Here’s an interesting report about differences in achievement.
It’s a paper by Professor Steve Strand of Oxford University saying that the ‘attainment gap’ between pupils is not to do with the discrepancy in provision in schools, as per Ofsted findings, but is more to do with varying factors in the child’s experiences and opportunities outside school.
Ironically, it’s what most teachers have been saying for years.
The view that it is the schools which are ‘failing’ children, when they cannot close the achievement differences between those children from advantaged backgrounds and those who are not, is favoured by politicians because they can use it for political leverage.
But ‘failing’ children, as many teachers know, are not only or directly the fault of schools but a collection of circumstances some beyond the school’s control as the report says.
Indirectly, the report also raises several other important issues.
Firstly, politicians would never bring attention to the fact that their inept management has left huge areas of the country in poverty and this is what affects the children’s achievement more than schools. By laying the blame at schools’ door they can gain political favouritism by appearing to do something about it.
Secondly, politicians don’t like to make themselves unpopular so they make schools scapegoats and ignore a more sensitive but essential factor in children’s attainment; parental involvement and responsibility. The report suggests that the important influences on a child’s education lies within the quality of the care, attention, support, encouragement and opportunity that they receive from home right from the very start of their lives. School can only make a small difference if children are not raised in an encouraging climate. But it would be a challenge to vote-hungry politicians to do anything about it.
Thirdly, it’s been obvious for years to most in the profession that educational decisions should be made completely independently of politics. As it is, there’s a danger that essential decisions about our children’s education are often based on how popular they’ll make the party and how many votes they’ll win, irrespective of what children need.
And finally, another fascinating finding – and another that most teaching professionals already knew – is that the current accountability procedures and Ofsted inspections are not of much value.
The most telling line in the report is their belief that a punitive approach to ‘failing’ schools misconstrues the nature of the problem.”
I imagine there’s many a school and many a teacher who’ll be pleased to hear that!
And although I am sceptical about results and statistics, whether that’s in exams or material collated for reports like this one, I think that this report has raised many hidden issues within our education system which need addressing.
Perhaps the most important being; keep the politics out of it!