3.4 The work of Amarya Sen
The work of the economist Amartya Sen (1995, 1999) has contributed to developing the ‘rights’ approach and influenced conceptualisations of ‘meeting needs’ of heterogenous individuals in diverse contexts. Sen argued that focusing on resources (e.g. N hours of teaching assistant support because of a threshold low score in a literacy test) ignored the diversity of individuals and their situations: any single unit of resource might be adequate for one student and inadequate for another. Rather, Sen focused on the importance of human freedom, arguing that this needed elements that people have (resources), could be or could do but also their ‘capability’ to operationalise them. Sen considered ‘wellbeing’ in a range of dimensions, placing particular emphasis on individuals’ agency to specify their own wellbeing, determine what they value and wish to pursue, and participate in democratic decision-making. His ideas are known as The Capability Approach. The application of these ideas to school communities presents challenges to school decision-making at all levels and refers to other concepts such as listening to the voice of the students, considering ‘needs holistically, and flexible team working.