Using sound evidence to bear down on educational inequality

Raj Patel, Impact Fellow at Understanding Society, University of Essex.

Longitudinal studies can help education organisations, business and charities tackle educational inequality because they follow the lives of people over time.

As argued by many, we should not take the level of educational inequality as a given. Other developed countries demonstrate better performance. The coming together of education organisations, business and charities in the form of the Fair Education Alliance to tackle this most critical of issues represents a significant step in improving the prospects for thousands of young people.

Educational inequality is a factor across all the stages of education and it is important to tackle the problem as children grow up, move through the system and into the labour market. Each stage of education matters as it opens up or restricts further opportunities – and the high costs of inequality means that identifying ‘what works’ has to be central to mission.

The interaction between institutional performance, parental background, household circumstances, non-cognitive and language skills, aspirations and behaviours, gender, ethnicity, disability, deprivation and geography all combine to create a complex environment in which to address the problem. Indeed, the effects of policy and practice at all stages of education can only be properly measured over a (long) period of time.

FEA members can now access a major research resource in the form of a world leading longitudinal household panel survey called Understanding Society. This is an independent scientific and policy resource for explaining the changing circumstances of people in the UK and understanding the causes and consequences of deep-rooted social problems.

The Study’s explanatory power and causal insights come from its unique longitudinal design, which annually tracks the same young people and adults over time. Understanding Society is a multi-purpose study, with data on demographics and key domains: education, family, mental and physical health, subjective wellbeing, employment, income, expenditure, wealth, time use, behaviours, housing, transport, neighbourhoods, attitudes and more.

It can be used to examine the interaction between factors associated with young people, their household circumstances and (currently) school attainment to help pinpoint where effort may be best targeted. As FEA members work in and beyond education they have the capacity to understand different dimensions to the problem and leverage effort. Equally, members can use the data and evidence to influence policy, particularly where societal changes or policies external to education risk putting breaks on effort - or can help accelerate the goal of reducing the gap.

 The Study is relevant to many aspects of tackling educational inequality, for example:

  • Understanding who is making progress or getting left behind and explaining variations between groups and pathways.
  • We know that low attainment is linked to poverty but this not simply due to economic circumstances. Social and cultural factors also matter. What parents do matters but doesn’t explain the entire picture, whilst some children from low income backgrounds have strong compensating resources.
  • Learning more about the role of social and emotional wellbeing – with new fields of research examining factors such as stress. There is, for example, little current evidence to show that low aspirations are an important mechanism.
  • Evaluating the impact of relevant policies and their interaction with education by looking at the picture before, during and after the policy to help drive innovation and policy effectiveness.

A diverse range of education, youth and family research is being undertaken with the data, with already a number of papers published. For example, one study examined how young people’s aspirations are affected by gender, ethnicity and class whilst another looked at the impact of different schooling systems on income inequality in local areas.

About Understanding Society

Set within a household context, the Study follows the lives of all individuals within 40,000 households (initially, in 2009 at Wave 1) and incorporates the long-running British Household Panel Survey (BHPS), which started in 1991. Children aged 10 to 15 undertake a self-completion questionnaire and join the adult panel at the age of 16 (Rising 16s).

Consents from panel members have also been collected for linkage to external administrative data, with linkage to the National Pupil Database for England (NPD). This includes attainment data from ages 5-18 as well as absences and exclusions. Understanding Society is also linked to identifiers of schools that children attend or recently attended. The combined data allows research into issues such as:

  • segregation
  • the effect of school characteristics on educational and other life outcomes
  • parental school choice

How to access the data and latest evidence

Whilst experts at the Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER) provide the scientific leadership for Understanding Society, the data are released through the UK Data Service (UKDS).

For researchers and analysts Understanding Society’s ‘Getting Started’ Section and the Education Topic Guide is a good place to start. Evidence users can access findings through our Insights publication, which in 2016 included theme on education, or by searching the publications database. If you prefer a face to face briefing about the Study please contact Raj Patel (rajpatel@essex.ac.uk).

Raj Patel is the Impact Fellow at Understanding Society, University of Essex.

Resilience matters

Cornelia Lucey, Partner at The People Project

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The People Project is led by two female directors. At the People Project we have a vision for a world where all are emotionally agile – this is where people feel resilient, perform at their best and then help others to do the same.

We are two coaching psychologists with over a decade of experience in both the education and corporate sectors. Through our research and careers (including many years in Teach First schools campaigning for educational equality) we have identified that resilience is the foundation of emotionally intelligent and authentic leadership. In turn, resilient leaders create cultures where their colleagues are able to feel and perform at their best. Resilience is therefore the cornerstone for every child’s development too.

