Education and social mobility - John Humphrys is coming on for a discussion, Fri 29 Jan, at 11.30am

(613 Posts)
GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 25-Jan-10 16:13:45

John Humphrys is filming a documentary about education for BBC2. He is embarking on a journey around Britain to meet parents, teachers and students.

His task is to examine the relationship between education and social mobility - why is it that education cannot close the attainment gap that exists between children from the poorest and wealthiest backgrounds?

Government education advisor David Woods has accused parents of being prejudiced against their local state secondary schools. Dr Anthony Seldon, Master of Wellington College, calls the current independent sector an apartheid system. Professor Stephen Ball, from the Institute of Education, concludes that grammar schools, parental choice and faith schools have all been responses to middle-class concerns.

John is coming to Mumsnet this Friday (29 Jan) at 11.30am to hear your experiences. Are you benefiting from parental choice in education? Is it at the expense of others? Does the current system put too much responsibility on parents to make the right choices? Is it too stressful? Do you feel you have to top-up your children's education eg home-tutoring, learning an instrument, employing a lawyer? Are they worthwhile investments, or necessities that cause resentment?

Please post your thoughts here. Thanks in advance.

BelleDeChocolateFluffyBunny Mon 25-Jan-10 16:37:44

I think that there is a huge difference in the state education all over the country which has become evident from threads on here. Where we live, after school clubs in schools are a rare occurance, there's little or no emphasis on achievement and doing your best, discipline in schools is at a real low. The only option we have is to go into the private system. It's clear that this is different for all parts of the UK, I have spoken to people here who's schools are so very different and can not understand why I wish to send my child to a private school when the state school's their child attends offers so much. I did send my son to a state school, he was there for a term and a half until the bullying became so bad that I placed him back into the private system. In the state school he was no where near stretched, discipline was terrible and he has learned a few bad habits and bad words. Most parents want the best start for their child, the state system is hit and miss though. If you have a fantastic local school that offers a range of activities and encourages each child to reach their potential then this is brilliant, many state schools do not though. There is no parental choice as unless you have the funds to pay for a private education then you have to accept what is on offer, no matter how dire it is.

FiveGoMadInDorset Mon 25-Jan-10 16:47:20

I heard some of this debate on Woman's Hour this morning. We are much luckier than some. We live in rural Dorset. We have a choice of 5 primary schools, one in our catchment, that we could realistically get our children into, this then goes down to a choice of 2 middle schools, then one secondary but there is a grammar school in Poole. All our schools are good, the middle schools eing behind the rest but not to far. I also think that it is whatwe as a parent put into our child's schooling which is important, either helping with or making sure the homework is done, close liason with teachers if there are any problems etc.

exexpat Mon 25-Jan-10 17:17:12

'Does the current system put too much responsibility on parents to make the right choices?'

It puts a huge amount of stress on parents by presenting the illusion of choice, and then makes them feel like failures - and makes them resent the schools they are allocated - when they do not get places at the school they have decided is the best one for their child.
In many areas (mine included) there is no actual choice - decent schools have 'areas of primary responsiblity', ie catchment areas, and the best ones are so popular that you only stand a chance of getting in if you are within a few hundred metres of the school. You can visit as many schools as you like, agonise over your decision, and try to make the best choice for your child, but in the end you just get allocated the closest school (if you are lucky) or a sink school, miles away and not on your list, if you are unlucky. Or you pay (if you are lucky enough to be able) in order to have an actual choice.

SpeedyGonzalez Mon 25-Jan-10 17:26:39

Here in Brighton & Hove there aren't enough school places to go round so god only knows what we'll do if we end up without a place next year. Even though I don't object to the idea of the independent system, there's no way we could afford to pay for private schooling, nor could we afford to home school (there is also the small matter of me going mad if forced to do so wink).

I am sure there must be many parents here who pay for private education because under these circumstance they have no choice. So you see, the situation is always more complicated onceyou start to look into the details.

