Lesson 3 of 23
One 50-minute class period

Exploring Social Inequality

From the Unit:

Essential Questions

What can J. B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls teach us about the impact of our individual and collective decisions and actions on others?

Guiding Questions

  • What impact does my identity and background have on the choices that I make?
  • What impact do societal institutions have on me and the choices that I can make?
  • What impact do social categories have on me and the choices that I can make?

Learning Objectives

Students will discuss and examine the ways in which people’s choices can be influenced by their identity and social background.


In the previous lesson, students began to explore their own identities. After such personal reflection, it is important for them to look outwards and broaden their understanding of the relationship between the individual and society, exploring the impact that societal institutions, social categories and one’s identity can have on an individual’s life experiences and opportunities. This is important if they are to start to make connections between identity, society, and the impact of our individual and collective decisions and actions on others.

In this lesson, students will explore social inequality and consider the factors, societal institutions and social categories that contribute to such inequality. Such exploration will encourage them to understand the impact that social background and identity can have on opportunities, will lay the foundation for them to reflect on the continued relevance of the themes of An Inspector Calls, and will help them make links between the play, modern society, and their own lived experiences.

These topics may be difficult for some students to discuss, especially if they have been directly impacted by them. It is, therefore, essential to create a safe and reflective classroom, where students feel they can speak honestly about difficult issues without being judged or shut down by others, where they develop listening skills and the ability to hear perspectives different from their own, and where they learn to engage in constructive conversations. If you completed Lesson 1: Building a Classroom Community, the contracting lesson, we recommend that you review your classroom contract to remind students of its content. If you have not completed this lesson, then it is important to do so before moving forward with this scheme of work. When discussing sensitive topics, it is vital to communicate to students that they do not need to share information about themselves and their experiences that they do not feel comfortable sharing: they should always have a choice about what they do or don’t divulge.

Alignment with the GCSE Specification

  • Application of Contextual Information (Lit-AO3)
  • Clear and Coherent Writing (Lit-AO4, Lang-AO5/AO6)
  • Evidence-Based Reasoning (Lit-AO1–3/Lang-AO1–4)
  • Spoken Language Skills (Lang-AO8, Lang-AO9)
  • Summarising and Synthesising Skills (Lang-AO1)

Students are introduced to social inequality, a key theme of An Inspector Calls, and one that lays the foundation for understanding the context and the message of the play in later lessons. They also discuss and debate what it is that drives social inequality in society, and critique graphs on social inequality in a gallery walk. This not only helps develop their speaking and listening skills, but also their evidence-based reasoning as they respond to information in the graphs, using it to draw conclusions. Additionally, the use of discussion and journalling help students to verbalise their thoughts in different ways, and to practise turning them into coherent sentences, which will help them across their English GCSEs.

Learn more about this unit's Alignment with GCSE Specification.


Priestley was a social campaigner, who was shaped by his upbringing and his later life experiences. His mother, who died when he was very young, was a mill girl and he grew up in Bradford on the periphery of industrial England – the plight of industrial workers was thus never far out of mind. His father was a socialist, who believed that ‘helping the less fortunate was . . . a moral obligation’ and who, as headmaster of a primary school, ‘administered the first free school meals in the country’.1 Furthermore, Priestley himself was exposed to the harsh realities of social and class inequality during his stint as a soldier in the First World War. 

Priestley subsequently dedicated his life to challenging social inequality and reporting on the problems faced by those who grew up in deprived, working-class areas. He was one of the first authors to travel through and write about the depressed areas in the UK, and was a great social commentator, publishing hundreds of articles that supported political campaigns and the formation of socialist institutions, such as the National Health Service. Throughout his life, he used his platform as a successful author to campaign for a socially just and equal society.  It is unsurprising, then, that one of the key themes of An Inspector Calls is social inequality, notably social inequality with respect to class. 

