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.

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:

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:

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.

slipshodsibyl Sat 23-Feb-13 14:48:47

Another clue is in the quotefrom Michael Wilshaw where he says "the 'London Challenge' bypassed the local authorities"

lalalonglegs Sat 23-Feb-13 15:00:32

I suppose the question is why has this happened now (or in the past ten years)? London has always had diverse opportunities and plenty of wealthy and successful role models for people to emulate; what have been the factors that have dragged its schools from among the worst to achieving significantly above average?

I do wonder if a very small factor is that London private schools have become so horrifically expensive (15k at least at secondary level plus extras), that many people who might have traditionally expected to send their children down the private route - solicitors, accountants, doctors, journos etc - are now moving to state meaning the intake in many of the inner city areas is more mixed and aspirational?

muminlondon Sat 23-Feb-13 15:32:31

The London challenge has been running since 2003 - it's taken that long for children to go through primary and secondary school and do GCSEs but the results were showing through a couple of years ago.

Lots of interesting stuff about it in an Ofsted report from 2010:

'30% of London’s local authority controlled secondary schools were judged to be outstanding, reflecting the positive impact of London Challenge. This compares with 17.5% for the rest of England. Of the 34 academies in London that have been inspected, eight have been judged to be outstanding (24%), with 22% of all inspected academies (84) judged outstanding.'

muminlondon Sat 23-Feb-13 15:53:49

Primary schools were included from 2008 when the London Challenge was expanded into the City Challenge. That's why GCSE results keep improving although the scheme has finished.

cory Sat 23-Feb-13 17:14:17

I grew up in a small market town (in Sweden) and the low level of aspiration was very noticeable.

But then the only work experience on offer was a choice between the local supermarket, portering in the mental hospital and helping out at your own school.

Because I was naturally academic I believed my only choice in life was to become a Sixth Form teacher. My parents were Sixth Form teachers and unless you were into science or medicine I believed teaching was the only thing you could do with an education. Nobody knew about anything else because the kind of adult who did know wouldn't live there. I wasn't overexcited by the thought.

I remember my eureka moment. I was 14, walking home from the shops thinking about a book on medieval history I had got hold of on holiday and suddenly it occurred to me that Somebody Wrote That Book. And then I stopped dead in the middle of the road and said to myself If Somebody Does That Kind of Job Then You Can. And the enormous relief of realising I didn't have to be a Sixth Form teacher in a small town in the middle of nowhere.

When my time for careers advice came, I stepped into the careers advice office and told the man that I intended to be a medieval historian. He wished me good luck, said he had no idea how you would set about that, but that he hoped it would work out for me. And it has. But not without difficulty.

I envy my dd who grows up surrounded by so many different examples, so many different possibilities.

That's a lovely story Cory. Wonder what would have happened to you without your eureka moment?!

Tasmania Sat 23-Feb-13 18:43:13


I think London's demographic has changed a lot over the last decade. Ever-increasing house prices have driven a lot of white WC families out of the inner city, for example, and areas that were no-go areas before are now slowly being gentrified.

And while it was always a cosmopolitan place before, I don't think as many people came to London for purely professional reasons - people who may only stay a few years and move on. Some of these people (often from Europe) would not even have thought about private schooling in this country - because in their countries a private school may have been rare. I've met quite a few mums in that category who were a little shock at how things work in Britain.

But again, other people also mentioned that there are a lot more immigrants coming from countries where education is valued highly (and the parents may have been MC in the country they left, but do WC jobs here). Having parents being on the same side as teachers helps a lot - and IMHO a lot of white WC parents don't value it highly enough (because maybe they see no point in it all)...

aroomofherown Tue 05-Mar-13 19:09:36

But don't schools in London now have Challenge Partners which aims to support school improvement? Schools pay £7 per student head to join and can then participate in being reviewed, the leader being a HMI.

I've been following the No Excuses agenda for a while now and whilst I completely agree that high expectations, both of the student and the teaching, I do think it will burn teachers out quite quickly. It comes from the KIPP schools in the US. I also think that it can be used as a bit of a stick - "all students must be 100% every moment" is a bit unrealistic for anyone.

muminlondon Tue 05-Mar-13 23:59:06

Where did you get the £7 per head? Just wondering how many children could have benefited from the £1 billion overspent on converting schools into academies. 142,857. Oh, look - 167,000 pupils in failing schools mainly in deprived areas according to the Telegraph.

The London Challenge worked. So why has this money been wasted on academy conversion for already outstanding schools - essentially bureaucracy, insurance, legal fees - and not extending the school improvement programme to other areas? Or is the government prepared to pay any price to prepare the way for privatisation and academy chain takeover?

mam29 Wed 06-Mar-13 08:17:12

Only just seen this thread but watched the news night piece with interest the school in london looked fab although guess we only saw the best bits dont think any schools perfect.

Im not sure rest of country on level playing field

Here transport really expensive school bus can cost £60+a month.
city transport first bus not great, pricey we dont have tube
we dont have as many attractions we lucky in fact we have few museums and galleries.

we are university city
have highest proportion of private schools outside london as historically bristol la schools worst in country.

we have no grammers and most try and get into one of 5acedemies 2used to be private or 2faith secondries we have no grammers.

My suburb mostly white middleclass affluent area has awful comp which most try and avoid 43%pass rate a-c 5gcses.
I have no idea wht its so bad grounds seem nice, just had new smarter uniform, met coiple teachers there they seem nice but would never consider place for their own kids.

