Untapping potential in early years practitioners

Everyone agrees, high quality early education has a positive impact on children’s learning, development and well- being leading to better academic, social and emotional outcomes.  The Fair Education Alliance Reports (2015, 2016) and previous Nutbrown Review (2012) placed teacher quality firmly at the heart of improving outcomes for all children in early years settings.

The recent report by Save the Children- Untapped Potential: How England’s nursery lottery is failing too many children (2016)- suggests that children who attend a nursery with a highly qualified member of staff are almost 10% more likely to reach the expected level of development by the time they start school. Although the number of early years settings employing a member of staff with Early Years Teacher Status is increasing, many do not have this. The government is addressing the issue. 

In the meantime there is a lot that can be done. This involves developing existing practice across the four areas of leadership and management, working together, progress and learning and health, happiness and well- being. This is what Achievement for All is doing through the award winning Achieving Early programme.  Since 2014, the charity has worked with over 200 settings across England and Wales and supported more than 2000 early years children who were at risk of achieving poor outcomes. 

During the Achieving Early pilot involving 388 children vulnerable to underachievement, the proportion of children reaching an age-appropriate level in key areas, including communication and language, and personal, social and emotional development, rose by 50%. Out of the 33 settings inspected during the two years of the pilot, the number of outstanding settings rose from two to eight. Two of these settings were previously graded as requires improvement. The number of good settings increased from 17 to 29, while the number previously rated Inadequate dropped from five to zero. This could be the response to the improving outcomes in early years settings; by untapping potential in early years practitioners.

Sonia Blandford, CEO Achievement for All

 

The Fair Education Alliance's response to Theresa May's mental health announcement - 9th January 2017

The Fair Education Alliance welcomes the Prime Minister’s announcements about increased support for the mental health of young people. In particular, the Alliance is encouraged by the focus on training for school staff and on preventing mental illness. Young people from disadvantaged backgrounds can be more at risk of poor mental and emotional health. If we are to succeed in closing the achievement gap between the poorest and wealthiest in society, it is essential that resources are available to help schools serving disadvantaged communities, including the development of a whole-school approach to mental health and wellbeing.

Fair Education Alliance: “In the global race for excellence in education, PISA scores show the UK standing still”

The Fair Education Alliance (FEA) anticipates that the 2016 PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) will be a “wake-up call”, for the UK in a series of essays entitled “Building a World-Class Education System that is Fair”. The FEA is calling for the debate around this week’s PISA results to focus on closing the gap between pupils from low income families and their wealthier peers as a way of improving England’s performance. 

Sir Richard Lambert, Chair of the FEA, commented
“PISA should be a wake-up call. If we don’t act with speed to close the gap in performance, our country risks becoming an underachieving offshore island which in the next decade or two will watch much of the rest of the world go racing by. 

The success of countries like the Netherlands and Finland also make it absolutely clear that it is possible to combine high performance with high levels of equity in education. We now need new policies and systems in place to meet that ambition”

The essays also set out practical recommendations for reducing educational inequality and closing the performance gap to the highest achieving countries in the world. In particular: 
•    Claire Read from Save the Children: argues that we must invest more time and resources into supporting young people before they arrive at school, as it is proven that children supported by positive early environments go on to perform more strongly in later life
•    Catherine Knowles from Achievement for All: says there needs to be a greater focus on the ‘essentials of numeracy’ in the early years of education and across all primary schools
•    Brett Wigdortz from Teach First: argues that a world-class education system is within reach in the UK, but we must address urgently address the teacher shortage and promote the profession, especially to ease the shortage in Maths and Science teachers
•    Jess Tanner and Miranda Dobson from Family Links and The Nurturing Schools Network : say that socially and emotionally competent pupils can be a mark of success in itself and that we must to do more to recognise that wellbeing and happiness at school are also crucial to educational outcomes

Schools must adopt a whole-school approach to social and emotional wellbeing if we ever want to “close the gap”

A head teacher once said to me: “If you can’t reach the child, you can’t teach the child.” Besides having a penchant for accidental rhyming, this Head speaks to the essential nature of our work as educators: that if you cannot connect emotionally with a child, it will be close to impossible to teach, inspire and motivate them effectively. 

To many people, this statement may sound “fluffy”, and an understandable reply from a member of the teaching profession might be: “I don’t have time to emotionally connect with 30-300 pupils when I’m teaching them to pass their exams.” This response might be even more understandable from a teacher working in a more challenging school context, where they could be under pressure to improve standards to meet Ofsted criteria, and close the achievement gap between children from the most and least disadvantaged backgrounds . Add into this mix the fact that teachers are increasingly stressed and many are leaving the profession within 5 years of joining, and it becomes even more understandable that the idea of connecting emotionally with a student seems like a luxury.  

On the other side of this coin, the UK is in the midst of what has been dubbed a “child mental health crisis”. You may be familiar with the facts:

  • Half of lifetime mental illness starts by the age of 14
  • 1 in 10 children and young people have a clinically diagnosed mental health disorder and/or emotional and behaviour problems
  • Around 1 in 7 has less severe problems that interfere with their development and learning.  

These are the tough challenges that both schools and parents are facing. The statistics are worrying not only because no one wants their child to struggle with emotional and mental health problems, but also, by failing to give children and young people the tools to deal with life’s ups and downs, we are hindering their ability to achieve. This is true across the board, regardless of background. 

One of the Fair Education Alliance’s five impact goals aims to improve the emotional wellbeing of children to reduce educational inequality in UK schools. Without good mental and emotional wellbeing in a child, there is no foundation for learning, and there is strong emerging evidence to show that by improving pupil wellbeing, attainment can improve, with some studies citing an 11% increase in attainment .  One method of building social and emotional skills is through the implementation of a social and emotional learning (SEL) framework throughout school. Recently the NCB have published two highly useful papers to support schools. The first is Dr Katherine Weare’s paper outlining what works in promoting social and emotional well-being and responding to mental health problems in schools. The second is a self-assessment and improvement tool for school leaders looking to adopt a whole school framework for emotional wellbeing and mental health.

All of the best evidence tells us that we should be supporting schools to adopt ‘whole school approach’ to social and emotional wellbeing; one that involves teachers, children and parents, so children see the benefits of emotional wellbeing at home and at school. The advantages of implementing SEL programmes are not just beneficial for pupil wellbeing, prevention and reduction of mental health issues and academic learning, it can also have significant positive effects on staff wellbeing, and reduction of stress for everyone from a Head Teacher to office staff and care takers. Research tells us that SEL programmes and approaches reduce stress, improve teaching ability and performance, and reduce sickness and absence.  

