Do you think there is really zero excuse for poor achievement in British state schools

(43 Posts)
ReallyTired Fri 22-Feb-13 10:47:44

London schools are doing better than the rest of the country.

www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-21534863

Do you think its the mindset of immigrants who want a better lifestyle or is it high quality teaching. Its surprising that a poor child in Newham does stastically better than a child from a financially average family in the rest of the country.

Do you think the sucesss at Little Ilford can be duplicated in the rest of the country. Are working class white children capable of similar achievement? Are schools responsible for low expectations.

I live in an area where my children's school is about 75% white working class. I believe that the problem of under achievement in white working class children is lack of expectations rather than lack of basic intelligence.

I think it is to do with expectations, but not from the school.

If a child never reads at home, isn't spoken to, spends hours on computer games and watching TV, etc, no matter how high the expectations are at school, the child can't meet them and won't value what the teacher is offering.

If the parents do not value their time at school and make constant disparaging and hostile remarks about the system, the teachers and the homework, the child will not engage at school.

I have taught children and teenagers from Asia; the huge difference is their attitude. They are very polite, the parents are on the teachers's side and they really want the children to succeed.

And you are quite right; of course it is not about basic intelligence!

Farewelltoarms Fri 22-Feb-13 11:12:53

I think it's also to do with a general culture of aspiration in London. This is a very perceptive comment from Mike Skinner The Streets man "There's a sense of entitlement about everyone in London that you just don't get outside of London. Young MCs in London, they go to clubs and they're meeting A&R guys and bumping into famous rappers. And it doesn't matter if you come from below the poverty line in Tower Hamlets, there is a sense of expectation from living in London that you can go anywhere. There's no glass ceiling, you can take it as far as you want."
I really see that in my children's inner city primary. You want a famous author to talk there, they'll come. You want to do acting, oh yes that boy in year 6 is in an Oscar nominated picture etc. You can see the City, you can see a world beyond and that can create grievance (e.g. riots) but it can also create a sort of confidence.
I'm not knocking outside London, (I'm originally from outside London) but I really noticed at university that the most confident and can-do were either those from big public schools or from London state schools.
It does make me laugh that people always talk squeamishly about 'inner city schools' and how they had to move out of London 'for the schools'. That stupid cow Stella McCartney said oh yes of course I'd loved to have sent my children to state schools but we don't live in Sussex we live in the city.

tiggytape Fri 22-Feb-13 11:19:28

I agree with LaBelle - the culture of the school, as the article says, is hugely important but if many of its parents don't have the same ambitions and expectations, it is an uphill battle.
A school where parents challenge every rule, resent uniform being enforced, are against homework being set or attendance being monitored is on the back foot already because a lot of their focus moves to appeasing parents, explaining to parents and trying to win them round the benefits of consistent rules, regular attendance and homework.
At schools where parents agree with this philosophy already and go above and beyond in supporting the school, helping with homework, ensuring attendance, backing up the teachers etc the school's job is a lot easier and results are better because everyone is pulling in the same direction.

ReallyTired Fri 22-Feb-13 12:35:52

London state schools used to have some of the worse results in the country. Certainly before the London Challenge there was not a can do attitude.

I know a lot of people who have moved out of London for space reasons rather than the schools.

"At schools where parents agree with this philosophy already and go above and beyond in supporting the school, helping with homework, ensuring attendance, backing up the teachers etc the school's job is a lot easier and results are better because everyone is pulling in the same direction. "

Lots of parents do this outside London. Why is it that London state schools now have the best results, where as in the past they were awful. Is the parents who have changed or the schools themselves. London has been heavily muticultural for at least 20 years.

lljkk Fri 22-Feb-13 13:27:30

but see other threads about social cleansing, I can't help but think that the average London resident is wealthier and more educated than national average (no matter how you measure wealth).

ReallyTired Fri 22-Feb-13 13:42:18

Newham is a very deprived part of London. At Little Ilford school 50% of children are on free school dinners. I really don't think that the children of Little Ilford School can be described as wealthy. For 88% of the children English is a second language so I doult that that they are being read to in English at home. (Although I am sure that the parents passionately support their children in plenty of other ways. Prehaps the children had bed time stories in Urdu.) Some of the children at Little Ilford arrived in year 7 with poor standards of literacy yet 71% of them got 5 GCSE.

The East end had the Teach First where top graduates without a PGCE taught in inner city schools. London also spends more on its schools than the rest of the country, although much of that is for higher salaries.

potatoprinter Fri 22-Feb-13 13:45:07

In my own borough where there is only one community school (others are faith) it was the investment by our LEA in that particular school and the appointment of a super head some years back who transformed it.

