How do we ensure all UK children regardless of back ground/ability receive high quality education?

(645 Posts)
happygardening Fri 10-May-13 10:20:54

Contrary to what some may think I'm not anti state ed and as someone who works with disadvantaged children it really matters to me that they receive a high quality broad education and they fulfil their potential. But sadly in many cases they are not (there are I know exceptions) frequently their parents cannot assist them for a variety of reasons.
Is there an answer to this problem or are they condemned by their circumstances which are not of their own making to remain at the bottom of the heap?
No judgey DM comments please.

I think part of the issue is getting people to see education as a valuable end in itself. Its not just about grades and jobs but about developing yourself and your understanding of the world.

Some people who live in deprived areas will see education as a way out of poverty but I wouldn't be surprised if some young people see it as utterly irrelevant. If you live in an area where there is a shortage of work, zero hours contracts, NMW only then the "go to school, get good grades and get a good job" mantra sounds a bit hollow.

Additionally, lets start valuing vocational skills more. Not everyone is academically inclined and practical skills are valuable to the economy so lets acknowledge that.

Good post Chaz.

How do we do this? Obviously for most of these kids it won't come from parents or peers, and if they don't have that support, there's only so much schools can do. Maybe more needs to be done on the jobs front so that there is a viable and worthwhile alternative to going on benefits.

For the kids who are really at the bottom (I'm thinking of the ones you see in the news, usually after they have taken an accidental drugs overdose or been beaten to death by a boyfriend, who as toddlers are living in squalor, with totally chaotic home lives and incompetent parents) this probably isn't enough. More drastic early intervention?

GraduateofPoorComp Fri 10-May-13 10:51:26

I just joined to comment on a now full thread where someone was wondering if there really were able children who failed to reach their potential in some comprehensives. The poster clearly hadn't attended a poor comprehensive!

To OP there is the problem now one of resources being squeezed, any solutions would have to be cheap. The internet does provide fantastic opportunities for learning especially say mathematics but English needs the (expensive) personal touch.

As in all things some schools are run well and do fantastic things with the resources they have and others are badly managed- teaching and leadership are key.

Also do we need a massive propaganda campaign to promote learning? (As opposed to 5-a-day or "walk to school"! or is that too DM Op? ) I had a poorish secondary school experience BUT had a local library and fantastic TV programmes which inspired me.

There seems so much more consumerist trash to navigate my own children through. I feel my child's school opt into this by allowing golden time with tablets and Nintendo DS's! Why be embarrassed about saying school is for education?

Consumerist trash, yes Graduate! And many other kinds of trash!

When TV, papers, internet are full of Big Brother, How-I-Got-My-Boob-Job, celebrity tosh, youtube epic fails and other rubbish, more serious stuff gets pushed aside and seen as difficult or elitist. I'm feeling elitist now just saying this. confused

I think this has always been the case to some extent (e.g. choice of tabloid papers vs broadsheets being linked to class and education), but there has been such a huge explosion in media and TV channels.

Anyone see that programme with the boob-job addict mum and the serious daughter (a bit AbFab), with the daughter trying to study chemistry and the mum saying, "What a waste of time, that's an hour of your life you'll never get back."? Guess you can overcome your parents at any rate - but what if all the major influences in your life, other than school teachers, are like this?

The problem is it's difficult to improve things for the disadvantaged without inconveniencing the advantaged, and possibly meaning that some children don't have access to the better opportunities that aspirational parents want for them. So I doubt there will be much political will to change things.

One thing I'd say is a major problem in the English system is the idea of parents chosing a school - this means that parents who are able to will always get their child into a higher-achieving school, leaving those whose parents don't understand the system, or aren't interested, or don't have much in the way of travel options in the "sink schools", which then get a bad reputation, and spiral downwards in terms of achievement/reputation/morale.

Up here there is still much more of an assumption that you will send your child to their catchment school, and that the catchment school will have a place for them. I'm not saying that's perfect but it becomes the exception to pick a different schol, not something that parents obsess over.