So by taking a whole-school approach, where teachers, children and parents are involved in a programme that helps equip them with tools to look after their own wellbeing, all parties can see significant benefits. And while SEL can be beneficial for all types of people, for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, having the tools to look after their own emotional and mental wellbeing could open doors to allow them to excel to the best of their ability and fulfil their potential. It could take us a long way towards ending educational inequality and closing the gap. 

Key Recommendations for Schools, Teachers and School Leaders:

  1. Invite staff and school leaders to use the ‘self-assessment and improvement’ tools to identify areas for development and focus. 
  2. Generate buy-in from all stakeholders using concepts and ideas from the ‘whole school’ framework.  
  3. Consider adopting evidence-led SEL approaches and programmes that include a focus on children, teachers and parents. 
  4. Collect data on impact to inspire reflection and continuous improvement. 
  5. Share your learning with other schools in your network, and inspire good practice. 

 

 

Nick Haisman-Smith, CEO Family Links

Social Action is unique because EVERYONE can make a difference

To celebrate the start of #iwillweek, in which schools, colleges, and wider cross-sector organisations will be celebrating youth social action across the UK, #iwill campaign Education Youth Adviser, George Fielding, blogs about why he thinks social action should be embedded in what every school offers.

“One voice can change a room, a city, a country, the world” – Barack Obama

“The taboo is broken; we do not live in the best possible world” – Slavoj Žižek. 

I’m happy to be charged with naïve optimism.  Defined as practical action in the service of others to create positive change, social action exists to communicate and work towards the best possible world. “#iwill…”, however one chooses to finish their statement, resembles a commitment to act and contribute. Your pledge, whatever it is, enables you to do three things. One: take pride in your passion. Two: to articulate how you intend to apply yourself in pursuit of the change you want to see. Three: to actually bring about this change. Standing still only results in you going backwards in the end. We need to constantly move, act together, and communicate with one another if we are to continue to provide the best life chances for young people, whatever their background or circumstances. 

Engaging in social action is one very good means through which we can adjust and stay attuned to the many challenges our society faces. Really there are just three things a young person needs in order to get started on their social action journey. One: an interest or passion. Two: a desire to make a change. Three: a willing facilitator of the activity. 

I know that everybody believes in something enough to want to change it or make the situation better. It’s the third point that is, therefore, my area of focus

It only takes one encounter with the right person to change somebody’s fortunes overnight. An example: yesterday I heard the uplifting story of a volunteer for Poet in the City who desperately wanted to edit and present a podcast. Like many organisations Poet in the City have a wonderfully skilled but small team of three people so are always looking for new ways to promote their work. The podcast was set up. As a result, the volunteer now plays the important role of communicating the value of the arts to an ever-expanding audience and consequently can now be seen working for the BBC! A great career in prospect. Job done. Tick. The moral of the story to me, though, is that the initial conversation that sparked the mutual development of the volunteer and Poet in the City could have taken place anywhere: in a school, hospital, local youth club. 

We must never cease in our attempts to connect in education: subject to subject, person to person, business to business, business to school and so on. We learn from each other and develop together. Decisions made today will affect all of our tomorrows. 

Social action needs facilitators who are willing to lead and give young people the space and time to devote to their cause. And this is where those in education can make all the difference. In fact, this is where the education sector is crucial. 

Why? Because 74% of young people said they got involved in social action through their school. A large proportion of those engaged in social action started at or before the age of eleven (48%). That’s a large number of people that must be both encouraged to continue this activity and held up as role model to their peers that are yet to have engaged. Always looking to do good and lend a hand is not a bad habit to get into.

Besides the numbers we must not forget that human beings teach through their actions, words and body language. A case in point: my two favourite teachers at secondary school, Mr Rosser and Mr Thompson, did not teach me in the conventional sense. There were no classrooms involved. Every day I saw them in the corridors and canteen, however. Both seemed to thrive in the scrum after the bell sounded, which marked the end of class. They were found in the crowd, always in conservation with students, not lost behind their desks. They smiled. They evidently loved their jobs. From day one it was clear to me they wanted to be teachers and encouraged their students to be whoever they wanted to be - including me. I remember that and the fact they loved West Ham United and Preston North End respectively. How cool that is, I thought! I know something about their lives beyond the school gates! They live lives that are, in some small way at least, relatable to mine! And for that lesson #iwill forever be grateful.

For if I managed to relate to Mr Rosser and Mr Thompson, how hard can it be to find a similarity I share with each person I meet? Work uniforms, job titles, offices. These apparent symbols of status (among others) need not be intimidating. Behind everything, there is a person who has something to say and share. Collectively it is our duty to listen. That's how we learn - through the ultimate collaborative act of conversation. 

I've two points here. One: yes, schools, colleges and universities are the primary educational establishments but an education can take place anywhere. We should not seek to confine the practice to the four walls of the classroom! Two: remember quid pro quo. However much teachers input, student can, with encouragement and confidence in their ability to contribute, give it back in return.  

By being a wheelchair user I count myself lucky. For reasons out of my control I often find that I am a source of intrigue and bafflement. Besides being the thing that my cats love to sleep in at night, my wheelchair never fails to break the ice. Love it or hate it, I'm different and always will be. Where my wheelchair doesn't fit (like, literally, on many occasions, in a classroom), I don't either. I've had to take control of my life because half of the time, and this is nobody's fault, I am the only one that understands my experience and circumstances. Yet what right do I have to say I understand other people's lives? 

I believe that an education which incorporates youth social action is more likely to be fair. Youth social action, in and of itself, is a fair form of education. I’m not alone in saying that without an assistant, I can’t write much beyond my own name with a pen. However slow or uninterested they were, I was tied to my amanuensis’s hand. When working independently, I could either ferociously ask questions or gaze out of the window in an attempt to formulate what to Google when I got home.

Mind you I never truly went straight home but to youth parliament meetings, concerts, theatre productions, debates, leisure centres. Watching, listening, speaking, learning.

It may have been borne out of necessity but my education (confidence, wellbeing, connections) are the result of youth social action. 

#iwill always see it as my duty to point this out to people and offer youth social action opportunities to others, will you? Do so this week and every week. I grant you that you’ll see evidence of the “double benefit” #iwill campaign partners rightly talk about within seconds.


Join over 600 organisations from across different sectors of society and make your #iwill pledge today to help EVERY young people get involved in social action. Visit http://www.iwill.org.uk/ and make your pledge today!

Improving social mobility in Great Britain? We have to talk about social and emotional health for all

This week the Social Mobility Commission published its State of the Nation 2016 report, showing deepened divides in a nation characterised by what Chair and former Labour MP Alan Milburn has called an “us and them society.” A troubling image of Great Britain is set out by the Commission in this report, but it is one that is not unfamiliar to those in the charity, social and education sectors working with parents and families for whom social immobility is a daily reality.

