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.

buckingfollocks Sat 11-May-13 14:01:36

I agree with mum in scotland. I think if it went back to how it used to be and people went to catchment area schools only, and catchments were re-drawn to be truly socially diverse, that would work.
The trouble with the parental choice aspect is that only certain types of family truly get the choice. Namely car drivers, and most of the time I guess people who are able to run 2 cars. In my town, the best schools are the ones which are on the edges of the town in the most affluent areas, areas in which hardly any young families live any more. Therefore, anyone who wants to go to the best ones has to be able to drive or be prepared to walk approx 2 miles from most parts in the town. They totally self select. And the whole cycle continues.

Bonsoir Sat 11-May-13 14:45:03

I agree with the sentiments expressed by other posters - wading through the piles of trash of consumerism is hardly conducive to learning. As a (reasonably well) educated parent, I spend far too much time (that could be better spent) ensuring my children are preserved from the consumerist crap that tries to invade our head space and physical environment at every opportunity. Only then, once I have cleared space, can they learn in peace. What hope is there for DC whose parents have fewer resources?

creamteas Sat 11-May-13 15:06:01

marginalised by definition often don't buy into the premise that an education is worthwhile

Most of the evidence I have read does not support this. Some may not think that the education on offer to their DC is worthwhile, but not that education itself is worthless.

This is a subtle but important difference.

The first requires changes to the educational system to make it more inclusive. However, rather than addressing this, instead there is a presumption that some parents have a 'problem'. This shifts the focus and allows individual blame.

Erebus Sat 11-May-13 15:06:08

I think one thing that may be overlooked in the 'equal access' argument is looking carefully at what a 'good' school is:

The generally accepted, and largely MN endorsed definition is 'One that produces a lot of high grade exam results'. Another might be 'One that helps each DC achieve their potential'. The latter is often far more expensive to run!

BUT the thing is, a 'good' school isn't necessarily just a bunch of buildings; it's a coming together of the famous Japanese 3-legged stool analogy: committed teachers, committed parents, committed pupils. Take one away and the whole edifice risks collapse.

SO, if there is a 'good' school, does it not risk becoming a 'less good school' if it expands its intake to include, for instance, less able pupils? Pupils from backgrounds that significantly increase their risk of bringing less-educationally desirable traits with them? I think any teacher might tell you that it takes only one or two properly disruptive pupils in a class to wreck the lesson for everyone (which is why I shock at the idea of spreading such miscreants across every school in the land).

We all say we want all the DC to go to a 'good' school but I genuinely believe that it's in our national psyche to, in the abstract 'want' this for 'everyone' but in the reality, the caveat is 'but providing it doesn't detract from my own DC's educational experience which I paid a lot of house-price money to get for him' or even 'as long as that DC doesn't get advantaged over and above mine when I have a) worked hard, and/or b) moved house and/or c) taken a forensic interest in my DC's education whereas his parent/s couldn't give a monkey's about his education yet he is getting far better facilities and teaching than my DC to compensate for his sub-optimal background'. In other words 'good' for that DC is fine as long as mine gets 'better'.... It is great to say 'We want all DC to get a high quality education' but we are, in my opinion naturally rather pissed off when we see people getting something we think is 'unfair', bearing in mind the educational pot of cash is only so big.

I am going to stick my neck out here and say that if one gerrymandered catchments, (assuming there were a government prepared to risk that!)- I'd be among the first to go private, though I could barely afford it. Sorry but one of the few things I have available to me is the ability to move into the catchment of a desirable school. Yes, it's unfortunate for those DC from families who wouldn't go to that much trouble- any trouble- for their DC, but the only way I'd be prepared to 'make that my problem' is if I were able to weigh in there and make those families take responsibility for the production of DC they aren't bothered about. And yes, there are council houses in my catchment, it isn't all MC idyll!

HamletsSister Sat 11-May-13 15:19:00

Local schools are far more the norm in Scotland, than in my reading of England from on here. You are guaranteed a place if you live in catchment and can only get a place out of catchment if one exists without the school having to employ extra teachers etc. Now I am very rural, and accept that this may be different in cities, but it means parents work with their local school rather than defecting down the road a this may not be an option.

Also, small schools and class sizes make for a much, much better social mix. No ghettoisation in schools or classes.

Xenia Sat 11-May-13 15:32:57

The FT Magazine has an article today about education. I believe it looked at this issue - is it morally right for a parent to do best for their child or should others take precedence? I would say the former is the laudable way to be, doing right by your child, not the latter - sacrificing your children whether over schooling, its own home life, its food etc for the better of the children of other families.

BoffinMum Sat 11-May-13 16:26:06

Xenia, London schools are funded at much higher levels than schools in E Yorks. It has little to do with Teach First - the numbers of TF graduates are tiny compared to the verbal numbers of PGCEs.