I'd also increase provision for out-of-hours care, including homework clubs, so that those who would like to do better but don't have a good home environment or parents who can help will have an opportunity not to fall behind.

Oh and an option on properly-valued vocational/practical courses from 14 for those who are just not academic. Make sure they have literacy and numeracy skills for day-to-day life, then let them learn something more practical. But don't push them into that just because of where they live or what their parents do, give them a genuine chance to shine academically first.

happygardening Fri 10-May-13 11:28:18

"More drastic early intervention?"
This is what Surestart was meant to do but like everything else in the public sector experiencing huge cuts causing closure/massive reduction in services.
"More drastic early intervention?"
Of what nature? How do we fund this all those currently involved are stretched to their absolute maxim and leaving in droves. We are Im sure all familiar with the proverb "It takes an entire village to raise a child" but I am sceptical that this is nothing more than a dream, an ideal not achievable in our society because of the the way its organised/structured. When I read critical patronising comments about those on benefits etc in the DM i despair there are children involved in the situations cutting housing benefit, tax credits will have a negative impact on them.
I think the idea of valuing vocational skills is a good one but as my DH will cheerfully testify many actually require considerable academic ability especially in maths. Interestingly on the radio yesterday someone from Barrett homes was saying that there is and will be an increasing shortage of skilled tradesmen. But schools don't encourage this root its seen almost as a failure.

happygardening Fri 10-May-13 11:32:37

"The problem is it's difficult to improve things for the disadvantaged without inconveniencing the advantaged, and possibly meaning that some children don't have access to the better opportunities that aspirational parents want for them. So I doubt there will be much political will to change things."
AMumInScotland I think I know what you are saying but in what way will the advantaged be inconvenienced? Should we accept inconvenience to support the disadvantaged in our society? Or our we rich because they are poor?

I think parents will at least feel inconvenienced if their child has to attend the local school when it doesn't top the league tables. The fact that league tables say more about intake than teaching doesn't seem to deter parents from wanting "the best school" for their child, as seen on threads on here at this time of year in particular.

I don't exempt myself from this either - if someone was suggesting a change to the system that meant my DS had to go to a sink school where working hard was seen as a rarity, then I'd be worried about my delicate little flower too. (He's 19 now so no longer relevant, but I can still remember worrying about him when he started school...)

The ideal would be something which brought achievement up in the lowest-achieving schools without reducing it in high-achieving schools, but that is trickier than evening things out overall.

happygardening Fri 10-May-13 11:57:10

"feel inconvenienced"
I think thats an understatement of the century. I agree with you I too would worry/be cross/pay and of course in a "free society" that my right but I cant help but wonder if there's another way. Also will sending disadvantaged children to good schools really make any difference at our "well below average" numbers on free school meals local academy with "outstanding" results it appears the tiny handful of really disadvantaged children still don't do well.

Tingalingle Fri 10-May-13 12:02:25

Depends whether they are disadvantaged by circumstances alone, or by a combination of nature and nurture, perhaps, Happy?

Our local comp does top the (local) league tables BTW. DS still spectacularly failed to learn any GCSE maths there until we taught it to him at home. On the other hand, what it achieves for lower-ability intake and for its highest fliers is definitely outstanding.

happygardening Fri 10-May-13 12:11:27

I'm primarily talking about those disadvantaged by their circumstances eg extreme poverty/dysfunctional parenting not those with learning difficulties/complex needs.
Tingle of course these children may not be low ability just lower performers.

Thing is, if there was a simple answer it would have been done by now. It's not just the children involved who suffer from this, long-term it's society as a whole, so it's in everyone's interests to improve the situation.

creamteas Fri 10-May-13 20:06:20

Part of the problem is that you cannot separate out education from wider society. Inequalities in education are a result of wider socioeconomic conditions. Schools are only a small part of issue.

Issues such as poor housing, low-paid/insecure employment (currently being made worse by benefit cuts) lead to families under stress. Children living in poor homes, do not have the space to learn regardless of how caring their parents are.