The Commission is right to set out recommendations for a support package for parents, to ensure all 5 year olds are “school ready”, and to increase the Early Years Pupil Premium with a focus on the most disadvantaged children. It is also welcome to see recommendations for the education sector to “close the gap” in educational inequality through training and better pay for teachers and schemes that hope to improve academic attainment and provide high quality advise and support to students.

While the Commission makes very sensible recommendations to tackle this issue that weighs heavily on so many people in Great Britain, the report is missing part of the puzzle. What the report does not give due attention to however, is the deficit of social and emotional health and skills. If social and emotional health and skills are improved upon and invested in, it would result in a considerable improvement to life outcomes for many parents and children around the country.

Research has shown that social and emotional competencies and skills, are predictive of diverse life outcomes, including improved mental health, academic attainment, employment prospects, relationship satisfaction and good health. As an emotional health charity working across the UK and in some of the most deprived parts of the country, we see first-hand the benefits that can improved social and emotional health can provide to children and families. Many parents feel empowered to take on further study or apply for work, they become better connected with other parents, and children are abler to empathise and build positive relationships. These foundational aspects for an emotionally healthy, fulfilled life are what is missing from the State of the Nation 2016 report,

Without consideration of how to build key social and emotional skills in our young people, such schemes and initiatives as outlined by the Commission may fail to address some of these essential foundations to improved social mobility. 

Nick Haisman-Smith

CEO, Family Links

Nick Haisman-Smith is the Chief Executive of Family Links. He is also a doctoral researcher at the University of Bristol where he specializes in policy and implementation issues relating to social and emotional learning in educational settings. 

Read On. Get On. launch new strategy to get all children reading

The Read On. Get On. is a coalition of leading charities and educational organisations calling on the whole of society to play a role in boosting children’s reading, as new summer assessments show just 66% of 11-year-olds are reading at the expected level.

The Read On. Get On. coalition has published a bold new strategy, which sets out how as a country we can ensure our children enjoy reading and leave primary school with the reading skills they need to succeed. Research shows the substantial impact that poor reading skills have on social inequality and our economy. If not addressed the problem will cost us £32.1 billion by 2025, which equates to over £900 per household in 2020 and £1,200 in 2025.

The new reading strategy outlines 10 steps to achieving the ambitious but achievable campaign target for 96% of children to read well by the age of 11 by 2025. It is built on the following key principles: getting children reading is a job for us all; the work starts at birth; the importance of enjoyment of reading; and the need to have the highest ambitions for all children.

Plans to create a consistent national measure of children’s reading are also outlined in the strategy, as variations in assessment data and gaps in effective measures mean like-for-like comparisons of children’s reading are currently impossible. While the National Curriculum requires schools to support children’s enjoyment of reading, this is not reflected in current assessment. National Literacy Trust research shows that pupils who enjoy reading ‘very much’ are three times as likely to read above the level expected for their age as those who do not enjoy reading at all.

The Read On. Get On. campaign was launched in 2014 by a coalition of organisations including the National Literacy Trust, Save the Children and NAHT. The campaign aligns with the goals of the Vision for Literacy and the Fair Education Alliance and achieved cross-party support last year. Celebrities and authors who are backing the campaign include David Walliams, Myleene Klass, Joanna Trollope and Cressida Cowell.

To download the strategy visit www.readongeton.org.uk.

Girlguiding join the Fair Education Alliance

Girlguiding Advocates are really excited to be part of the Fair Education Alliance where we hope we can work together toaddress the gendered inequality girls’ face in education and ensure all young people have equal opportunities at school and beyond.  

Who we are

Girlguiding Advocates are a group of 18 Girlguiding members aged 14 to 25 lead the direction of Girlguiding's advocacy and research. The panel gives girls a platform to use their voices and seek change at the highest levels.

Girlguiding is the leading charity for girls and young women in the UK. We empower nearly half a million girls across the UK to be their best and face the challenges of growing up today. We do this through adventure, friendship and fun and support girls to develop valuable life skills and confidence to pursue their aspirations. Girlguiding offers girls and young women a girl-only space where they are free to be themselves in a pressure-free environment. From the science badge to abseiling, we offer something for every girl and encourage girls to try new things and to believe in themselves. Our Peer Education programme helps girls to discuss important issues affecting them and we recently launched the ‘Think Resilient’ resource to help to build girls resilience to the pressures they face and maintain their well-being. But we also challenge the issues that negatively affect girls’ wellbeing from appearance pressures to sexual harassment.

What’s the problem

With the multitude of pressures faced by girls and young women today, it’s unsurprising that only 35% of girls aged 11-21 say they feel confident in themselves most of the time. Girls’ wellbeing is in decline and societal pressures impact our education. It is clear that the pressure to look flawless infiltrates the classroom with 36% of girls aged 11-21 saying that fear people will criticise their body stops girls from speaking up in class. Girls deserve to be valued based on their abilities, not the way they look. To focus on the amazing things women are doing, not the clothes they wear. By removing this pressure, girls will be able to focus on their studies, participate in classes without fear and, most importantly, feel more confident in themselves.

Sexual harassment in schools also has a hugely detrimental effect on girls’ education. 75% of girls and young women aged 11 to 21 say anxiety about potentially experiencing sexual harassment affects their lives in some way - including a quarter who say it prevents them from speaking up in class. This issue can’t be ignored any longer. School should be a safe place where girls can prosper. How can we expect them to fulfil their potential if they are sexualised and objectified on a daily basis?

The change we want

That’s why the Girlguiding’s Advocate Panel is campaigning to end sexual harassment in schools, which we believe will greatly improve the emotional wellbeing of girls and support them to aim high and achieve their dreams. 90% girls aged 13 to 21 agree that the government should make sure all schools are addressing sexual harassment, demonstrating the clear need for change. You can support our campaign by signing and sharing our petition, and by joining the conversation on twitter (tagging @Girlguiding and using #SexualHarassmentInSchools).  We are also taking forward our Girls Matter campaign which is the result of consulting with over 2,500 of our young members on what is important to them which ask government to:

  • demand schools take a zero-tolerance approach to sexual bullying and harassment

  • call on all school to teach body confidence and gender equality

  • modernise relationship and sex education so all young people can make informed decisions and stay safe.

We look forward to discussing these issues with the alliance and to making the changes needed for all young people’s lives.  

Empowering young people: the UCL Institute of Education joins the Fair Education Alliance

The UCL Institute of Education (IOE) is delighted to join the Fair Education Alliance and to join forces with other leading organisations to bring the advantages of education to all.

