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The home schooling quagmire: it’s about more than laptops

Blog Editor, IOE Digital5 May 2020

Jennie Golding.

The move to ‘home schooling’ has, quite rightly, triggered a storm of commentaries about how the gap between the disadvantaged and the middle class will widen.

Last week the House of Commons Education Select Committee conducted a session on the impact of COVID-19 on education and children’s services. Several MPs, particularly from more economically challenged northern constituencies, expressed their fears about inequity of access to education during school closures. The answer to many of their questions was ‘We don’t yet know’ – whether there is a correlation between pupils’ time studying and their socioeconomic position, how many disadvantaged learners are not eligible for free laptops – or when and how schools will re-open to more young people.

Committee chair Robert Halfon warned that the UK could be facing a ‘wave of educational poverty’ as a result of the lockdown – and of course there is a moral imperative to prioritise the needs of those who are already disadvantaged. However, emerging evidence suggests the picture is complex, and there are serious challenges across all social groups.

My own current research with primary schools and A Level providers has serendipitously (more…)

Our young people deserve to have citizenship education teachers who are properly trained if we are to close the class gap in political awareness

Blog Editor, IOE Digital8 January 2020

Hans Svennevig and Sera Shortland.

“I want to grow up in a country where the people are more powerful than the government.”

This statement was made by 16-year-old Harry in a speech he gave during MP6, a political speaking competition in Leicester. MP6 was part of his school’s Citizenship education programme, which, in a new decade, with a new government, is more important than ever.

Citizenship education inspires and encourages political knowledge and action. It is often the only opportunity within the curriculum that Harry and others might have to learn about democracy, government, politics, elections, referenda, human rights and international organisations such as the EU and the World Trade Organisation. Perhaps most importantly, it’s a chance to develop their own skills of active participation.

(more…)

Cultural capital and curriculum: will OFSTED’s new framework encourage better education in our schools?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital9 September 2019

Michael Young.

OFSTED’s decision to revise their Inspection Framework to give less emphasis to pupil outcomes and more to the curriculum and ‘the substance of education’ was largely welcomed by the teaching profession. However, implementing such a change was always bound to be both difficult and controversial. As Warwick Mansell points out in The Guardian this week the welcome was not universal, and some academics and teachers attacked the change as ‘elitist’.

The key paragraph in the new OFSTED Inspection Handbook which Mansell concentrates on states that:

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Getting the science straight: the schools minister’s suggestion that private schools convey little academic advantage does not stand up to scrutiny

Blog Editor, IOE Digital9 July 2019

Francis Green

A recent report from the Sutton Trust reveals that positions of public influence are still disproportionately cornered by the privately educated, with little progress since their previous report. So the Johnson – Hunt (Eton – Charterhouse) contest to be prime minister is but the tip of an iceberg. It is curious, then, to find Schools Minister Nick Gibb and genetic psychologist Robert Plomin seemingly agreeing on an ungrounded assertion: that there is little difference in the academic outcomes of state and private schooling in Britain, and that private is assuredly not worth the money.

The science is not on their side.

Professor Plomin asserts that: “Even though schools have little effect on individual differences in school achievement, some parents will still decide to pay huge (more…)

Why Britain's private schools are such a social problem

Blog Editor, IOE Digital19 February 2019

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Francis Green. 
Private schools tend to be richly resourced and expensive, so those children lucky enough to attend them normally receive a good education, with academic advantages enhanced by a range of extra-curricular activities. But while this might be great for private pupils these schools pose a serious problem for Britain’s education system and society.
Britain’s private schools are very socially exclusive and there is no sign that attempts to mitigate this exclusivity through means-tested bursaries are working. The scale of bursaries is far too small to make a difference – just 1% of children go for free.
The exclusivity stems from the enormous price tag of private schooling. Fees average £17,200 a year per child, and are much higher for boarding schools. Some question (more…)

The long roots of childhood, and how they explain economic inequalities across the whole of life

Blog Editor, IOE Digital4 September 2018

Alissa Goodman.
In my inaugural lecture earlier this summer I asked the question, what are the root causes of the economic inequalities in our society, and why have these been so difficult to budge?
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This is a question that I’ve been asking ever since, early in my own research career, I was part of a team of economists demonstrating for the first time in historical context the huge rise in income inequality which had taken place over the 1980s in Britain. This change had transformed us from a relatively low-inequality country to a high one in the space of around 10 years. Fast-forward to today, we remain just as, if not more, unequal.
Some of the most important answers to my question come from the national birth cohort studies that we run at the Centre for Longitudinal Studies (CLS), (more…)

What can be done to reduce the impact of social inequality on educational attainment?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital6 November 2017

