Commission on Inequality in Education

The Commission on Inequality in Education published its report last week on behalf of the Social Market Foundation.  (Click on the image below to download the full report)

Its authors are Nick Clegg, ex Deputy Prime Minister and ex-leader of the Liberal Democrats, Rebecca Allen, Director of Education DataLab, Suella Fernandes, Conservative MP for Fareham, Sam Freedman from Teach First and Stephen Kinnock, Labour MP for Aberavon.

Nick Clegg

Rebecca Allen

Suella Fernandes

Sam Freedman

Stephen Kinnock

Its key findings will surprise no-one  – the performance gap between the richest and poorest areas has remained large, schools serving areas of higher deprivation are much more likely to have teachers without a relevant academic degree (for example mathematics teachers without a degree in a mathematics related subject) as well as a much more transient teacher work force and the geographical area you go to school can be a significant indicator of your performance at school – for example, two identical pupils – one goes to school in Yorkshire, the other in London, the one in Yorkshire, on average, will do about a third of a grade worse than the student who went to school in London.

As a teacher in Yorkshire and someone who is crying out for a more joined up approach to tackling the attainment gap between Yorkshire and London and the South East, it does make depressing reading.  However one thing makes this report more of note to me personally than others that have come out saying more or less the same things – it spends some time discussing the role of parents.  Most reports seem to gloss over this and focus purely on the role of schools and teachers in improving academic performance.  At least this report emphasises the key role parents play and goes into detail on the effect of various things that are dictated by parents, ranging from regular bedtimes, to parents attending parents evening and taking responsibility for their children doing homework at home through to the academic background of parents themselves and gives a measure of the impact of these things on improvement in performance.

Its suggestions are interesting:

  • Schools in disadvantaged areas being able to access funds for incentives such as cheap loans for housing
  • Future head teachers having to have had a period of middle leadership in a school in a disadvantaged area (great idea but nothing like narrowing the pool even more)
  • Government should compel schools to publish data on training provision and staff turn-over – the reasons behind this are laudable – trying to improve the mentoring and training for teachers in tough schools but I fear this will be another accountability measure that hits those schools who are in the toughest circumstances even more and give good teachers yet another reason not to teach there
  • Launch a programme of after-school family literacy classes in primary schools in areas where there are large proportions of free school meals – again laudable but I remember parenting classes and parents unwillingness to attend them
  • Contracts between teachers and parents – again I remember well home school agreements and the fact they weren’t worth the paper they were written on in trying to get parents to play a more active role in the education of their children.

Interesting yes, laudable certainly, practical?  Without considerable ‘teeth’ the ones to do with parenting won’t work just like efforts in the past didn’t.  The ones to do with trying to arrest the high mobility among staff in tough areas could well, if not done with a lot of thought and care, make the problem even worse.

The fact they have tried to look at the role of parents makes this report stand out as one to take notice of and there are some good ideas which would be worthwhile looking at in more depth.  However, considering the current febrile state of education in this country I expect this report to be one of many the gets filed under “quietly forget” by our esteemed Secretary of State.

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Mr Chadburn

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