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What kinds of activities will encourage more students from disadvantaged backgrounds to keep studying science?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital29 March 2018

Tamjid Mujtaba
I have worked on a range of projects as a mixed-methods researcher over the years although none as quite exciting as  Chemistry for All,  a longitudinal project funded in 2014 by the The Royal Society of Chemistry. Why is it exciting? Because I am confident that both the research design along with the sentiment of  The Royal Society of Chemistry to tackle inequality in post-16 Chemistry participation will produce well-grounded evidence based policy recommendations.
The Royal Society of Chemistry have funded a £1 million five-year project with the main purpose of finding ways to widen participation in chemistry. Colleagues at the IOE and I are collaborating with partner universities to determine the effectiveness of a number of long-term innovative activities developed for schools with low (more…)

Education and social mobility – the missing link, or red herring?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital3 November 2017

This week the IOE held the first in our ‘What if…’ events series, which challenges thought leaders to bring some fresh and radical thinking to key debates in education. We kicked off with education’s role in relation to social mobility, asking the panel ‘What if… we really wanted to further social mobility through education?’
First up was Kate Pickett of Spirit Level fame. She rejected the very premise of the question, highlighting the greater impact of wider, pervasive inequalities. Nevertheless, she saw some scope for education policy to help lessen those inequalities – banning private education, randomising school admissions and ending student fees were a few of her recommendations.
Next was James Croft, chair of the Centre for Education Economics. James was more sanguine about what could be achieved through education and ‘working with the grain’ (more…)

Closing the gap: we need the best teachers in the most deprived schools

Blog Editor, IOE Digital4 September 2017

Becky Francis. 
Our society is stuck in a rut on social mobility – or rather, immobility. For decades, governments of every persuasion have sought to improve social mobility, to narrow the gap between young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and their peers. But that gap – in education, income, housing, health – continues to yawn. It is time to think more radically.
Recent months have seen a steady flow of research evidence documenting this problem. Two reports published this summer are good examples. Closing the Gap: Trends in Educational Attainment and from the Education Policy Institute, reveals that the most disadvantaged pupils in England are now on average more than two full years of learning behind non-disadvantaged pupils by the end of secondary school. (more…)

The crisis for young people: why housing is the key to social mobility

Blog Editor, IOE Digital4 July 2017

 
Andy Green.
Last week’s report from Alan Milburn’s Social Mobility Commission, Time for a Change, provides a useful assessment of the impact of government policies on social mobility between 1997 and 2017. Ranging over policies for the different phases of education and early working life, it finds that, despite some successes, these have had limited impact in enhancing opportunities for today’s younger generation.
The report concluded that today’s social divisions are not sustainable ‘socially, economically or politically.’ It calls for new ten-year, cross-sectoral targets for social mobility improvements, including a ‘social mobility test’ to be applied to new policies. In my new book, The Crisis for Young People, I have argued for a similar test to judge the effects of policies on intergenerational inequality (which is much the same concept as absolute social mobility).
However, despite the Milburn report’s range, in at least one area – housing – it (more…)

 Social inequalities – the report card

Blog Editor, IOE Digital10 January 2017

Heather Joshi and Emla Fitzsimons .
In his speech to the 1999 Labour Party conference Tony Blair compared two babies in adjacent beds on a maternity ward, delivered by the same doctors and midwives but with two ‘totally different lives ahead of them’. One returns to a poor home where life is a struggle and potential ‘hangs by a thread’. The other returns to a prosperous home where ‘potential and individuality can sparkle’.
New Labour rhetoric was accompanied by a strong push to understand better both the reasons for such disparity in life chances and how they might unfold. Blair’s government backed the Millennium Cohort Study, which the Economic and Social Research Council commissioned.
With further support from government we were able to sample some 19,000 families with a baby born in 2000-1 and have (more…)

Grammar schools: the rise and fall of ‘evidence-informed policy’?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital12 September 2016

Geoff Whitty and Emma Wisby. 
In her first major foray into domestic policy as Prime Minister, Theresa May has offered us more grammar schools. Not a return to the selective system of education that existed in England prior to the 1960s and still exists in modified form in a small number of local authorities; not the grammar school in every town envisaged by John Major in 1997; but new grammar schools where parents want them as part of the diverse mix of secondary schools that has developed in England over the past 30 years. We know that this would entail relaxing the restrictions on new or expanding grammar schools, as well as allowing existing non-selective schools to become selective in some circumstances. A fuller set of proposals will be subject to consultation in the light of a new Green Paper.
Our concern here is what to make of this development in relation to the rhetoric of evidence-based or evidence-informed policy that has been espoused by politicians of all three major political parties for some time now. On the face of it, it looks like a particularly stark illustration of how policy is in fact more often driven by ideology and the personal experiences and preferences of policy makers and their advisors – as well as the internal management of party politics. This is a point we made in our publication earlier this year, Research and Policy in Education. The conduct and outcome of the EU referendum (more…)

Social mobility, education and income inequality: an overview in five graphs

Blog Editor, IOE Digital17 March 2016

 
Lee Elliot Major and John Jerrim.
The study of education inequality and social mobility increasingly feels like a small world. The British Prime Minister David Cameron hopes for improved educational opportunities for disadvantaged children. President Barack Obama has put the issue of inequality and social mobility at the heart of at least one State of the Union address. In fact most national leaders espouse similar aspirations. And at international gatherings the education challenges facing countries are strikingly similar: improving education in the early years; recruiting and developing good teachers; ensuring equitable access to leading universities.
But international comparisons matter precisely because of the differences they reveal between countries. We can indicate how well one education system or society is performing by comparing it against somewhere else (the assumption being that humans are basically the same across the world). At the same time good comparative data is devilishly hard to come by and offers mainly (more…)

Selection at 11 – a very English debate

Blog Editor, IOE Digital5 December 2014

Chris Husbands
Originally posted on SecEd
It is a persistent undercurrent in English educational debate, but it is peculiarly English: should academic selection at the age of 11 be restored?
Boris Johnson, perhaps in response to perceived UKIP pressure, has declared himself in favour of more grammar schools, and Teresa May, more cautiously, has welcomed plans for a satellite grammar school in her constituency of Maidenhead. In Kent, the Weald of Kent grammar school is preparing a new proposal to establish what is either (depending on your view) a new grammar school in Sevenoaks or a satellite site in Sevenoaks.
The arguments for restoring grammar schools are couched in terms of opportunity and social mobility: Boris Johnson called them mobilisers of opportunity. But the evidence to support this is almost non-existent. (more…)

Parents' fortunes matter for cognitive development of 11-year-olds

Blog Editor, IOE Digital3 December 2014

Lucinda Platt, Visiting Professor at UCL Institute of Education and Professor of Social Policy and Sociology at London School of Economics and Political Science
Originally posted on The Conversation
As they reach the end of primary school, the UK’s children face persistent inequalities in their cognitive development. New findings from the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS), a survey of children born between 2000 and 2002 across the UK, show that the level of parents’ education and family income both remain clearly associated with children’s verbal skills at the age of 11 – even when taking into account other differences in family background.
The MCS, based at the UCL Institute of Education, London, has followed around 19,000 children since they were nine months old, visiting them and their families again at ages three, five and seven and then most recently at the age of 11.
On each occasion from age three onwards, tests of cognitive skills have been carried out by specially trained interviewers (more…)

Let's replace our Fortnum's v Walmart system with a John Lewis model of schooling

Blog Editor, IOE Digital25 February 2013

Sandra Leaton Gray

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).
sandrachart1
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.