BoffinMum Sat 11-May-13 16:26:48

Overall, not verbal

creamteas Sat 11-May-13 16:39:50

is it morally right for a parent to do best for their child or should others take precedence? I would say the former is the laudable way to be, doing right by your child, not the latter

And that is what I find so wrong about our society. Of course I want my kids to do well, but not if it is at the expense of others. I would prefer a level playing field where the best, not the more wealthy, could shine and were valued at what they were good at whether it be waiting tables or running the country. And measuring success only in money is part of the problem.

Living in a societies which puts a higher emphasis on selfishness rather than community care is very depressing.

Bonsoir Sat 11-May-13 18:47:05

It is best for the community when all parents focus on the outcomes of their own child. Institutions should focus on the common good, and parents should be able to trust those institutions.

thesecretmusicteacher Sat 11-May-13 19:51:38

I've only worked with half a dozen "underprivileged" children so far. Their parents were varied, but absolutely all of them (including one who was abusive) were highly aspirational for their children. Most of them felt cut off from school after some awkward encounter with a teacher early on in the children's or the children's siblings' school career. They therefore had stopped communicating their aspirations to the staff and other professionals.

So when I read the Rowntree Trust reports saying poor families are aspirational, they just don't have the experience that leads to success, I believe it because it chimes with my own observations to date.

There are some children who are very very easy to help and if it's you that's helping them you don't mind them having the same or more advantages as your own kids so this helps overcome the "so long as he doesn't get more than my own kid" factor.....

Xenia Sat 11-May-13 21:17:18

cream, but that would mean you don't read your children stories at bed time, lave them and go and read them to under privileged children. It would mean feedings yours junk food whilst you took steak to the council estate. There is nothing wrong with doing the best you can for your child.

Talkinpeace Sat 11-May-13 23:20:26

just a slight antidote to the optimism up thread ....
overheard many years ago at the doctors

Mum 1 : Ooh are you sending Timmy to School A ?
Mum 2 : No, they make you work there, we are letting him go to school B.

Both A and B were dire failing schools that have been mereged into a dire failing sponsored academy
and as I drove past 20 mins after start of school the other morning, the kids were still drifting in (all live within walking distance)

I regularly see parents in pyjamas waving infant school kids off down the road to school - too effing lazy to get dressed, let alone walk them to school.

That kid could be Matilda, but the school will constantly be battling against the attitude from home.

Remember that 30% of UK households do not own any books (and I've visited some of those houses, they give me the creeps)

BoffinMum Sun 12-May-13 08:40:30

Talkinpeace, that's certainly part of the problem.

I taught in a reasonable comp with pretty hopeful parents in many cases, but the deferred gratification thing was a major problem for some, and that undermined the rest to a degree.

There was talk about becoming lawyers, teachers or whatever, but the families had no idea about the steps you go through to get there, nor the personal development required. We could tell the kids what they needed to do, but without seeing it up close at home, very few are going to work it out.

BoffinMum Sun 12-May-13 08:45:20

Wrt doing the best for your kids, that is great and how it should be. But you can extend the parental role beyond this to the benefit of all children by sitting on governing bodies of state schools, fundraising for local children's organisations and so on. Impacting people beyond your immediate family.

Bonsoir Sun 12-May-13 09:22:36

You impact beyond your own family by doing the best for your own DC and thereby contributing to raised average levels of attainment in your DCs' classroom. That is not the only way to contribute to the common good, but it is the one with the highest impact if everyone participates.

creamteas Sun 12-May-13 09:41:28

but that would mean you don't read your children stories at bed time, lave them and go and read them to under privileged children. It would mean feedings yours junk food whilst you took steak to the council estate

No it doesn't. It means that you read to both your own and other people's children because you can read. It means that both get fed a reasonable diet (so between junk food and steak perhaps).

It means that we should not accept that for some people to do very well, others have to live below the bottom. It does mean that the wealthy have to give up some of their wealth and power, but not that they would be impoverished.

The evidence shows that in more equal societies everyone is healthier, so the wealthy would also benefit in this way.

happygardening Sun 12-May-13 09:52:38

"I've only worked with half a dozen "underprivileged" children so far. Their parents were varied, but absolutely all of them (including one who was abusive) were highly aspirational for their children."
Its actually not these that worry me as much as those who aren't aspirational for their children there may be a variety of factors causing this and I don't have any right to judge them but we have to accept that these parents do exist. These are the underclasses I'm talking about and there chidlren continue to under acheive.

creamteas Sun 12-May-13 10:11:57

those who aren't aspirational for their children there may be a variety of factors causing this and I don't have any right to judge them but we have to accept that these parents do exist

But the evidence that they exist just isn't really there. All of the evidence says that even those deemed to be in the underclass are aspirational for their children. But their position mean that those aspirations do not necessarily translate into the current educational context.

For example, parents who allow their kids to miss school might facilitate this because they feel that their child's school is not the right place for them. This does not mean that they do not believe that education is beneficial. In that way they are no different from lots of middle-class mothers who negotiate school changes or even home educate. The point is that the strategies for dealing with a 'hostile' school, depend on the resources open to you.