Ingrid Schoon. 
The transition to adulthood is an important and often scary time in a young person’s life. Not only does it involve the assumption of new social roles and responsibilities, such as moving out of the family home, entering the job market, completing education and starting a family, it has far-reaching consequences regarding later life outcomes. The related uncertainties are deepened during times of rapid social change.
We know that social structures, such as the education system, class divisions and economic inequality, continue to channel young people into different tracks. However, as a society, we still have too little understanding of the intricate interplay between institutional forces and individuals’ own ability to adapt, adjust and thrive. It is now clear that early interventions, important as they are, are not sufficient to overcome these embedded inequalities. We need programmes throughout childhood and early adulthood.
Pathways to Adulthood’, the new book I have edited in collaboration with Rainer Silbereisen (more…)

Yes, there is an alternative to England's bewildering school system

Blog Editor, IOE Digital29 November 2013

Peter Mortimore

I have been aware of problems in the education system for as long as I can remember.
As a child growing up in the late 1940s, I was persecuted by the fear of failing the 11+. Both my elder sisters had succeeded and my first brush with probability theory was recognising that similar success for me had to be questionable. And for 80 percent of each generation it was so, with many children bearing this hallmark of educational failure for the rest of their lives.
One of my jobs as a young teacher was in a school with 12 classes streamed on the basis of three timed tests. The validity and reliability of such assessment was highly questionable, yet it determined the course of future lives. One of my – very clever – pupils moved up a stream each year but, because he only stayed for the five years of compulsory secondary schooling, never even reached the upper half.
As a classroom researcher in the 1970s I sat through hours of lessons often in poorly designed, uncomfortable classrooms.  Some lessons were stimulating but others were desperately boring regurgitations of an uninspiring syllabus.
Today the education system, in many ways, is much improved.  Yet urban eleven-year-olds and their parents face a bewildering array of schools. City parents, in such a market economy, have to gamble on which preferences to express, taking into account their geographical location, the SATs results of their offspring, their religious (or non-religious) leanings and their willingness to pay for private tuition.
Academies – answerable only to the Secretary of State – founded with the noble aim of providing a better deal for poor children (just like the “public schools” of past centuries) are re-positioning themselves and using their generous resources to attract pupils with the best odds of success. Free “parent-led” schools are popping up even where there is ample provision and are frequently dedicated to particular faiths. Exams appear to be growing more difficult and universities are getting more expensive. Most sadly, English childhood appears to be much less happy than that of many of our neighbouring countries.
The English education system seems as far from a universal, inclusive, system as it ever was. Yet, the best teaching I have seen anywhere has often been in England and, in general, schools seem well-led. I believe these problems have been caused by recent governments’ (from all political parties) determination to turn the education system into a competitive market economy complete with league tables and punitive inspections.
In contrast, the Nordic school systems that I have observed operate in a different, happier, culture. They provide high quality pre-school provision and admit children into school one or even two years later than in England. The pace of learning is more relaxed and, wherever possible, failure is avoided.  Nordic young people continue developing and frequently overtake the ‘English early starters’ and become well-educated adults.
So what can we do to improve the system?  How can we learn from our North European neighbours? How can we draw on the strengths and mitigate the weaknesses of our current arrangements?  And how can we persuade our Government to create a fairer, happier and more effective education system better suited to life in the 21st century?
My proposals are to try and ensure greater fairness in the system:
• Fairness in all funding: no more favoured schools getting large bonuses. The only payment above actual costs should be an extra sum for pupils with special needs.
• Fairness in governance – with all schools having uniform powers and working within the same national context.
• Fairness in what can be taught – with a limited National Curriculum available to all pupils.
• Fairness in licence to innovate in organisation and pedagogy.
• Fairness in inspections – with the aim being to ensure that all schools are above an acceptable level rather than attempting to fine grade them  on the basis of unreliable – and very limited – knowledge.
•  Fairness in assessment – helping as many pupils as possible reach the highest levels rather than seeking artificially to restrict success on the mistaken Kingsley Amis principle that “more will mean worse”.
•   Fairness in the allocation of pupils to schools so that all schools recruit a “balanced intake” – pupils who find learning easy and those who do not; those coming from relatively advantaged social, cultural and economic family backgrounds and their opposites.
Of course these are huge challenges. My suggestions require much elaboration and refinement. They will be resisted by the politicians associated with the current system and by parents satisfied with the privilege enjoyed by their children. Other people will have to be convinced that what is proposed will be better.
But such a set of ideas offer a chance of solving the worst problems and of creating a fairer education system better suited to life in the 21st century.
I’ll be talking about these ideas at a seminar at the IOE on 10 December. hope you will come along and contribute to the discussion.