As far as the faith school issue is concerned it has always irritated me that they are used as a weak justification for non-faith schools failing. If a school is not up to scratch one cannot simply claim that it is because the children are 'faulty'. You have to look at the whole context - for example, I have heard countless times from teachers and heads that a head teacher can have a dramatic effect on their school's performance. If a school is failing it is the responsibility of all those who are in charge of that school - heads, teachers, governors, parents and pupils, plus the local authority. To blame the children alone shows a lack of insight and rigour in one's thinking.

SleighGirl Mon 25-Jan-10 17:49:13

Interestingly the independent school Christ's Hospital was set up for this reason it's aim is to give social mobility to children with poor "social" & financial backgrounds.

Obviously most of the children who go there achieve well academically (because it is academically selective) I'm not sure if it does attain social mobility for those who have attended though. I don't know if they actually check IYSWIM where there ex pupils are in 5, 10, 20 years time.

saggarmakersbottomknocker Mon 25-Jan-10 18:02:08

Parental choice is definitely a misnomer - if you cannot afford private, or 11+ tuition or even the travel expenses to a state grammar, you have no choice. It's the luck of the draw whether your catchment school is a good one.

In an ideal world all state schools would be good schools then 'choice' wouldn't matter. But as it stand the poorest children are generally landed with the poorest schools and for them social mobility is a pipedream.

fembear Mon 25-Jan-10 18:02:43

Education may be at fault for not closing the social mobility gap but please don't blame parents.
I assume that everyone would like kids to be keen as mustard at school, with supportive parents behind them. So why is it that the families that do conform to this get pilloried as pushy middle class parents with sharp elbows. They are the ones trying to do the right thing but they get it in the neck because they are, apparently, 'stealing' the chances of less privileged families. It is not the fault of parents: it is the fault of the system for not ensuring that all schools are desirable.

If my kids do well 'at the expense of others' then I cannot help it - I am only operating within the system as it stands. I am hardly going to purposefully disadvantage my kids, am I?hmm

seeker Mon 25-Jan-10 18:02:51

Grammar schools were started with the intention of improving social mobility and to give bright children from disadvantaged families a step up. What has happened in the areas where they remain is a reinforcing of social division - with virtually all the places in grammar schools going to the children of middle class professional families who understand the system and can work it to their advantage. In these areas, disadvantaged children are then put at a double disadvantage by going to schools which are diminished by their proximity to grammars. It's an outrage, and should not ba allowed to continue.

anastaisia Mon 25-Jan-10 18:12:19

You should take a look at elective home education alongside choices families make with state and private schooling.

Research from Paula Rothermel (Durham University) and others indicates that the positive difference home education can make for children from lower socio-economic groups is often more pronounced than for their peers from more privileged backgrounds.

It would be interesting to see what these home educating families are doing that closes the attainment gap that schools are not always able to do and how it fits in with research that indentifies parental involvement with schooling as one of the biggest predictors of academic achievement.

donnie Mon 25-Jan-10 18:13:52

people with more money can afford to move house and buy in the catchment area of a 'good' school; people without money can't. This means the 'good' school gets more and more kids from moneyed backgrounds and fewer from poorer backgrounds. This pushes up house prices and also causes shrinkage to the catchment area. This is how 'good' school and 'sink' schools are created. So the catchment system is not fair at all and is directly linked to income, as I have demonstrated. The only truly fair way would be to pull names out of a hat, literally.

fembear Mon 25-Jan-10 18:21:02

I would also reccommend that you look at Primary schools' attitudes to the 11+. A lot of schools refuse to do preparation for the test (some even seem ideologically opposed!).

Wealthy parents buy-in tutors. Poorer families are left to flounder. Whose fault is that lack of social mobility? How crazy is it for an LEA to run a Grammar but not prepare their kids for it? (I know that they want 'true talent' to shine through and frown on tutoring but, in the real world, if others are tutored then the true talent is left behind)

loungelizard Mon 25-Jan-10 18:27:47

There's also the problem of different GCSEs/courses being pedalled as 'equal'.