I grew up in small rural market town south wales.
only 1 comp
few job opportunities.
most middle class kids went to uni and moved away.
But the ones who dident get qualifications stayed in the town had kids young. Theres hardly any fulltime jobs most are min wage low skilled part time service jobs retail, pubs. or public sector schools/hospital not sure what happen if districts hospital is downgraded,hardly any industry.

My mam had low aspirarations and dident expect much from me.
The words ideas above my station, dont be silly that cant happen.
A good job there is different to good job here think she worries about her grand kids being brought up in city but think so much better for them always places to go little or no cost.

Im not sure about secondrys yet as majority primarys in my la ok im not inner city where some complain high amount of english as 2nd languages and racial comflicts beteen groups make schools jobs very hard.

Its fair to say though that theres some truth in the predomainatly white deprived areas here school results truly are the lowest and that could be to do with lack of racial groups and aspirarations that go with it.

Saying that economy how it is have no idea when time comes how to advise my kids on what to do.

My eldest being 7 hopefully things improve by then and raising school leaving age to 18 might make a difference.

The other school they looked at was rochdale northern and guess similar to wales whats point few opportunities for me i as was self drive as wanted to get out.

sometimes rural and leafy does not always mean fantastic results,

Theres 1 city academy that as no go zone thats improving but not sure mines streetwise enough for that and husband would consider me bonkers.

fourseasonsinaday Wed 06-Mar-13 11:37:20

I agree with LaBelle about the relationship between schools and parents. Where I come from there is a good structure of communication between schools and parents. In general parents respect the homework set by the teachers. Once my 7 years old niece told my brother her teacher told all the children to learn all their timestable in a week. At first my brother didn’t think it could be done. Surprisingly my niece managed to learn all her timestable within just three days. So yes it can be done and obvious the school knows it. So back in this country I tried it with my dc. Also my 8 yr old dc managed to learn all the timestable in just four days.

I wonder how well it will go down with the parents in this country if a teacher told her pupils to learn all their timestable in week.

mam29 Wed 06-Mar-13 11:54:54

The problem is the uk is just so fragemented we can standardise state education to same standard where ever anyone lives in uk.

Theres so many other factors.

Wales is devolved education with lots welsh med school in predominatly english speaking countrry and they do less well than england.

Scotlands completly different -so hard to compare.

north /south divide in england determines how high salary is , housing costs, job opportunities.

Am i right in thinking most immmigrants move for work so pick larger cities such as london.So larger cities will have ethnic mix with many coming from less affluent countries and see education as a way up.

Im not sure if lots of uk working-midleclasses now see less to aim for as everythings o expensive higher education costs for example are a worry.

Back in hometown if people choose to stay they wont get well paid enough job to buy a house there as living and housing disproprtionate with wages.

We also have to remember brits work very long hours my husband works 50+a week some parents just not as involved as they would like to be i guess so schools have big responsability.

I support school and teacher if I think they right but last school was failing so told them so before I moved her.I amazed at diffrent results same local schools in same la get as we all within 5miles yet diffrences are huge funding for schools is very specific.

fourseasonsinaday Wed 06-Mar-13 14:09:39

Many countries in the world people work very long hours too and have very little state benefit. One of my brothers not in the UK he works Mon to Sat 8am-6pm standard hours. My another brother self-employ works 7 days all the times have odd days off occasionally. I don’t know whether it is the way the media reflect the education situation in the UK. Whenever children are not meeting standard of some sort. There is some kind of blame culture between schools and parents. Imo bring up children should be equal partnership between schools and parents. Good structure of communication and respect with each other got to be one of the starting points.

aroomofherown Thu 07-Mar-13 06:39:27

I got the £7 from my SLT as we are part of the Challenge Partners.

catinhat Thu 07-Mar-13 13:53:58

Savouir Faire - the primary school you're looking at; they are very good results.

Ignore the anxious, white middleclasses and go with what you think best.

London is interesting; I would agree about Londoners having confidence. When I was at university it was the Londoners who stood out.

It's seeing all those jobs, and all those opportunities; it has to be!

muminlondon Sun 10-Mar-13 12:49:18

Another report which puts London success down to the London Challenge. It has improved morale of both teachers and pupils making London schools attractive:

But in 2006 it was the worst performing area so immigrant populations and funding alone were not the cause. Now, however:

'Chris Cook of the Financial Times has shown that children who move out of London on average achieve less than would have been expected from their background characteristics and prior attainment, while those who move into London achieve better than would have been predicted.'

Xenia Sun 10-Mar-13 15:20:50

Teach First - plenty of private school educated graduates with 2./1s from Russell Groups, want to work in London where all their friends and future job prospects are not in Hull. Led to children in inner London schools getting about 2 grades more than from the same backgrounds in say Hull - E in hull is C in these London schools.

There is however still a difference between inner London comps and St Paul's Westminster, North London Collegiate and all the many good London selective private schools and indeed those schools usually beat even selective state schools in the SE.

You could almost argue move to Devon to look at cows as an adult to please yourself but damage your child in the process - no jobs, bad schools.

muminlondon Sun 10-Mar-13 17:40:37

Yes, London is the richest city in the UK and has the biggest divide between rich and poor. Wealth buys privilege that creates an attainment gap from infancy and the means to buy out of one sector and into another. Which makes the improvement of inner city London comps since 2003 all the more impressive. Inner city comps are now outperforming outer London borough comps in 'leafy' areas.

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