, and then redrafting it for final submission – we produce a potentially positive situation in which students can be supported to develop their knowledge and understanding of subject matter over time and produce their best possible work for exams.

In principle this should constitute the core of any attempt to broaden and raise “educational standards”. However, in a context of intense accountability such practices can lead to little more than coaching students to meet exam criteria, thus undermining the validity and credibility of results. Yet improving the validity and reliability of teacher assessment is possible – this is what assessment policy, research and development should be trying to achieve.

As accountability pressures increase, the evidence base for published results is becoming narrower and less valid as the system moves back to wholly end-of-course testing. Instead, policy should:

(i) decouple accountability measures from routine student assessment and address the monitoring of standards over time by use of specifically designed tests with small national samples;

(ii) re-conceptualise the development of educational standards by starting from the perspective of the curriculum: ie, put resources and support into rethinking curriculum goals for the 21st century and developing illustrative examples of high-quality assessment tasks that underpin and reinforce these goals, for teachers to use and adapt as appropriate.

Prof. Harry Torrance (MMU)

This article is reposted from SchoolsWeek.

A longer version of this article is available in the British Journal of Educational Studies, 2017.