As the world’s leading centre for research and development in education, ranked first in the world for education in the QS global rankings of universities for the past three years in a row, we typically account for over a quarter of the UK’s education research funding. At the heart of our mission is a commitment to social justice, and we have influenced policy and spending, curriculum design, service delivery and professional practice to help ameliorate the effects of social disadvantage across all life stages.

We hope, therefore, to work with the Fair Education Alliance to help it achieve all its impact goals, from literacy and numeracy at primary school, through to narrowing the gap in university graduation. However, for the initial focus of our work with the Alliance, I have chosen an area which sometimes receives less public attention than the school and university sectors: Impact Goal 4, to narrow the gap in the proportion of young people taking part in further education or employment-based training after finishing their GCSEs.

The transition from education to work can be hard to achieve for those from lower income backgrounds, and we have long argued for a more unified 14-19 curriculum to ensure that all young people experience both theoretical and applied learning opportunities that empower them to make informed choices for the future. We have recently researched the role of provision for 14-16 year olds in further education colleges in supporting progression into further education and employment, and have worked with partners on guidance related to 16-19 Study Programmes. We are leading projects designed to improve the quality of careers education, information, advice and guidance and, following research on 14+ participation, progression and attainment, provided evidence to a number of select committees.

Recent research from our Centre for Post-14 Education and Work has focused on building local and regional high skills ecosystems, in which employers, post-16 education providers and local and regional organisations collaborate to develop the technical and vocational education required for economic prosperity. This has involved innovative, sustainable partnerships between FE providers and employers to encourage the design and delivery of new learning opportunities, as well as stimulating changes in the workplace itself. Our aim is to provide young people with high quality technical and vocational education pathways and clearer progression routes into employment and further study.

We are excited to be joining the Fair Education Alliance, and I see our membership as an important way for us to build new partnerships which will inform our research, help us to inform policy and practice, and make a real difference to those who have most to gain from the positive impact of education on their future health, happiness and career prospects.

Becky Francis, Director, UCL Institute of Education

Changing Lives Through Writing: First Story’s Young Writers’ Festival

First Story, a national literacy charity and FEA member, is dedicated to reducing inequality through creative writing education in disadvantaged schools. They kick off their programme each year with the First Story Young Writers' Festival, which takes in the awe-inspiring historic surroundings of the University of Oxford's Lady Margaret Hall.

Writers and secondary schools from across the country descend on Lady Margaret Hall en masse and, as coaches pull up opposite the Porters Lodge, mini-buses weave their way through the campus, and students follow signs to the festival location, the excitement of what's in store is palpable.

For the young people taking part in the programme, from low-income communities around the country, this is the start of their First Story journey. Jaws drop and eyes widen as these participants, led by their teachers, make their way in to marquee that serves as the festival hub. Everyone is brimming with energy and knows that they are part of something special.

The Young Writers’ Festival gives First Story students the chance to take part in a range of activities designed to stimulate the imagination and broaden their horizons, from intimate writing workshops to inspirational talks from acclaimed writers. As First Story co-founder William Fiennes points out as the first day gets underway, this is their festival; a day to write, be inspired and find their voices. They may arrive as students but they will depart knowing that they are writers.

Warmed up by dynamic performance poet Andy Craven-Griffiths, the whole audience hears of the powerful, tangible difference First Story can make from First Story alumni, who all display amazingly assured levels of confidence. In their own unique and individual ways Shakira Irfan, Brendan Croft, Jesse April and Nathanael Idundun all highlight the importance of the programme and being a part of the First Story community.

As Shakira puts it, “The most important thing that First Story has allowed me to discover is how I like to express myself, and what expression means to me. Because it’s different for us all. And that is not something that someone tells you, it is something that you come to realise for yourself. The best part about First Story is that no one tells you what to write or how to write; they show you exactly why you love writing. And it’s not someone standing in front of you telling you why you love writing – it’s you realising that, on your own.”

Breaking out from the marquee and heading off into all the rooms of the college, the young people can't wait to get to performances and workshops, and meet the high-profile writers with whom they will soon be considering themselves equals as they all write together in a shared space.

Between the readings and the creative outpourings, there's a chance to hear from keynote speakers, chaired by the hugely popular Juno Dawson. Intense and entertaining conversations with Laura Dockrill, Anthony McGowan and Dave Rudden prove that this young audience can hold its own when encountering high-level debate about the nature of fantasy writing or the relevance of Young Adult fiction to adult audiences.

The day culminates with the new young writers sharing the work they’ve written to a packed marquee, with the fabulous Kate Fox compering the readings and joining in with the rapturous applause.

No doubt the journey home – whether that be a long haul back to Hull, Bradford or Leeds or traffic jam-tastic travel Londonwards – is full of chat about what lies ahead and endless sharing of stories born at the festival.

First Story changes lives through writing. We make that claim because it’s what the students we work with tell us, time and again. By placing talented, professional writers in secondary schools serving low-income communities to work with teachers and students, we foster creativity and communication skills. Through the intensive, fun programmes our writers run, First Story raises aspirations and gives students the skills and confidence to achieve them.

The Young Writers' Festival sets the tone for what's to come. It puts participants in the right frame of mind and is life-affirming for all involved – from the students, teachers and writers to the host of volunteers who make the day possible and the First Story team.

Among young writers who have spoken at the festival is Abdinasir Ahmed, whose story demonstrates the unique power of creative writing to change young lives. You can hear Abdi's story here.

In 2016/17, First Story is offering 1,500 young people from disadvantaged communities the same opportunity to work with talented writers, providing skills and inspiration that can increase their confidence and aspirations. Find out more about what they do and how to get involved: www.firststory.org.uk

 

 

Another Step Forward

Enabling Enterprise works to ensure that one day, all students are equipped with the skills, experiences and aspirations to succeed. Some days, that day seems a lot closer than others.

Today though, was one of those closer days. The uptick in my optimism was driven by the release of the third and final part of Teach First’s report on students’ progression beyond school – with this part focused on employability.

 

 Employability vs. Employment

The first thing that got me excited was the separation of employability from employment. To the uninitiated this might feel strange. But it is vital that we see the components of employability as being useful not just for employment but for everything that happens before then – including a child’s time in school and being able to engage with and access learning along the way.

The report makes sense of this well, sensibly breaking down employability into three components: Firstly, information and guidance on what students’ employment and study options look like after school and the requirements to achieve those. Secondly, the usefulness of linking academic study in lessons to real-world application, bridging the classroom and the real world. Thirdly, and most interestingly, the development of the employability skills that young people need.

 

Employability Skills

It is hugely refreshing to see this third element here. Too often, employability skills are an after-thought or a polite cough – in teaching we still too often see them as unteachable whereas the provision of information and curriculum tweaks are tangible and actionable. Too often have teachers told me about their natural team leaders, natural presenters or natural leaders. And, by implication, those who are not.