I think the demographics of immigration have changed and we tend to have a lot of people from eastern Europe (especially Kosovo/Albania) and also from arabic speaking countries who seem to value education very highly and are very motivated in making sure their kids get a good education.

Which obviously wealth is a factor, most wealthy people in our borough, in fact a majority of kids overall use private schools. I would say the majority of kids in our school are from social housing.

I also think the fact that we don't have grammar schools in central London means that results are higher on the whole and the schools are forced to cater for the more able.

potatoprinter Fri 22-Feb-13 13:48:08

Just reading Tiggytapes comments above. When the current head took over at DD's school, apparently it was the middle class parents who were against uniform, streaming and the draconian crackdown on behaviour. Ironically those are the factors which have largely transformed the school - unpleasant as they may be to some people, they have benefitted the majority.

muminlondon Fri 22-Feb-13 14:04:55

There was another BBC report on this last year, saying LA maintained schools taking part in the London Challenge did better than academies, when its report came out:

www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-18654050

I think some of the reasons that have been cited are:

- political will backed up by money (I don't know the cost of it but the London Challenge ran for 8 years under Labour till 2010)
- peer to peer mentoring, lots of collaboration between schools both in an LA and wider local area
- specialist, tailored advice depending on the school (not one size fits all)

The question is, why has the DfE cut money for this scheme instead of applying it more widely in other areas, if it clearly worked and the Ofsted chief says so?Instead it has overspent £1 billion on converting schools that were already good into academies. Which may make it harder for them to work together or for individual schools to be supported if shit hits the fan.

Tasmania Fri 22-Feb-13 14:06:57

Immigrants who move here are a lot more determined at making sure their child will have a better life. That's what they come here for in the first place. It is also more likely that their kids will enjoy an international upbringing, visiting relatives abroad at least every few years (families save up for that). That sort of background helps a lot - traveling shows you that the world has no barriers, and if there are no opportunities in the UK, there will be some outside of the country (and they can emigrate just like their parents have done).

I do think there is a huge value in an international upbringing (which I enjoyed). So many people on MN say that they don't do international holidays; they are very UK-centric which is fine if the UK was not a tiny island. If you think about it, Brits do make fun of Americans being very US-centric... that's pretty much the same thing, but at least the Americans live in a very big country! For Brits to say things like that would be the same as an American saying he/she'd never venture out of state - which evokes the images of rednecks.

Anyway, if it's not necessary for children to see the wider world out there, then what's the argument for them to look beyond the small town they live in? Because that is really a problem the white WC pupils have. They are sort of expected to look at what they can do within the area... and if there's nothing there, what can you aspire to?

muminlondon Fri 22-Feb-13 15:16:29

'if there's nothing there, what can you aspire to?'

I watched the Newsnight discussion that the article refers to. Michael Wilshaw said something like 'there may be a culture of low achievement at home, or in the town, but that does not mean there should be a culture of low achievement in the school'. Children obviously do best of all with all three ducks lined up in a row but they can also be shown that there IS something there. If the local authority or suppotive group of schools say so, the head can say so, teachers can say so, all the visitors to the school can say so, and maybe local politicians or even those Westminster-based creatures, MPs, could say so.

BooksandaCuppa Fri 22-Feb-13 17:31:52

It's a very interesting topic - and I've been wondering about this on and off for a few years since it was first mooted how well many of the London boroughs do in comparison to similarly deprived areas in other parts of the country.

Unscientifically, I imagine it's probably a mixture of the reasons mentioned so far: immigrant children and their parents might, on the whole, be more motivated and aspirational than the indigenous w/c people - who have now slowly been moving out of central London for years; secondly, the culture of aspiration mentioned above generally when you are in the 'middle' of everything (opportunities for author visits, visits to the City or to see big sports events or whatever else); thirdly, maybe the very best Heads and teachers have been recruited to work in these areas.

It's a bit like the discussion a friend and I have had about whether it's preferable if you're really poor to live in the beautiful countryside or in the middle of a city. Obviously, in the country it could be really beautiful and relatively crime-free but that's about it. You can't really afford to do anything or go anywhere, including accessing free services for children or young people. In a city, there are libraries, children's centres, free activities at museums or sport and leisure centres (in London even free transport for kids), such that if you are interested in accessing a 'wider', more cultured world you can and quite cheaply.

muminlondon Fri 22-Feb-13 18:27:05

Is there a bigger class divide among the white population than any other group? Low aspiration at home and in the town probably is a bigger barrier to overcome than low income and language barriers when society is divided. Combined with geographical isolation it's even harder to overcome - northern and coastal towns are mentioned in particular here:

www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-20324336

I think it makes it even more important for schools to be given targeted help in these areas rather than work in isolation. I can't see what else would break this cycle. And lumping children into national academy chains isn't enough.

