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The disadvantage gap: children of austerity or children of adversity?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital6 September 2022

chezbeate / Pixabay

Neil Kaye.

Last month, hundreds of thousands of young people nervously opened their GCSE results – the first time in the post-pandemic world that such exams had been sat by a full cohort of Year 11 students. Whilst the headlines focused on the apparent fall in average grades from those of the previous two years, the results also highlight a seemingly-inevitable outcome of our present education system: the persistence of a ‘disadvantage’ attainment gap.

A recent IFS report concluded that, “despite decades of policy attention, there has been virtually no change in the ‘disadvantage gap’ in GCSE attainment over the past 20 years”. Whilst some improvement has been noted, modelling by the Education Policy Institute (EPI) from before the pandemic observed that “at the current rate of progress, it would take over 500 years for this gap to close completely at the end of secondary school” (Lupton & Hayes, 2021).

So, is this gap in attainment inevitable? Is it ‘baked’ into the system? Are the policies of successive governments doomed to failure, or have they (more…)

Does educational disadvantage persist among children of care leavers?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital6 September 2022

Sam Parsons, Emla Fitzsimons and Ingrid Schoon.

There has been persistent research evidence that care-leavers tend to have lower educational outcomes compared to their peers. But there is little knowledge about the educational experiences of their children.

Our research, presented today at the British Educational Research Association annual conference in Liverpool, finds evidence of intergenerational transmission of educational disadvantage already in the very early years (age 3 and 5) through to GCSE attainment at age 16. However, once inequalities in family socio-economic background or area deprivation and housing are controlled for, children of care-leaver mothers perform just (more…)

Only children in the UK are doing just fine

Blog Editor, IOE Digital12 July 2022

Jenny Chanfreau and Alice Goisis. 

One-child families are becoming more common in many countries, including the UK. According to the Office for National Statistics, 18% of women born in the early 1970s had one child only, up from 12% among women born a decade earlier in the early 1960s and 14% among women born about a generation earlier, around 1945. Yet many outdated preconceptions and stereotypes persist about what only children are like and how their lives turn out. Our project, using data from four British birth cohorts born in 1946, 1958, 1970 and 2000-2002, provided a comprehensive analysis of the characteristics of only children born in different decades in the UK and how they are doing in childhood and adulthood. Overall, the picture that emerges around only children in the UK is reassuring.

For any research on only children, we first need to be clear about who is an only child. This might appear straight-forward at first glance, as the dictionary definitions of ‘Only child’ suggest: a child who has no sisters or brothers (Cambridge); a person who has no siblings (Collins); or a person who never had a brother or sister (Merriam-Webster). Yet closer reflection reveals (more…)

Who is included, who is excluded and what can we do to promote inclusion for all children?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital10 June 2021

Claire Cameron, Jo Van Herwegen, Mark Mon-Williams, Aase Villadsen.

“Covid 19 constitutes the greatest crisis that high-income countries have seen in many generations,” says UNICEF in its recent analysis. And children “are among those at greatest risk of seeing their living standards fall and their personal well-being decline”.

This, in turn, threatens to broaden the group of children at risk of exclusion – not just for misbehaviour, but because they have needs that are not being met. The danger is that, in the pandemic’s aftermath, we focus on ‘catch up’ learning for the relatively advantaged, and neglect the long-term health, wellbeing, and competency benefits of inclusive education for all students – especially those who are poor and ‘near poor’.

Now is the time to think how we can organise structures, services, and systems in every school so that all (more…)

Cutting through the noise: mobilising data and generating impact during a global pandemic

Blog Editor, IOE Digital8 June 2021

A father, wearing a face mask, hugs his young daughterRob Davies.

In May 2020, I highlighted the need to harness the power of longitudinal population studies to help understand the immediate and long-term impacts of the pandemic on individuals, families and communities and called for the creation of a new national birth cohort study to ensure that valuable data from a generation born during a global pandemic is not lost.

