If you plot the GCSE results against the level of deprivation/affluence in this country (Financial Times 22nd Feb) you end up with a graph that hasn’t really changed over the years and tells an uncomfortable and inconvenient truth. A school’s performance is inextricably linked to the nature of the catchment area, which will be by far the greatest influence on childrens’ progress. Alas, in general, schools make little difference to this although, of course, an individual teacher can have a positive influence on an individual child.
With this information one can begin to shoot foxes; the rapidly improved, headline grabbing schools may simply have achieved this by managing to change their intake,poor performance cannot be laid at the door of Local Authorities,the targets culture, Free Schools, Academies, EBAC and OFSTED regimes are never going to make the difference.
The schools that seem to buck this trend and do well despite the relative ‘disadvantage’ of their catchment area (and there are a few notable exceptions) are often schools where parents, for cultural or ethnic reasons, support and encourage their offspring. Here lies the uncomfortable truth. To raise educational achievement (and social mobility), governments must find a way of engaging with parents. They must also find a way of convincing parents that education can actually make a positive difference to a family’s future, i.e. that there are genuine opportunities. A huge task and one that any Government should be supported to address. Alas, all we get is the cosmetic and the deceit of uninformed, gallery pleasing headlines.
We need to begin with the current school population. If we can ensure that their experience of education is positive and rewarding, where every child is taught how to support learning for themselves and for others, then there is a chance that they will pass this on to their own children. This also means a curriculum that excites and where jobs follow. We can at least make a start on the curriculum, now about those diplomas…..