Enabling Enterprise does take students to visit employers, increasing their understanding of the working world. We also provide a curriculum used with over 60,000 students last year to link classroom learning to the work of over 100 employers. But our primary focus is on building the skills that students need: Eight vital skills that we call the ‘enterprise skills’ but are equally life skills, soft skills, employability skills or achievement skills. They are: Teamwork; Leadership; Presenting; Understanding Others; Creativity; Problem-solving; Aiming High; and Staying Positive.

 

Teaching Skills

And the jury is very much in on their teachability: Recent work by the Jubilee Centre has confirmed that skills can be taught, and there is a growing body of evidence on individual skills – including the essential building blocks of resilience and empathy that the rest are built from. In this last year alone, Enabling Enterprise has tracked the skills of over 5,000 students across the year to see that not only are these skills teachable and measurable, but that it is possible for students, irrelevant of background, to be put on a successful trajectory for the future.

The Report highlights two of the key approaches that we have taken at Enabling Enterprise – adding rigour to employability skill development through measurability, and starting young from the age of 5. Together these make a huge difference, making the development of employability skills a key part of a students’ whole experience of school and also unlocking learning along the way. Of course, the skills at the beginning aren’t about employability at all – they’re about being empathetic and resilient. But they are the building blocks of success in school and thereafter.  

To really make the difference though, there are three equally vital principles to make the development of employability skills really effective in school: Firstly, to choose a limited number of skills to focus on (we think eight is an upper limit) and use this consistently. Secondly, to use the understanding built by measuring students’ skills to really keep them working in their stretch zones – not just doing activities but actually building their skills. And finally, to show how those same skills are useful in school and in whatever they want to do next.

 

Looking Forwards

There is still a lot of work to be done. But we have seen that individual students can transform their skills, that this can be the case in whole classrooms, and in whole schools. We hope this report will be another nudge towards ensuring that one day, all students are developing the employability skills they need to succeed. .

 

 

Enabling Enterprise is an award-winning partnership of 230 schools and 110 employers, working to build students’ employability skills, experiences of the working world and aspirations. Find out more and get involved at www.enablingenterprise.org

 

Tom Ravenscroft, Founder & CEO, Enabling Enterprise

 

 

Six Practical Principles for Character Education

Character Education is like the proverbial Marmite – loved by some, loathed by others. 

And given where education debate has shifted over the last few months, there are plenty of pragmatists who already see character education receding in the rear-view mirror.

So why has Enabling Enterprise, which is an organisation that conspicuously has enterprise in its name, created a toolkit of practical principles for character education?

 

Achievement skills

For us, and in line with the Jubilee Centre’s excellent work on character education, there are three elements to building character:

  • Civic Character Values: Focused on being a responsible citizen and making a contribution to wider society including service, citizenship and volunteering.
  • Moral Character Values: The attitudes that dictate how we respond to different situations, including courage, self-discipline, humility and honesty.
  • Performance Character Values: The behavioural skills and psychological capacities that can be used for good or bad ends which put character traits into practice.

In ‘The Road to Character’, David Brooks separates these into two camps: The first are ‘eulogy virtues’ and the performance values in isolation are the ‘résumé virtues’.

Our focus at Enabling Enterprise is on building these skills that students need to achieve, and coupling them with aspirations and experiences which inform their values. Together, these enable them to act out the best version of their lives.

To us, whether you call them enterprise skills, employability skills, performance character values, resume virtues or achievement skills is essentially about semantics. What all students need is the ability to communicate, to work with others to overcome problems, to aim high and to be resilient.

 

The Principles

The six principles to build these skills in our new toolkit have been built up from our experience over the last seven years, and with the collaboration of our 230 school partners in the last year. Together they pin down what it takes to consistently and effectively build these skills in a classroom or across a school. They may seem intuitive when written down, but each pushes against a very different reality we sometimes see in schools:

(1) Keep it simple: One of the great challenges of character education is that it is so expansive. Instead be clear on what you are trying to achieve by collectively naming and defining the achievement skills you are focused on. At Enabling Enterprise, we focus on eight skills covering working with others, communicating, problem-solving, building high aspirations and being resilient.

(2) Measure it: As teachers, we often worry about too much assessment – and whether it distracts from activities and learning. What we’ve seen though, is that measuring progress in the achievement skills is possible, can be quick, and helps students to understand their own strengths and weaknesses and make better progress.

(3) Start early and keep going: It sometimes seems that character education can be difficult to define for younger students and only begins to be a focus as students are readying themselves for the world post-school. In our work, we start with children from as young as 5 years-old, building resilience and empathy as tools to unlock learning well before employability is even on the horizon.

(4) Pitch it right: Great character education is often seen as doing as many different activities as possible. In reality though, we rarely get better without working in our stretch zone – and exactly the same is true of building the achievement skills.

(5) Keep practising: In a packed curriculum and school day, there is a temptation to bundle character education up into one-off days, or the occasional lesson. The reality is that constant discussion and reinforcement is what really makes a difference – from having the same achievement skills in every classroom to finding ways to develop the skills in other lesson time.

(6) Bring it to life: Finally, character education falls apart when students make no connection between the classroom and the rest of their lives. Applying their skills to real-life projects and understanding how they would be helpful in employment, entrepreneurship or higher education are also powerful.

 

Putting it into practice

When we set up Enabling Enterprise, it was in response to the challenges we saw in our classroom. Six years on, having had the privilege of working with over 230 schools and 150,000 students across England, we’ve seen what can be achieved by focussing on developing achievement skills.

The six principles that we’ve explored in this toolkit are ones that we’ve seen time and time again in schools delivering truly outstanding education focussed on developing young people’s skills and attributes. Their students make rapid progress in their skills, unlocking their ability to learn faster in class and setting them up for the rest of their lives.

The good news is that increasing numbers of schools are proof that it can work. Alongside the case studies in this toolkit, hundreds of other schools are making this commitment.

You can download the full toolkit, and explore more about our work at: www.enablingenterprise.org/character  

Tom Ravenscroft, Enabling Enterprise

Four out of five heads and teachers oppose new grammar schools

Over 2,500 teachers, school leaders and heads respond to a poll conducted by NAHT, ASCL, and Teach First on behalf of The Fair Education Alliance

Less than 48 hours after the government formally launched the Prime Minister’s new policy on grammar schools, the overwhelming majority of teachers and school leaders surveyed have rejected the plans.

The findings represent a clear rejection of the policy by the parts of the education profession that normally work most constructively with government. Each organisation has stressed the desire to see an ambitious programme of social mobility that stretches every child, rather than selecting only a lucky few.