Middle class parents have medically certified 'school-refusers'. Working class parents just have truants......

thecatfromjapan Sun 12-May-13 10:22:01

I'm amazed to see you write this, BoffinMum: "But you can extend the parental role beyond this to the benefit of all children by sitting on governing bodies of state schools, fundraising for local children's organisations and so on. Impacting people beyond your immediate family."

I know you can be shot down in flames for advancing some king of Victorian, top-down, philanthropic idea.

I really like it, though. I read it as asking for people to care in a radical way for others, and for a re-invigorated public sphere.

It strikes me that it is absolutely out of step with the ethos of our current times.

I was listening to the Gove going on about competition in a global age. The whole discourse seemed to be about individual parents grabbing, and teaching their children to grab, as much "education" as possible. The value of that "education" resided precisely in how much more of "it" one person had in relation to a (global) cohort.

It was really sad.

But realistically, BoffinMum, and I say this because I remember some of the comments you've written at other times, and have taken them on board, we'd have to have a huge cultural shift to have people putting in effort to widen the educational experience for the children of others, surely?

And isn't it too late to ask for all this effort, now that women are working for money, in structured employment, in ever-increasing numbers?

I pose these as real questions because I really emotionally and intellectually endorse the idea of people working for a common good in education.

(And I liked many of your other proposals. And the poster who said "money".)

lljkk Sun 12-May-13 10:26:10

What about Travellers or others who pull their girls out of school at 14-15, marry them off & expect a packload of children to follow with no further education? Often done with huge defensiveness about cultural traditions; how can you say they're aspirational for their kids? Or they are selectively aspirational, boys maybe but not the girls, only so far for the girls.

Never mind the Karen Matthews' types, who just don't imagine how to be aspirational in the first place, or whose aspirations are so distorted. You can't deny that there is an underclass who often struggle to even conceive of being aspirational, in the same way as mainstream society views aspiration, I mean.

yet a different type of situation: There's a 17yo neighbour (White British, not Karen Matthew's type family), but part of a large family who belong to a minority religious sect. The girl wanted to do A-levels but she's been told to put her plans on hold while she does caring duties for at least 3 other family members for the foreseeable future. Aside from caring duties, she gets to do a bit of cleaning for her brother's company. Aspirations completely put on hold. I grind my teeth about it.

That's what I mean about marginalised groups. Not merely poor, culturally marginalised in other ways, too.

creamteas Sun 12-May-13 11:06:21

Doesn't any parent want their children to have secure adult relationships. The fact that Travellers think it is appropriate at a different age that others, does not mean that it is not aspirational. The fact that schools are often incredibility hostile to Travellers, and they face obstruction, discrimination and bullying from a wide variety of organisations including educational ones, actually proves the point I was trying to make. That it is often the context that creates the barrier to educational achievement.

I am in contact with lots of families who for a variety of reasons have children have a difficult relationship or are not in school. Families who might be call 'Karen Matthews' types, although I think giving them this label is derogatory and a good example of how the barriers they face are created by others. They are often described as not aspirational or having children disaffected from school.

But they do want the best for their children and they do value education, but not necessarily the school system. Often what is described as lack of parental engagement, is them trying to protect their children from the threats that they see to their children from schools and the education system. They see their children written off by others as worthless, and can be can appear to be antagonistic because they want their children to know they are on their side.

In other words, what some see in them as a failure to engage and a lack of educational aspiration, they see as defending their children and helping them prepare for a hostile world.

Bonsoir Sun 12-May-13 11:09:01

We cannot as a society pander to the idiosyncrasies of every minority, particularly when those idiosyncrasies upset the smooth running of the lives of the community minded majority.

happygardening Sun 12-May-13 11:13:10

creamteas I dont know "evidence" your talking about but I'm talking about those who abuse alcohol and drugs, those with significant mental health problem or physical disabilities those in prison, prostitutes desperately trying to get money to feed a drugs habit etc. These people are parents as well and most love their children but their circumstances mean that they often aren't aspirational because frankly this is not their main priority their children will under achieve and so the cycle repeats itself. I find this unacceptable and short sighted in our affluent society that because through no fault of your own that you come from a disadvantaged home you are likely to under achieve at school and ultimately follow in your parents footsteps. We also need to accept that just because you come from a disadvantaged back ground doesn't mean your as thick as a brick and that a few D/E's at GCSE and a low skilled trade should be considered good enough. Most MC parents would settle for this.

stargirl1701 Sun 12-May-13 11:21:56

High quality teachers.

Low pupil/teacher ratios.

High quality support assistants.

Inspiring resources.

Access to outdoor spaces.

Meaningful pupil/teacher relationships.

Pedagogical rigour.

Formative assessment embedded.

Access to specialist provision if that is what suits the child/parents - nurture bases, conductive education, ASD appropriate education, etc.

Formal examination not undertaken until secondary school.

Early intervention.

Multi agency working teams.

A hell of a lot of money.

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