Sandra Leaton Gray.
Look at the website of any contemporary newspaper, and you would be forgiven for thinking that childhood was a very dangerous time of life. On rolling news services we see stories about things like toddlers being shot by stray bullets in Brazil, small children covered in haemorrhagic rashes, and paedophile rings operating in plain sight.
If nothing spectacularly awful has happened in the last 24 hours, news organisations tend to fall back on their tried and tested reserve topics, for example teenage suicide trends, sexting, adolescent computer hacking and school bullying. Readers are enticed to click through to full stories, much to the delight of advertisers. As a species, we are hard-wired to protect children, and in the modern age, this manifests itself through the desire to learn more about potential risks so we can potentially head them off. In the world of 24/7 news, mass media organisations are well-placed to take advantage of this instinct, and marketise it to their advantage.
What makes this more surprising is that, statistically speaking, it has never been a better (more…)
Sandra Leaton Gray.
If you are a child today, you live your life almost completely in the public domain. Your baby photographs might be on Facebook before the first nappy change. By the time you start primary school, you will have appeared on at least a dozen local and national Government databases, and various commercial organisations will have been sold your details, targeting your parents for years with invitations to buy you consumer goods and products. Your movements around the local area will be tracked on CCTV.
When you arrive in secondary school, your digital footprint will intensify. You will be uploading materials to the Internet via your mobile phone or your bedroom computer. You will have a number of online profiles, some more secret than others. Homework will be submitted online via third party servers, some of which may be in countries with weak, cloud-based data protection policies. By the time you are 18, your digital footprint will be enormous, and even though there is ‘right to be forgotten’ data protection legislation in (more…)
Last week, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published an analysis of fair opportunities for pupils (PDF). Andreas Schleicher, its Special Adviser for Education, has said that social division represents a long term issue for the UK education system, and that there is distinct polarisation between the attainment levels of rich and poor pupils.
Using the example of London – where one-fifth of the country’s children attend school – Geoff Whitty and I found that children getting free school meals (a marker for deprivation) were very much more likely to attend poorly-achieving schools than successful ones.
The graph below demonstrates this. On the x-axis, we have plotted something the Government calls Families of Schools, based on official data and grouped according to shared characteristics such as attainment, number of children having free school meals and so on. On the y-axis, we have plotted the different types of school, as a proportion of the whole family: community, voluntary aided or controlled (usually faith schools) and foundation (funded directly by the State).
From the graph we can see that there are comparatively few community schools in the top performing Family, and a higher number of voluntary aided or voluntary controlled schools, in the case of this group, selective schools.
In contrast, all the schools in the bottom performing Family, where most of the children receiving FSM are concentrated, are community schools, and none are selective. (Data source: DfES, 2005).
As these data are from 2005, we have revisited our earlier research. In the 2011 Families of Schools data, 2% of children in Family Number 1 (highest achieving, mainly selective schools) received free school meals (FSM), compared to 45% of children in Family Number 23 (lowest achieving, mainly community schools)..
So it is clear that the children suffering the most social and economic deprivation still have the least opportunity to attend academically successful schools. This is because the UK currently offers parents variable educational provision, usually depending on factors over which they have little or no control – for instance, whether the school is selective, its geographical location, or the family’s religion.
This variable provision has been described as a “spectrum of diversity” by academies sponsor Sir Bruce Liddington, but to some families it can simply seem confused and fragmented. In response to a situation where some children are “in” and the others “out” – a kind of Fortnum and Mason versus Walmart model of education, if you like – I propose a John Lewis model of schooling. In this model, all the main stakeholders play a part in its success, and it is designed to be mutually beneficial to all. Wherever you go in the country, you know what you are getting, and it’s reliable.
If it goes wrong, as is occasionally inevitable, other parts of the system step in to make sure your child is well looked after and that his or her education is attended to properly. In my John Lewis educational world, teachers would fraternize regularly and exchange best practice, pupils would learn to work in a schooling system where knowledge is pursued as a means to understanding rather than examination passes, and there would be a national consensus on what the education system is trying to achieve.
It’s time to ditch the language of division, where some people are “in” and some people are “out”, and reform our fragmented, artificially competitive education system. Instead we need to move towards the collaborative, high reliability schooling this country deserves.