The Fair Education Alliance is publishing the results of a joint survey of over 2,500 head teachers and teachers by The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) and Teach First. Over 80% of respondents oppose the creation of new grammar schools. The survey also found that 80% of teachers and head teachers who were asked do not believe that a test taken at 11 years old can reliably measure long term academic potential.

With the strength of feelings clear, the Fair Education Alliance has launched a public petition on the issue at here.

Key findings:

  • 82% of respondents oppose the opening of new grammars
  • 80% of respondents do not believe that a test administered at age 11 can reliably measure long-term academic potential
  • 79% of respondents believe that there is no evidence for increasing selection in education
  • 81% of respondents believe that there is no evidence for opening grammar schools
  • 85% of respondents do not believe a test at age 11 can be insulated from non-academic factors such as parental engagement or income

Russell Hobby, General Secretary of the NAHT, said: “Increasing the number of grammar schools will lower standards and restrict opportunity. We cannot afford such an elitist policy in the twenty-first century - as many students as possible need a high quality academic education. This is a terrible distraction from the issues that matter most.”

Malcolm Trobe, Interim General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “We don’t need more selection in the education system. What schools desperately need is enough teachers and enough funding, both of which are in critically short supply. The government should focus on these issues rather than obsessing about an education policy plucked from the 1950s. Our job is to work together to ensure the education system supports all young people to achieve.”

Brett Wigdortz, CEO and Founder of Teach First, said: “We are united in our desire to improve social mobility, but it’s clear we must use proven policies to achieve this. We know great comprehensive schools and academies are delivering a stretching and ambitious education. We must aim to replicate this for every child, not selecting only a few to be supported to succeed, whilst leaving the majority behind.”

The three organisations who jointly conducted the survey are part of the Fair Education Alliance (FEA), a coalition working together to ensure that every child gets a world class education, irrespective of their socio-economic background and oppose new grammars. The FEA argues that investing in the quality of early years, investing in teaching and leadership in schools and guaranteeing high quality and impartial careers advice to disadvantaged children are more effective ways to improve social mobility.

Oxford welcomes this year’s significant increase in state intake but remains aware that there is still considerable work to do

Whilst we still believe that we can – and must – do more outreach, the announcement that this year six out of ten of Oxford’s undergraduate places (59.2%) were awarded to students from state schools indicates welcome progress. We now know a number of our initiatives, particularly those over the last four to five years, are paying off and yielding results. As a member of the Fair Education Alliance, we also believe that our work will help achieve Fair Education Impact Goal Five: To narrow the gap in university graduation, including from the 25% most selective universities. These encouraging figures probably reflect progress in two areas: the effective development of our outreach programme and the refinement of our selection process.

Last year alone, members of the collegiate University took part in more than 3,000 outreach activities across the country, reaching more than 3,400 schools and embedding their links with specific UK regions. This figure represents an increase of nearly 40% on that from 2011-12.

At the same time, our outreach has become more strategic and better targeted. The number of successful applicants who fall into one or more of our access categories is on the rise – this year over 34% of accepted UK candidates are from one or more of these categories.  Our UNIQ summer school participants have an average offer success rate of more than 40% (against an overall success rate for Oxford applicants of around 20%). 43% of the high achieving BME students on our 2015/16 Target Oxbridge programme have accepted offers to Oxford.  Colleges are collaborating closely on a number of initiatives including OxNet. This offers academic enrichment and applicant support to schools in parts of London and the North West and has seen a significant increase in applications to Russell Group universities since it began.  

In support of these outreach initiatives, we have also reviewed our selection process. We work hard to ensure candidates are compared against each other fairly - for example we have pioneered the use of contextual data amongst UK universities. This means that wherever possible our tutors consider a candidate’s attainments within the context they are achieved. We have embedded interview training for admissions tutors to make them more aware of unconscious bias. Candidates are routinely given several chances to show their ability to different groups of interviewing tutors.

Though these figures are encouraging, and we are proud of the progress we have made, they will not make us complacent.  As well as continuing to monitor our state/independent school mix, we will also evaluate our outreach work robustly to ensure that we focus effectively on the most disadvantaged students and in areas where improvement is still needed. In order to avoid duplication of effort and to maximise the use of resources, we will also further explore opportunities for effective collaboration with colleagues and other HE partners.

Finally, I would add that whilst we can improve the fairness of our selection system and work hard to increase aspiration, particularly amongst under-represented students, our success will always be limited by inequalities of opportunity and attainment, so long as these persist in the UK school system. However committed, Oxford cannot address the UK social-mobility issues alone.

 

Dr Samina Khan

Director of Outreach and Undergraduate Admissions, University of Oxford

5th Anniversary celebrations at Tutor Trust

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The Tutor Trust is overjoyed to be celebrating exactly 5 years since our Co-Founders Nick Bent and Abigail Shapiro secured our prestigious launch grant from the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) on 7th September 2011.  That was the day that we began work tackling the serious education inequality in Britain.

Upon receiving the grant, The Tutor Trust was registered as a charity at the end of September 2011; we delivered our very first tuition session in February 2012, at Whalley Range High School for Girls in Manchester.

Since then, Tutor Trust has:

  • Recruited and trained over 1,000 tutors, mostly talented university students
  • Provided over 50,000 hours of academic tuition to schools
  • Supported over 10,000 pupils
  • Partnered with over 250 primary and secondary schools
  • Opened an office in Leeds (2015) and worked with over 20 schools already
  • Grown to a staff team of 11
  • Secured further funding from EEF for an independent evaluation of our tuition during 2016/17, involving 100 primary schools
  • Seen our first ever tutee become a tutor – the first of many!

As one of the most exciting and innovative social enterprises in Britain, Tutor Trust’s impressive work has already been recognised further afield.  In the 2016 Charity Times Awards we are a Finalist in the 'Best New Charity' category.  Locally in Manchester, we have been nominated for a 2016 'Spirit of Manchester Award' by MACC, for our commitment to partnership working.  Both sets of awards will be decided later this autumn.

Across big cities like Greater Manchester and Leeds, educational disadvantage is acute, and the percentages of looked after children and pupils on free school meals who secure the basic qualifications necessary to give them decent choices in life are shockingly low.

Tutor Trust redresses this injustice by making sure every child who needs some additional academic support can get a great tutor.  It should not just be middle class children who get the benefits of one-to-one tuition.  Schools that want to bring in tutors should not have to resort to faceless, profit-making tuition companies.  We are a radical new delivery model, with the potential to help tens of thousands of young people across Britain.