Many chldren find themselves unable to even apply to some universities for some courses because they have been ill advised to take softer options for some subjects, thus ruling themselves out of applying for medicine, law. Hence, the stranglehold the private sector has on the professions.

The private schools know full well which subjects are acceptable to top universities, some state schools are very reluctant to advise students which are the best GCSEs/A levels to take, for some strange reason.

This all means some bright but disadvanted children have fallen at the first hurdle, whereas their, possibly less bright, counterparts in the private sector know exactly what is needed to secure that place at that top university. Grossly,grossly unfair.

The state grammar schools know what they are doing too, but the application process for those leaves a lot to be desired, with, again, those in the know (myself included) probably gaining places at the expense of a bright child with no parental or primary school support.

cakeywakey Mon 25-Jan-10 18:31:44

I'd second loungelizard's post, particularly about which A Levels to take. I'd never even heard about 'hard' and 'soft' subjects and was never given any guidance, as a result I unwittingly narrowed my choice of universities. It is unfair.

saggarmakersbottomknocker Mon 25-Jan-10 18:35:25

Yes - agree about bad advice. dd's school, like many have connexions advisors coming in to give careers advice. Frankly some of them don't know their arse from their elbow.

fembear Mon 25-Jan-10 18:42:32

"people with more money can afford to move house and buy in the catchment area of a 'good' school; people without money can't."

This is not necessarily true. Our town has three secondary schools and the catchments are drawn so that each of them has a 'bad' estate on their books. If you do 'nearest the school gate' catchment then you may get the problem that you mentioned but all it needs is for County Hall to draw their demarcation lines in the right places. The poor and wealthy often live in close proximity to each other; you can ensure that they are in the same catchment.

LeninGrad Mon 25-Jan-10 18:44:13

Grants for HE should be reinstated.

cakeywakey Mon 25-Jan-10 18:54:39

Agree with Lenin too, or at least tuition fees should be scrapped. I was lucky to be one of the last years to benefit from grants, although they were severly curtailed by that point. It was better than nothing though, and certainly better than paying tuition fees.

My parents were able to pay for my rent throughout university, but I had to work in a shop all weekend, every weekend and seven days a week during the holidays to get by. It did me good to be honest and made me self-sufficent, but it wasn't always easy, especially as a lot of my peers were much better-off financially. And perhaps I would have done better if I'd had more study time.

My friends who are only a few years younger than me are paying off frightening amounts of debt in student loans. If I'd been their age and faced with fees, I probably wouldn't have gone to university at all.

Tortington Mon 25-Jan-10 19:24:35

out in a world that is relatively free from middleclassdom and even affluent WC parents - just your average joe, with average life rubbing along with under average and underclass people ( no boden shoes to be seen)...in this world of state education - the failure of the education is only part of the problem

1)why is there a failure of education?
class sizes and resources ( lack of) curriculum that will not allow the teachers to engage the pupils. and maybe in some cases - rubbish staff. But certainly reporting and stats stats stats, tables tables tables. not education education education.

4.5 hrs a day for 11 years - and some kids can't leave with any kind of qualification. That is nothing less than disgusting.

2) subjects taught. right lets cut the shit. if we taught only english and maths and basic science until every child without exception could get a GCSE. at options year - child already has english maths science aged 14 - they could then choose subjects which they like or which are of use to them - such as languages, art, drama, PE.

3) If a child fails - use the american system and keep them behind a year.

in secondary school - education is practically ancillary to the social side of school. i mean have you ever had to witness teenagers getting ready for school? it can take a long time and your house stinks like a whores handbag all day. its about your shoes, your hair, your make-up. who is going out with who - who is intrested in who - who they are going to sit next to in mrs owens french class etc...its hardly about the subject at all.

I can guarentee you that my kids would have lit a rocket under their arses if they thought that they were going to be left in a YEAR BELOW and leave all their friends.