As the UK moves into a new phase of its COVID-19 response I explore what happened over the past year and how our work ensured that longitudinal data and research will remain at the forefront of the country’s response (more…)

Inequalities in education and society: the home, the school and the power of reading

Blog Editor, IOE Digital22 August 2019

This blog is based on Professor Alice Sullivan’s inaugural professorial lecture, presented at the UCL Institute of Education on 18 June 2019

Much of my work concerns the way that advantage and disadvantage are passed down from one generation to the next. So, for example, why do middle class kids do better in education than working class kids? And, why is there a link between social class origins in childhood and socioeconomic destinations in adulthood?

Sociologists sometimes call this relationship the OED triangle, where O stands for socioeconomic origins, E stands for Education and D stands for destinations in adult life. Social reproduction occurs when there is a close relationship between origins and destinations, and social mobility when that relationship is broken by a move up or down the social ladder.

During the course of my career I’ve worked on a set of interrelated questions regarding educational and social inequalities, and these are the questions I will address here:

(more…)

How well-off and healthy were my parents when I was little? Am I a hard-working high flier, or an advantaged one?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital12 August 2019

Gabriella Melis and Ingrid Schoon.

Our research looked at how inequalities amongst families in the 1970s in England have been passed on onto their offspring when they were adults themselves. We call the parent’s generation G1, and the offspring generation, born in 1970, G2.

Drawing on data from the British Cohort Study 1970 (BCS70), we considered several measures of socio-economic and health-related risk factors for both the parents (G1) and their children (G2) ­at age 42. The data covered around 11,000 individuals and their families over a 42-year timespan, which makes our sample a very robust one for the study of transmission of inequality from one generation to the next.

We found that individuals who grew up in more disadvantaged families are significantly more likely to end up in disadvantaged socio-economic and health conditions by age 42 when compared to those from relatively more privileged families. This is true, in particular, for those from families where the parents were physically ill or depressed. There is however also a considerable degree of social mobility, for some (more…)

The UK’s unique scientific versions of the 7-Up series

Blog Editor, IOE Digital5 June 2019

Alissa Goodman.

I first encountered the brilliant Michael Apted 7-Up TV series as a 9 year old (pictured) in primary school, back in 1981, not long after 21-Up had been made. Instead of lessons, our teacher Miss Price let us watch TV over several afternoons. I remember watching, captivated, as the lives of the children unfolded, from (as we saw it then) tiny little 7 year olds, through to awkward teenagers, and into late 1970s youth.

Some of the captivation was simple: the mystery of life, and what happens next, resolving before our very eyes. But there was also a more serious lesson: that our social and economic circumstances from birth and onwards fundamentally shape our lives, and who we become. (more…)

Generation Gifted: the statistical data behind the personal stories

Blog Editor, IOE Digital22 February 2018

 
Heather Joshi
While personal stories contain a depth of detail that cannot be collected on a grand scale, statistical evidence provides the background against which exceptional cases can be seen in wider perspective. BBC2’s ‘Generation Gifted’ documentary series is following six teenagers, selected at age 13 as having exceptional promise despite exceptionally difficult home backgrounds. The intention is to follow them until they are at least 16 and take their GCSEs.
The series not only shines a spotlight on the obstacles to social mobility, but it also helps illustrate a reason for having large-scale longitudinal studies, such as those within the CLOSER consortium. These have been a major source of evidence on the inequality of life chances between children born to rich and poor parents. They put numbers to the extent of social mobility (more…)

Give it time

Blog Editor, IOE Digital31 October 2016

Alissa Goodman and Alice Sullivan.
Recent political events have focussed minds on society’s deeply rooted inequalities and their long-reaching consequences. The gap between the rich and poor is growing as is the gap between generations – a recent IFS report found that people born in the 1980s had only half the wealth by their early 30s that the generation born ten years earlier had had at the same age. Social mobility is stagnant at best, causing concern across the political spectrum. Problems such as depression and obesity grow apace. How can we best understand and solve these social challenges? (more…)