By way of illustration, this year saw our first ever tutee become a tutor. MJ, from a Somali refugee family in Manchester, got a C in English GCSE after six months of help from Tutor Trust.  So he was able to do A-Levels and is now at the University of Manchester - he's also one of our Maths tutors, working with pupils at his former high school.

Once a small Manchester-based charity, we have now worked in all ten local authorities across Greater Manchester and expanded into Leeds as well, where we have been delivering tuition for over a year.  On top of the EEF launch grant, additional start-up funding was provided by the Oglesby Charitable Trust, SHINE and Manchester Airport Group, plus pro bono support from firms such as PwC and Pannone Corporate.

The raw figures of our progress are astounding to consider; we have now delivered over 50,000 hours of tuition in English, Maths and Science; over 1,000 tutors recruited and trained; our tutors have helped over 10,000 pupils; and we have worked in 250 Primary and Secondary schools.

One of our key partnerships since the start has been Teach First, and Tutor Trust is now an important source of fantastic new recruits for the teaching profession, as so many tutors get the teaching ‘bug’.  In 2016, one quarter of all the new teachers recruited by Teach First in Manchester were Tutor Trust tutors.

After only five years, we are all immensely proud of the amount that The Tutor Trust has achieved.  Our Co-Founders Nick Bent and Abigail Shapiro said:

“After five years, The Tutor Trust has surpassed all our expectations in its success.  We are so proud of all the incredible work our tutors do in schools.  We have an outstanding team here, but there are many partners to thank – not least the EEF, without whose grant we would never have been able to begin to realise our charitable mission.  Over the years we have been lucky enough to work with so many amazing, like-minded organisations, from Teach First to SHINE, and Frontline and we cannot wait to see what the next five years will bring.”

We aren’t the only ones who think The Tutor Trust is impressive! Nominated for both the 2016 Charity Times Awards’ ‘Best New Charity’, and the Spirit of Manchester’s ‘Best Partnership Initiative’ accolades, our achievements are being recognised by many leading charity and educational faculties – The Tutor Trust is proud to be a member of the Fair Education Alliance, as well as a partner of the Universities of Manchester and Leeds.

Looking at the growth and achievements of The Tutor Trust since 2011, we are looking forward to another exciting five years here at the Tutor Trust; with two award ceremonies coming up, as well as the launch of a major evaluation of our work, namely a randomised control trial that will involve 100 primary schools across Greater Manchester and Leeds and which will be carried out by York Trials Unit and Durham University.  This is another reason to be thankful to the Education Endowment Foundation, who are funding this independent research – we are looking forward to seeing more and more evidence of our impact on education.  Here’s to another five years of success!

 

The Tutor Trust

Closing the gap through volunteer tutoring: Action Tutoring joins the Fair Education Alliance

With GCSE results day fast approaching, the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their more affluent peers will be at the forefront of the minds of those of us at Action Tutoring and our fellow education charities. Frustratingly, the gap in GCSE results still sits at 27% between those pupils in receipt of free school meals and the more advantaged, despite the efforts of many to work against this trend.

The prevalence and cost of private tuition can contribute to this gap, but Action Tutoring open up the benefits of small group tuition to those that would otherwise be unable to access it. We do this through our network of dedicated, high quality volunteer tutors, who work with pupil premium pupils in our partner schools as they approach their exams. We’re proud that we’ve supported over 1350 pupils across nearly 50 schools this year, as they work towards the C grade in English and maths that will allow them to go on to further education, employment or training. But, closing the huge attainment gap across the country will undoubtedly require a collaborative approach of schools and organisations and Action Tutoring is determined to contribute.

We are therefore excited to announce that from September we will be working with the Fair Education Alliance, an umbrella organisation comprising of leading organisations as diverse as UCAS, Achievement for All and Business in the Community. We’re looking forward to joining forces with others passionate about creating a more equal education system, to bring about change, provide a voice to government and learn from our collective experiences.

The FEA seek to address the link between socio-economic background and achievement at primary, secondary and higher education level through collaborating with members working in line with their 5 Impact Goals. Action Tutoring will be working towards Impact Goal 2- to narrow the gap in GCSE attainment at secondary level by 44% by 2022.

It’s a big goal, but one that we are all committed to reaching. We firmly believe that the voluntary sector working with schools and pupils can make a real contribution to achieving this end. Across the country, we have almost 800 dedicated high quality volunteer tutors working with us to narrow the gap across 6 cities. With them, and through drawing on the expertise of the FEA’s vast pool of members, we want to put fairer education firmly on the agenda and effect a much-needed change in the UK, ultimately benefitting thousands of young people up and down the country and enabling them to progress to a productive and brighter future.

Elly Turnbull, Action Tutoring  

 

Why A-level results day is one of the most exciting days of the year

For me, A-level results day is one of the most exciting days of the year – but for the young people I will be spending it with, it might be the single most important day of their lives so far.

Like tens of thousands of 18-year-olds across the country, I will be getting up early and heading into school -- I'll congratulate students who are celebrating great A-level grades, and give some on-the-spot support to those who didn't do as well as they had hoped and might need to go into clearing for a university place.

This is part of my job: I run a charity called The Access Project that helps young people from disadvantaged backgrounds reach selective universities. We do this by matching them with local graduates who volunteer to give one-to-one tuition in the subjects that students need most help with.

We focus on selective universities because the evidence suggests strongly that if you are a young person with the potential to go on to a selective university, this is on average the best option you can take in terms of future career earnings and access to the professions.

Unfortunately, access to these institutions is hugely unequal. On A-level results day last year, your postcode more or less defined your likelihood of going to a selective university: if you were from a poor home, you were 6 times less likely to go on to a selective university than a young person from a rich home.

If you believe talent is distributed equally across neighbourhoods across the country, this is simply a staggering injustice.

This is why The Access Project works directly with schools and young people to make a difference to these odds, and why the Fair Education Alliance has identified the importance of closing the gap in graduation from the most selective universities as part of its goal to close the gap in graduation from all universities. Over the next 12 months the FEA will be working on proposals around the use of contextual data in admissions, strengthening the evidence base around outreach work, and improving the quality of information, advice and guidance in schools as part of the solution to this issue.

But back to this A-level results day and those students who are heading into school. Imagine what it is like to be Atif -- one of The Access Project's Year 13 students at Moseley School in Birmingham. For context, it helps to know that Moseley School is on the wrong side of those statistics around university access: 58% of students have received free school meals at some point in the last six years.

But this year Atif -- following weekly one-to-one support on Chemistry from his tutor Henry in the run up to his A-levels -- has an offer to study Medicine at the University of Nottingham. This is remarkable. What is even more remarkable is that he has had to balance studying with his responsibilities as a young carer for his mother who has epilepsy, and his sister who has Down's syndrome. Atif’s decision to study Medicine was driven by his many experiences of time in hospital with his family, which he says made him committed to “giving something back”. I find it impossible not to be inspired by the talent and sheer hard work that it’s taken to get so close.