4)parental input - this is the biggest influence in a kids life. but the govt are dissolving our responsabilities.

lunch box monitoring, healthy eating excersise - Yeah, sure Jamie Oliver - change school dinners - where the govt provide school dinners - it should be damned well healthy... but what i put in my kids lunch box is my affair.

you cannot have these killer dinner monitors patrolling in case there is any sign of a kit-kat - its ridiculous.

the counter argument is ofcourse that there is always a little boy or girl who got nothing but a packet of crisps - then that person should be met with.

if the majority of mothers are filling lunch boxes with only a packet of crisp - then by jove missus, society is going to hell in a handbasket.

if you want parents to parent properly you must invest in them. parenting classes compulsory on reciept of child benefit.

if you want to change the culture, if you want to educate society - you cannot do this by simply taking over parenting through schools

you take away valuable learning time from teachers. they have enough to do without all this bullshit.

5) made up subjects.

seriously - i know this gets peoples backs up but we all know that there are subjects out there for the thick kids ( oops shouldn't i have said that - course there aren't any are there!) so those children "less academically able" then.

my son ( the aforementioned less academically able) was railroaded into doing "leisure and tourism"

leisure and fucking tourism.

shit on a stick....purleaaaaaaaaase.

give them proper subjects, resources, teachers.

if they still can't function in a school environment...then let them do an apprenticeship - so that as a builder, pumber, joiner, carpenter - they will be able to earn the same amount...by the same age as those who are academically inclined.

BelleDeChocolateFluffyBunny Mon 25-Jan-10 19:29:35

It is also assumed that all areas have access to a Grammar school. The only one here is independant and for boys, they do offer scholarships but it tends to be the children who are from private prep schools or one's who have been tutored who recieve these. My son did attend a private prep school, one of it's 'claim to fame's' was that all of it's children recieved offers/scholarships to the school of their choice, more often then not a private school where the scholarship was 25% of the fees. Surly this means this scholarship was taken away from a child who needed it? These parents didn't seem to care, it's every man (or woman) for themselves in the education system and it's the children that could really benefit who suffer. My son is a very bright child, he's the perfect bully magnet as it is not thought of in a positive way where we live. I do struggle trying to find the right school for him, he'd benefit immensly from a Grammar school education or a school with smaller classes that can nurture his talents, the fact that I can only get this for him if I work 60+ hours a week is the sacrifice that I have to make for him. It's sad that other children are denied this though. The assisted places scheme was a great idea and would have helped children from poorer backgrounds access a different type of education. The charities commission has forced private schools to offer scholarships and bursaries but with prep schools teaching children the ways of the exams, these methods of altering social mobility do nothing more then helping well off parents pay less for their child's school fees as these are the children more likely to do well in the exam.

lljkk Mon 25-Jan-10 19:31:07

Education can't close the gap because schools only have children for 25% of their waking hours (over the entire year). The children are in their predominant social background environment over 60% of the time... and thus where you come from is the deciding factor in where you arrive in life.

Pretty simple, imvho.

Tortington Mon 25-Jan-10 19:32:49

and another thing, don't you dare have the army going to my childrens secondary school when they are aged 14/15 and touting propaganda.

the navy don't do it

the raf don't do it

sainsbos don't do it

so why then is it the "less academically able" children who get to get out of lessons and go chat with the nice army men who tell them about rock climing and quad biking?

the govt wants the dross, the drones to sign up got nothing else going for you son? join the army - go quad biking.

i did have to remind my son ( full of this bullshit propaganda) one night at evening meal - that the soldiers went to war and got shot at...sounds obvious non?

not to my son who had his head filled with quad biking and mountain climbing and seeing the world

its disgustin that you get the army to canvas the thick kids. it really is.

I agree with lljkk. The school system alone cannot close the gap. Because ultimately your family background is what has the most lasting impact on how you end up.

Tortington Mon 25-Jan-10 19:34:55

25% of their waking time?

sats bullshit and lies isn't it

kids are at school learning for 4.5 hours a day in term time.

so why after 11 years - do ANY children leave without qualifications?

its ridiculous.

Tortington Mon 25-Jan-10 19:35:46

i agree that parenting is the biggest factor in a childs life.

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