Priestley’s decision to set the play in 1912 is evidence of his commitment to challenging the social institutions and societal values that placed excessive significance on an individual’s socio-economic background and class, at the expense of their identity as a fellow human. Setting the play when he did, two years prior to the First World War, and having written it in 1945, enabled him to reflect and comment on the class divisions and social inequality, which he believed helped create the conditions for two world wars.


  • 1 : "Education," The JB Priestley Society Website, accessed 24 March 2020.

Notes to Teacher

  1. Previewing Vocabulary to Learn about Social Inequality

    This lesson focuses on helping students understand social inequality. Depending on your students’ prior knowledge, you may need to provide them with the following definitions before or during the lesson. Consider starting a Word Wall in your classroom, which you add key terms to over the course of the scheme of work.

    • Social inequality is the extent to which there are differences between groups in society. Social inequality can be related to:
      • Differences in wealth and incomes
      • Gender
      • Ethnicity
      • Disabilities and health issues
      • Age 
      • Level of education
    • Elite (noun): the richest, most powerful, best-educated, or best-trained group in a society.
    • Elitist (adj.): organised for the benefit of those who are regarded as elite/serves the interests of the most powerful, best-educated, or best-trained group in society.
    • Social mobility: the ability to move between one level of society and another. It is linked to a change in social status. In the UK, when we talk about social mobility, we often refer to people moving upwards to a higher level.
  2. Prepare the Gallery Walk in Advance of the Activity

    To help build discussion points for the Four Corners activity, students conduct a gallery walk where they will be looking at graphs that depict current trends in wealth distribution and employment opportunities. You may want to print out two copies of each graph so that students do not have to crowd around one image. Hang the graphs around the classroom in advance of the activity, either at the start of the class or when students are doing another activity, so that the gallery walk is ready for the students to peruse.

  3. Setting Up for 'Four Corners'

    This lesson uses the Four Corners teaching strategy to discuss social inequality. Before class begins, familiarise yourself with the strategy and set up the room in advance. To prepare your classroom space, create four signs that read ‘Strongly Agree’, ‘Agree’, ‘Disagree’, and ‘Strongly Disagree’, and hang them in different corners of the room. Consider printing the signs on coloured paper or card and, if your school has a machine, laminating them so you can reuse them for Four Corners and Barometer discussions this year.

  4. Classroom-ready PowerPoint Slides

    Each lesson in this unit includes a PowerPoint of student-facing slides. The PowerPoints are intended to be used alongside, and not instead of, the lesson plans because the latter include important rationales and context that teachers should familiarise themselves with before teaching the lesson. The PowerPoints include basic content and student-facing prompts from the lesson plans but are minimally designed because we expect teachers to adapt them to fit the needs of their students and class.

Exploring Social Inequality

Exploring Social Inequality

This PowerPoint for Lesson 3 of the Teaching Inspector Calls unit comes complete with student-facing slides and teaching notes, and is ready to use in the classroom.