The maintenance of middle-class privilege also requires poor children to do badly. Fear of falling in class terms means education is seen as a competition, and too often that means immoral behaviour is justified in the 'best interests of my child'. Those who can't play the game, loose out.

A good start to producing a level playing field would be to remove choice in schools. If we abolished all private, religious and selective schools, and assigned schools by catchments drawn up to take from different backgrounds. This would mean that there would be no acceptance of poor schools for the poor. It won't happen, but it would take something this radical to make a difference I believe.

BoffinMum Fri 10-May-13 20:11:56

Spend money equally on all types of children, and instead of vilifying failure, all muck in to help when children and schools do badly. Encourage extended schools, and give teachers enough headspace to care for the children they teach, and go the extra mile for them. Have lots of opportunities for all children to do interesting STEM activities taught be specialist teachers where possible, and encourage parents to come into school as much as possible to share extension activities. Praise people who speak more than one language. Praise people who can take things apart and rebuild them really well. Praise people who practise hard at things. Praise people who invent things and discover things.

That's pretty much it.

Happymum22 Fri 10-May-13 20:51:30

I know it is controversial but Teach First are working and campaigning for just that- no child's education success to be limited by their socio-economic background.
My DDs friend is training with them at the moment and it sounds like a really organised and committed organisation. My eldest DD tossed up between teaching and working for the NSPCC for ages, she looked into all the routes but back then TF was less established.
Basically they attract graduates from russell group universities, have a very tough assessment process and the graduates have a summer of intense training and then spend two years training on the job while getting their PGCE. They teach them specifically how to teach in disadvantaged schools and about the problems in the schools and the adversity that the children are experiencing in deprived areas.
After the two years half stay in teaching, half go into business/civil service/other areas but commit to continuing to address educational disadvantage. The idea being they will invest into education and have a real understanding of what the issue is which they take to other areas e.g. policy making.

I have worked with teach first students and they have all been extremely hard working, highly determined and committed. I really think the company is making an impact and is addressing the problem. They really stood out to me as teachers with so much drive and ambition to change things, and the understanding of exactly what is needed to address the problem.

BoffinMum Sat 11-May-13 00:02:04

That's all well and good but it means revolving doors for certain kids in deprived areas. And conventional PGCEs learn to cope with diversity and deprivation too, whilst committing for a longer period.

BoffinMum Sat 11-May-13 07:34:08

Also, happymum, TeachFirst is a tightly controlled PR and marketing machine. The only criticism it brooks of itself is via Government evaluations. Interestingly, Price Waterhouse Cooper found major problems with the scheme. But the leviathan rolls on.

A parallel would be getting drug companies to sponsor the training of nurses on the job, and getting those nurses to work for 24 months in deprived areas whilst preaching to them about their 'mission' and how wonderful it was that they were giving up two years of an otherwise highly paid career to dumb down and help da poor. Meanwhile you have other people committed enough to do this unpaid in the first instance, and continue in this career path for considerably longer. People with the same academic backgrounds.

I am a Teach First cynic and I am glad my children's education is not delivered in this way.

Xenia Sat 11-May-13 08:04:58

Teach first is one of the drivers behind inner London schools racing ahead of schools like Hull (most graduates from good universities with 2.1 want to work in London where their friends and parties are not hull). My son's friend AAA, RG 2/1, leading private school etc is I think doing a pretty good job in TF. It is one of the reasons the London pupils now get 2 grades higher in GCSE than Hull - good teachers from the right universities who are clever (and possibly a class issue too).

SignoraStronza Sat 11-May-13 08:09:30

Tax the private schools and remove their ridiculous 'charitable status' will go some way towards a. generating funds which can be spent on all state schools and b. perhaps meaning that fewer people will be able to afford private education and ensuring that the pushier parents are lending their support to state education.

soapboxqueen Sat 11-May-13 08:41:26

Money is what is needed. Lots and lots of money. Money to buy experienced and committed staff. Money to pay for those staff to have extra time to support those children who need it. Money to pay for specialist support whether educational, behavioural or medical. Money to pay for outreach workers to support families in difficult circumstances. Money to give disadvantaged children opportunities in school their parents can't or won't provide for them such as sports, music, arts and trips. Thus expanding their experiences of life and the work around them.