So if you do think about A-level results day today, think about Atif and the hard work it takes to overturn the odds that are stacked against young people who don't come from affluent homes - and like me, keep your fingers crossed.

If you would like to use your skills to make a difference to a student like Atif – get in touch with us at info@theaccessproject.org.uk to find out more.

Andrew Berwick 

Director of The Access Project

 

Increasing the pool of male applicants to university

Over the summer we have seen the publication of two reports focusing on the gap between boys and girls in terms of reading and in the number of male applicants to university.  We are also about to witness a further decline in the number of white working class boys entering university.  Save the Children’s ‘Lost Boys’ report indicated that there is up to a 17% gap in attainment between boys and girls in areas with high levels of poverty.  King’s College and LKMCo report that there is a significant under representation of white working class boys in higher education.  The issue is cyclical – lower numbers of boys achieving expected reading levels leading to lower numbers of white working class boys applying to university perpetuating the number of boys heading for manual roles or worst still, unemployment.   As a consequence, there is a demonstrable impact on the aspirations of the ‘working’ classes and the educational outcomes of their children.

 

Save the Children and LKMCo both identify ‘low attainment at school for much of the problem of low participation in higher education’.  This problem has been known for decades, the Aim Higher initiative through the 2000’s did little to address the issue nor has the ‘widening participation’ agenda impacted on aspirations or achievements of white, working class boys. If the pool of male applicants to university is to increase it is self-evident that the issue needs to be addressed at early stages of a boy’s life.

 

Save the Children recommend improving early years provision – from birth and pre-school, investment in evidence-based support programmes that train professionals to raise aspirations, increase access and improve achievements preparing all boys to be school ready.   It is my belief borne out by significant evidence that every parent wants the best for the child, whatever the challenges, needs or disadvantages that is their experience.   However, some parents, and practitioners in early years settings might need support in achieving the best.  The Achievement for All ‘Achieving Early’ programme has impacted on practice in 60 settings in poor areas of the country, resulting in parents, boys (and girls) improving their engagement with reading and learning ‘how to learn’.  With parents commenting that they ‘now know what it is to be different’, it is clear that change can happen.

 

LMKCo recommend improving primary aged children experience of higher education – I have witnessed the impact of Primary Futures programme, which has done much to improve the aspirations of boys, impacting on their aspirations.  There is also considerable evidence cited in Sutton Trust reports on the impact of teachers aspirations for their pupils.  The ‘can do’ approach rather than ‘because of your background’ excuses.  Many of the boys who have broken through the class barrier will have done so because of the aspirations of their teachers, and their ability to find the greatness that exists in every boy, dig it out and share it with the world.

 

If we are committed to improving the outcomes for boys it is clear from both reports and other research that investment in developing early years practice is needed.  The increase in provision for 2 and 3 year olds is to be applauded,  it is now time to increase training opportunities at a local setting level, building on the fantastic commitment of early years teachers to improving outcomes.  It is only by bringing together parents and carers, teachers and leaders to improve their understanding of what can be done to improve aspirations, access and achievement in the early years that the next generation of boys will be ready to apply to university.

Professor Sonia Blandford – CEO Achievement for All, former Pro-Vice Chancellor Canterbury Christ Church University

The Fair Education Alliance's statement on new grammar schools

The Fair Education Alliance welcomes a debate on how to improve social mobility but we strongly believe that an expansion of grammar schools would lead to worse outcomes for poor children. Evidence shows that grammar schools serve a small amount of disadvantaged pupils and they have a pernicious effect on surrounding schools. Instead, we should focus on working together to take bold action to attract more teachers into the most deprived areas, invest in high quality early years provision and guarantee access to impartial and professional careers advice for deprived young people.

Grammar schools will create a new glass ceiling for disadvantaged children

I’m very proud to say that I was educated at an East London comprehensive school. It was an institution where every child was celebrated and where we all felt that we each had something valuable to bring to the school. Sporting prowess, academic excellence, acting ability were all held in high esteem by all pupils. There was a culture of high expectations for all students, driven by an inspirational group of teachers led by Sir Michael Wilshaw, who went on to become the current Chief Inspector of schools.

It was because of the dedication of those teachers that I was lucky enough to win a place at Oxford University, not a hugely common occurrence for a black male born to immigrant parents who grew up in a tower block in the most deprived part of London. The school was a true engine of social mobility.

So you could argue that my opposition to the creation of new grammar schools is based on my personal life experiences. But in fact, my deep concerns over what would be one of the most socially regressive policies passed in recent memory is largely informed by evidence.

That evidence shows that grammar schools don’t adequately serve young people from disadvantaged communities. Instead, selective school places are often “captured” by middle class families. According to the Sutton Trust, less than 3 per cent of entrants to grammar schools are entitled to free school meals, whereas almost 13 per cent of entrants come from outside the state sector.

The Fair Education Alliance’s 2015 Report Card on educational inequality shows that gaps emerge very early between poor children and their wealthier peers – this early disadvantage would limit the chances of young people from poor families of succeeding in selection exams. Interestingly, the evidence shows that this gap in access persists even when deprived children achieve equally good grades.

Unsurprising, given the existence of expensive private bespoke tuition for the 11+ tests. Rather than tackle educational inequality, grammar schools compound it. You could impose a mechanism to force any new school to diversify its intake but that then raises the question – why not try to close the gap through existing school structures?

Moreover, the evidence shows that these schools have a pernicious effect on poor pupils who don’t make it past the entrance exam. As a matter of principle, the state should not endorse a system that brands pupils as winners and losers at such a young age. In practice, outcomes for pupils from poor families who fail to secure access to grammar schools are worse than those who are educated in counties without selective schools.

Shockingly, this also manifests itself in later life. Research by Simon Burgess at Bristol University indicates that earnings inequality is greater for those who grew up in areas operating a selective system compared to those who grew up in comprehensive areas. Number 10 and the Department for Education are slowly sleepwalking into imposing a new glass ceiling for disadvantaged children.

The government must be applauded for putting the debate on social mobility front and centre of their plans for post-brexit Britain. However, there are other policy areas that need urgent attention – bold action to attract the best leaders and teachers into the most deprived parts of the country, investment in improving the quality of early years, guaranteeing the provision of impartial careers advice to the poor families, ensuring that young people have the opportunities to develop their character to name a few. Getting these right as soon as possible will do more for disadvantaged children than creating new grammar schools ever will.

Lewis Iwu

Director of the Fair Education Alliance.