  1. Reflect on Equality and Inequality
    • Explain to students that they will be engaging in a discussion about social equality and inequality, thinking about how society, its institutions and social categories can have an impact on the opportunities available to people. In order to prepare for the discussion, they will have some time to think about social equality by completing an anticipation guide.
    • Pass out and ask students to complete the handout Equality vs Inequality: Anticipation Guide on their own.
  2. Discuss Social Equality and Inequality
    • Before engaging in a Four Corners debate that uses statements from the anticipation guide, take a minute to review the classroom contract and reiterate the importance of respecting the opinions and voices of others. You might also address ways for students to disagree constructively with each other, encouraging them to speak using ‘I’ language rather than the more accusatory ‘you’.
    • Explain the Four Corners teaching strategy to students and then project and read aloud the following statements one at a time. So everyone has a chance to speak, consider having students quickly share ideas with others in their corners each round before opening the discussion to the class. Remind students that they can switch corners if they hear evidence that compels them to do so.
      • Everyone in the UK who wants to succeed can.
      • The needs of UK society are more important than the needs of individuals or groups within it.
      • Everyone has exactly the same opportunities in life regardless of who they are or where they come from.
      • Societal institutions, such as the government, the education system, and the judicial system, serve everyone in the UK equally.
      • Social categories, such as class, gender, race, and age, influence how people treat each other.
    • Debrief the activity with the class by facilitating a whole-group discussion based on the following questions:
      • On which statements was there the most agreement/disagreement in the class?
      • What did the responses suggest about the relationship between individual identity and background? 
      • What does the activity suggest about the challenges that exist in creating an equal and fair society?
      • What impact do societal institutions, such as the government, the education system, and the judicial system, have on people’s opportunities and experiences?
      • What impact do social categories, such as class, gender, race, and age, have on people’s opportunities and experiences?
  3. Examine Social Inequality Graphs
    • Now that students have shared their ideas on social equality and inequality, explain to students that they will be examining some graphs that explore social inequality trends in the UK. The graphs come from three reports: Elitist Britain 2019; State of the Nation 2018–19: Social Mobility in Great Britain; and the Social Mobility Barometer. All of the reports are available on the government website and were produced by the Social Mobility Commission (SMC), which monitors progress towards improving social mobility in the UK, and promotes social mobility in England. The SMC is an advisory non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Department for Education.2
    • Ask students to circulate around the room in a gallery walk to examine the seven images portraying Social Inequality Trends and Views data. Let the students take a few minutes to browse all of the graphs in the collection. 
    • After students have had a chance to examine all of the graphs, instruct them to choose one graph that resonates with them and to stand beside it. Then lead students through a verbal S-I-T task where they discuss each statement (surprising, interesting, troubling) with others standing by them. 
    • When students return to their seats, give them the opportunity to work in pairs or small groups to debrief the gallery walk and discuss the following questions:
      • Which graph surprised or challenged your thinking the most? What makes you say that?
      • How do society’s institutions (i.e. the education system, employment structures, the government system, the judicial system) and social categories (i.e. age, gender identity, race, class) influence the choices available to people and the choices that they make? How do the graphs help you answer this question? 
      • To what extent is the UK an equal and fair society? Use evidence from the graphs and/or your own life experiences to answer the question.
      • What is one concrete idea that you have that would help make things fairer for all people in the UK?
  4. Reflect on the Lesson
    • Ask students to journal in response to the following questions, being sure to explain that whatever they write in their journal is private and does not need to be shown to anyone else:
      • How are you feeling at the end of this lesson? What makes you say that?
      • What questions does this lesson raise for you?



Democracy & Civic Engagement

Get Prepared to Teach this Scheme of Work in Your Classroom

Prepare yourself to teach this unit by reading about our pedagogy, teaching strategies, and the unit's content.

Lesson 1 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Building a Classroom Community

Students work together to create a contract with the aim of developing a reflective classroom community, which is conducive to learning and sharing.

Lesson 2 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Exploring Where I'm From

Students prepare for reading the play by considering the relationship between the individual and society, and by reflecting on identity. After discussing a poem about identity, they write their own.

Lesson 3 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Exploring Social Inequality

Students explore social inequality in the UK, discussing how an individual’s background can impact their opportunities before examining graphs that display social inequality and employment trends.

Lesson 4 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Priestley's World and the World of the Play

Students learn about important events that occurred during Priestley’s lifetime, completing a human timeline to understand their chronology, and are introduced to the concepts of socialism and capitalism.

Lesson 5 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

The Treatment of Edwardian Women

Students examine various resources, including excerpts from Emmeline Pankhurt’s ‘Freedom or Death’ speech, to gain an understanding of how women were treated and expected to behave in Edwardian society.

Lesson 6 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Entering the World of the Play

Students begin reading the play, having applied what they have learnt about Priestley and the relevant sociohistorical context to make predictions about its content.

Lesson 7 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Understanding Class

Students explore class, status, etiquette and hierarchy to deepen their knowledge of the social expectations and values which guide the world in which the characters live.

Lesson 8 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Developing Character Inferences

Students are introduced to the concept of inferencing; they draw inferences from the opening scene of the play, and consider what messages Priestley sends through the language, character and setting.