As an aside I think turning the education system on its head every 18 months (6 months if you are conservative) doesn't help.

I'm not a fan of teach first either as they have a low success rate and make the assumption that brighter person means better teaching. It's the x factor of teaching recruitment. It ticks boxes about what they think you need to be successful but rarely produces the talent that would have failed at the first hurdle if it had applied. I believe teachers are made not born but inspiring teachers, the ones we need to improve the aspirations of the most disadvantaged, have something in them that can't be given at any training course.

happygardening Sat 11-May-13 09:26:37

I listened to an interesting programme on the radio where it's was proposed that we should be looking more at the parents. Obviously providing them with proper literacy and numeracy skills but also looking at their work based skills teaching them a trade for example thus improving their income and may be raising their aspirations. I'm fully aware that this is not realistic for all parents but it makes sense to me that we're starting at the wrong end.
We have a primary school in this county that also has a GP surgery with a daily drop in surgery a dentist job centre council housing office and adult education centre based in it the head believes you have to start with the parents education is not in splendid glorious isolation to everything else and also make access to health care easy; to prevent children from taking a day off here and there with trivial minor illnesses or visits to the dentist because there parents don't bring them to school because they're doing the same thing.

soapboxqueen Sat 11-May-13 09:54:33

Interestingly enough happygardening I watched a piece from a documentary about a school in a deprived area of the US that looked at how they could show children that education was worth it. A gentlemen who himself had come from a deprived background but who had become very successful, sponsored the school to pay its pupils money for good grades. Now initially it sounds like a bad idea and that it sends the wrong message about education. However, their rationale was that in more affluent homes the parents had an education which allowed them to get better jobs. Therefore the children could see that education had a value. In deprived homes parents either had no jobs or low skilled ones that required no qualifications so the children did not have first hand experience of how education paid off in the long term. So by making education pay in the short term helped to bridge the gap.

Obviously there are some big generalisations happening here but it would be interesting to know the success rate of the program long term.

creamteas Sat 11-May-13 10:53:40

I hate arguments that poor educational achievement is because of low parental aspirations. It is basically over simplistic victim-blaming.

There is a large body of literature that demonstrates how poor people want the best for their children too, but that they lack the resources to be able to support their children in the same way.

For example, there is growing evidence that the current overzealous system of benefit sanctioning is having an adverse impact on children's education. It is not that the parents do not want to send their kids to school, but the extreme financial hardship it causes means a lack of money for things like transport & uniform which are necessary to enable kids to attend. For example, DS3's shoes fell apart this week, he only has one pair of shoes and trainers cannot be worn to school. I am in the privileged position to be able to replace school shoes without thinking about the cost, so he had a new pair the day he needed them. For families on low incomes, this problem could have led to being away from school whilst the money was found for shoes.

Poverty also leads to higher rates of depression and social isolation, so parents are less likely to be able to cope with day to day activities which again has an impact on school attendance.

Currently our society places a high value on class inequality, for example the pay disparity between the top and bottom is growing. This divide is reflected in the education system because it provides people to fill the jobs that others think are beneath them. But what is worse is that the class of people set up to fail are then blamed for having low aspirations. This places the fault in the individual not the system, and means that nothing has to change significantly in terms of the structures.

lljkk Sat 11-May-13 13:52:04

I dunno, Creamteas, sounds like you're lumping the problems of the poor together when they are a diverse group. There is a difference between poor & marginalised; eg., the marginalised by definition often don't buy into the premise that an education is worthwhile.

"For families on low incomes, this problem could have led to being away from school whilst the money was found for shoes."

At our school the kids would end up going to school in their trainers. Unless you're thinking that the school shoes are the only footwear.

One of my grandfathers went to school barefoot in the 1930s.

My first thought to answer OP was to ban private schools and divvy up school funding quite widely; suddenly the rich would be very invested in having good schools for all.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now