Elibean Fri 22-Feb-13 18:35:44

Now this is a very interesting thread....expectation and aspiration: I would agree with those being determining factors.

SavoirFaire Fri 22-Feb-13 20:06:14

Very interesting thread. Timely for me as I was thinking of posting a question about how worried I should be that the school my DC will in most likelihood be going to, very soon, is 30%+ FSM and 50%+ EAL. Having visited it, my instincts are that it's a nice school and the results are pretty good (93% L4+ at KS2 in English and Maths, 36% L5+, VA 102.6 - that's ok right?) but not a single other local MC parent I have met is even remotely considering it. In fact they are running a mile. Only reason I can think for this is that people are - and I am sorry to be blunt about it - tacitly racist and don't like the fact that it is majority black, asian children from 'the estate'. I couldn't give a whatsit about that, and come from an immigrant family myself (although I'm third generation) so have plenty of family stories about prejudice and of the motivation that being an immigrant can give you. I don't think I need to post that thread now.

lalalonglegs Fri 22-Feb-13 20:46:07

I have no idea why this should be but I am pleased and really fascinated. Marking place.

teacherwith2kids Fri 22-Feb-13 21:55:00

"Obviously, in the country it could be really beautiful and relatively crime-free but that's about it. You can't really afford to do anything or go anywhere, including accessing free services for children or young people."

I taught until recently in a school in the countryside, but with a challenging intake in terms of socio-economic deprivation. I would agree with what you say - plus the fact that worklessness is often entrenched (poverty, in areas with very poor public transport, means having no car and no ability to access work where the employment opportunities are very spread out), and the 'visibility of aspiration' (as in seeing possible future opportunities and being motivated to aspire to them) is very low.

On the other hand, crime / gangs [but not drugs / alcohol] are not quite so visible.

BooksandaCuppa Fri 22-Feb-13 22:04:19

It's true, teacher. In very rural areas there is a huge gap in the kinds of employment available - so a few professionals/managers/county council type jobs then all very low skilled work or unemployment. That engenders true poverty of aspiration as much as anything.

At the secondary school I work (which is much more rural than where I live) there are virtually no opportunities for work experience for the teenagers because a bus fare into the main city would cost more than they would earn for a four hour shift.

Interestingly, though, I think one of some of the areas for very low educational attainment, even taking deprivation into account - in comparison to London - are such as Doncaster which is more urban/suburban.

There must be many local factors which affect all of these outcomes.

teacherwith2kids Fri 22-Feb-13 22:08:52

I presume that local history must be a big factor in some places e.g. ex centres of industry where the main industry has closed will tend to go through a period of relative deprivation. Cities or towns with a more 'mixed' economy, or like London where the main employers have not been industrial, may tend to experience less fluctuation perhaps?

BooksandaCuppa Fri 22-Feb-13 22:22:32

Definitely true, I think, for the areas of industry (of which Doncaster, as a former mining area, is one).

There was a fascinating programme on R4 (where else?) recently about young unemployed males being willing to try shop and service sector work as an alternative to unemployment. The comparison was, I think, between south Wales and somewhere like Essex/Kent. Young men from the latter were much happier to try this kind of work which, until relatively recently, was seen as 'women's jobs' than those from Wales and the researchers put it down to being something like three generations had to pass before it was acceptable for the working class males to do anything other than 'hard graft' type jobs. The psychology behind this was fascinating.

I do think that diversity of opportunity must be a significant factor in improving educational outcomes when the young people can see something to aim for. Whilst even in a half-baked small city, there will be things like solicitors, estate agency, recruitment, civil engineering firms which at least provide a spread of things to aim for, in London, as you say, that's exponentially larger with glamorous things like record companies, PR and marketing in the mix, not to mention banking!

BooksandaCuppa Fri 22-Feb-13 22:27:02

I guess it's the children who are not aiming for University/professional careers that I'm talking about (and that contribute to the stats in the OP) and, when you think about it, the spread of those kind of opportunities varies tremendously from region to region.

muminlondon Sat 23-Feb-13 00:41:10

I think you are right BooksandaCuppa - employment opportunities are going to vary so much from one region to another but children have to be told what they are to give them some hope. There has to be a really big effort to reconnect children in some towns with the opportunities around them and I don't just mean narrow vocational training. Teachers or schools can't do that on their own but school would be the place to start so I'd like to see a 'northern challenge'. I've just found out that over five years it had cost £40 million (TES article in 2008). Gove overspent 1 billion on converter academies in two years. I think so much more could have been targeted with that money.

ReallyTired Sat 23-Feb-13 11:39:55

Why should there be a huge difference between London schools and those in the home countries that are just half an hour away from the city?

I think a lot boils down to expectations and belief in children.

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