Lesson 9 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Understanding Mr Birling

Students study the character of Mr Birling, critically assessing Priestley’s presentation of him, before using the character to reflect on how identity can influence people's views and behaviour.

Lesson 10 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

The Cost of Labour

Students explore the moral codes of the world of the play, before being introduced to the concept of a universe of obligation and participating in a debate on workers’ rights.

GCSE Supplement
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Persuasive Writing: A Letter to Parliament

Students write a persuasive letter to Parliament concerning the gig economy, having reviewed persuasive devices, generated claims and content, and read a model letter.

Lesson 11 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Understanding Sheila

Students use the character of Sheila to further understand the interplay between identity and choices, before going on to analyse Priestley’s presentation of Sheila in Act One.

Lesson 12 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Act One Review

Students consider the lessons we can learn from Act One of the play, before adopting the perspectives of characters in both drama tasks and written tasks.

Lesson 13 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Differing Perspectives and Conflict

Students begin Act Two of the play, reflecting on the differences in perception emerging between the characters and considering how conflict can arise from such differences.

Lesson 14 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Analysing Gerald’s Character

Students develop their understanding of the character Gerald, exploring the differences between his treatment of Eva/Daisy and Sheila, whilst reflecting on Edwardian gender expectations.

Lesson 15 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Understanding Mrs Birling

Students consider what factors impacted Mrs Birling’s treatment of Eva Smith, and create a universe of obligation graphic representation for her character.

GCSE Supplement
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Analytical Writing: A Character Paragraph

Students write an analytical paragraph on character having generated claims, selected evidence and read a model paragraph.

Lesson 16 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Eric's Decisions and Consent

Students consider the role power plays in the interactions between characters, focusing on the relationship between Eric and Eva, before discussing consent.

GCSE Supplement
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Persuasive Writing: A Speech about Consent

Students write a persuasive speech for sixth-form students on the importance of consent, having reviewed persuasive devices, generated claims and content, and read a model paragraph.

Lesson 17 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Inspecting Inspector Goole

Students create an identity chart for Inspector Goole, analyse his parting words, and look for clues to uncover who or what Inspector Goole is.

Lesson 18 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Social Systems and Individual Agency

Students identify the parts, people, and interactions of various social systems, thinking about what bearing they have on character choices and behaviour, before considering responses to injustice.

Lesson 19 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Putting the Characters on Trial

Students finish reading the play and participate in a court trial to decide which character is the most responsible for the death of Eva Smith.

Lesson 20 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Bearing Witness to Eva Smith

Students reflect on Priestley’s portrayal of Eva Smith and consider the symbolism of having a character who only appears in the narrative second-hand.

GCSE Supplement
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Analytical Writing: The GCSE Character Essay

Students write an essay on character having generated claims, selected and annotated evidence, and read a model essay.

Lesson 21 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

What Lessons Can We Learn?

Students address the essential question of the unit in a people's assembly, reflecting on the lessons that we can learn from An Inspector Calls.

GCSE Supplement
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Persuasive Writing: A Letter to a Newspaper for a Caring Community

Students write a persuasive letter to a local newspaper, which outlines the importance of considering the needs of others and suggests ways to create a more caring community.

Lesson 22 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Recurring Themes in the Play

Students prepare to write an essay on theme by identifying and analysing the themes explored in the play.

Lesson 23 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Theatre as a Call to Action

Students consider theatre as a call to action, discussing its power and limitations to spark real social change, before plotting their own play inspired by An Inspector Calls.

Democracy & Civic Engagement

Alignment with Ofsted Requirements

Read about how this unit assists teachers and schools in fulfilling a range of statutory and non-statutory requirements as outlined in the 2019 Ofsted inspection handbook.

Democracy & Civic Engagement

Alignment with the GCSE Specification

Read about how this unit is aligned with Ofqual’s subject aims and learning outcomes for both the English Literature and English Language GCSEs.

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