Congratulations and commiserations

Congratulations to everyone awarded an honour in the Queen’s Birthday honours list announced earlier today. Governments always seem more likely to honour those working in the policy areas that they favour and the latest list doesn’t appear to have bucked that particular trend. Sure, there are governors, crossing patrollers and those working in school meals awarded honours, but many of the top honours have gone to those working in the academies or free schools areas.

The honours’ list comes at the end of a week where UCAS have published some detailed data on offers made by individual universities that show some have different offer rates for different groups when analysed by race, class and gender.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, the soon to retire Chief Inspector, also added his voice to the debate on how well pupils from poor backgrounds do at school and, according to the BBC report of what he said, he highlighted how gifted children from poor homes entitled to pupil premium money were still lagging well behind. He said, “The most recent statistics paint a bleak picture of underachievement and unfulfilled potential.”

Social mobility appears to have stalled in many schools. Even among the ‘best in class’ schools, whose heads are honoured today, there may still be some under-achievement of disadvantaged and among the poorest performing pupils.  Of course, parents may be partly culpable by not helping instil the value of education in their offspring, and it can be a real challenge to educate children in care whose lives, by the very fact they have been taken into care, are often among the most damaged and who present some of the greatest challenges to educators. It would surely be encouraging to see the head of the school that does best for these pupils rewarded with an honour and also some recognition of the virtual school services across the country that help coordinate the education of these often seriously challenged young people. How they would operate in a fully academised education service is another interesting question for the future.

So, commiserations to those pupils still not receiving the best possible education they could. They may also be affected by the other news story of the week, the debate in two parliamentary committees – the Education Select Committee and the PAC – about teacher supply and the role of government. If there are insufficient teachers in some subjects the ‘low attainers’, to use the DfE terminology, may study at Key Stage 4, such as design and technology, business studies and IT then perhaps it isn’t surprising that they don’t fulfil their potential.

I am sure that the in-coming Chief inspector, assuming her appointment is confirmed, with a background in leading a charity whose academies are aimed at developing the potential of all their pupils, will want to make the part schools play in helping achieve social mobility a key priority for the period in office.  Our aim must be to be able in a position where it is possible to congratulate every school on achieving the best possible outcome for every child.





4 thoughts on “Congratulations and commiserations

  1. Sir Michael has a tendency to issue blanket criticism of whole stages of education and of whole areas regardless of the good work that goes on within these sectors. This demoralises all teachers working there. His latest monthly commentary berates the secondary sector for not ensuring all pupils identified as high ability in Key Stage 2 tests gain GCSE A-A* in English and Maths. He lifts negative comments from four secondary schools recently downgraded to prove his point. But these can be counteracted by positive comments from other recent reports which praised work done to ensure progress. I name them here:

    • Janet,

      I am more concerned about those classed by DfE as low ability and those from less supportive homes where many schools do not achieve the best possible results for these pupils. However, with we don’t know how many sets of result sin schools are being supported by extra tuition outside the school paid for by parents. Some research in this area would be helpful. This is not to blame schools or teachers but to identify whether staffing shortages and CPD deficiencies are being overcome at a cost to parents.

      John Howson

  2. Education alone doesn’t ensure social mobility. It depends on other factors: employment, social policies, prejudice for or against particular groups. But focusing entirely on education and blaming schools for any stalling in social mobility lets governments off the hook – they don’t have to implement policies aimed at helping people out of poverty.

    • Janet,

      Such a view may explain why it was left to the Lib Dems to push for a Pupil Premium and to recognise it was more valuable when used in the primary schools than dissipated across both the primary and secondary sectors. As this is an education blog, you would expect me to focus on education. However, I agree that education alone cannot ensure social mobility.

      John Howson

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