It was with this insight, and with our training and research in psychology, that we set up the People Project. We now work with individuals, teams and organisations to develop resilience and performance.

We know the challenges that people face in the 21st century workplace – be it a teacher or child in a school, or a senior leader in a charity or corporate organisation - and we have the skills and experience to support people to flourish. Our work is particularly applicable to issues around retention, engagement and performance. Every day we help teachers, senior leaders and corporate organisation to create meaningful change – and we’re very proud of this.

So why have we decided to partner with the FEA and particularly the IG3 working group? We are a boutique consultancy, but with the FEA we are stronger. Alongside the fantastic partners in the IG3 group we can more widely share our expertise and approaches for adults who work with children. We want to share our resource to make sure resilience development is the right of all children, teachers, professionals – not just for the few.

Recently we attended the Teach First ‘Challenge the Impossible’ conference with over 5,000 educationalists at Wembley Arena. There we heard a headteacher, Marcus Shepperd, talk about his experience of developing as a leader. He discussed the importance his mother placed in instilling resilience in him, and how he strives to instil resilience in his students in a myriad of ways. He said: “A lot of children are told they will not do something. It’s our job to say you can and you will. It’s exponentially hard – but we will not stop.”

And Marcus took the words out of our mouths – because we too at the People Project will not stop until nationally our schools, workplaces and communities understand and know how to build real, sustainable resilience. Without a foundation of resilience, you cannot learn and you cannot lead – and who wants to settle for a society like that?
 

Born to Fail? Social Mobility, A Working Class View

Professor Sonia Blandford

In July 2017, sat in my home office reflecting on the end of another full and mainly productive academic year, there was a realisation that as a working class Professor I might have something to contribute to the social mobility debate. A view that would be immersed in my experience, contributing to the class consciousness that has been subject to media activity and political debate over the last year.  My aim in sharing thoughts on social mobility is to question the injustice of the current prevailing view of social mobility, that the working class have somehow failed and they should become more like the middle class. That is, pass the required exams to go to university, get a degree or two, buy their own house and live a healthy life, contributing to society and the economy. Not too dissimilar to my own story in some ways, but lacking the notion of family, and the tribal effect of the working class. What is needed is an alternative way of thinking about social mobility a way of thinking that crucially listens to, engages and involves the working class in determining what their future should be.  An alternative way that values partnership, mutuality and collaboration and which, by doing what is right, creates opportunities for all. What would different look like if we addressed working class questions, if we responded to old questions with new thinking?

 

Why do working class children not achieve?

The need to understand how and why children can learn is fundamental to pedagogy – how teachers teach.  Getting it [teaching] right for the working class remains an ongoing challenge in many schools. An appropriate starting point might be to increase understanding of how working class, disadvantaged and SEND children learn, and refocusing teacher training and professional training on the majority of the population in schools, identifying what is needed to prepare children for work. It is also about changing the mindset of the adults and services around the school to improve the outcomes for all children. I have long since known that if you change the attitudes and behaviours of adults you improve the attitudes and behaviours of the child.

 

Why do working class families not participate fully in early years provision?

Sure Start Children’s Centres were the main vehicles for ensuring good quality family services and provision were located in accessible places and welcoming to all. The aim for every Sure Start Centre was to improve outcomes for children and families. [1] There are some fine nursery settings that take that approach today. If we want working class families to fully participate in early years we need to see more of the same - to share the benefits of early years education by building a respectful relationship with families, and sustain that to help ensure growth and school readiness.

 

Why is there not the will to stop the growth of disadvantage among the working class?

Part of the problem is the context of UK poverty has changed. Poverty is no longer just an issue for people out of work or living in social housing. It impacts on people with disabilities, people who’ve become ill and had to give up work, people in work, young people (including some just out of university), people renting from private landlords. The drive for welfare reform has been seen as an answer to the problems of disadvantage, but it’s failed to understand this changing context and so the better ways (better housing, investment in communities - or reinvestment where cuts have decimated good work - and a continued drive to grow employment and provide good jobs that provide an income on or above a living wage).

 

Why is school considered not relevant by the working class?

A curriculum that is not socially and culturally relevant, that presents more barriers than opportunities will not engage children in learning.  The national curriculum in England has been developed on knowledge and learning experienced by the middle class. There are solutions to this dilemma that, if implemented, would address the needs of all children.  The first is to break down the barriers to learning by providing opportunities for all children to participate in social and cultural activities, sport, the arts, debating, volunteering, wider community based provision, museums, trips and much more. The second requires us to relate the curriculum to the social context of the child and their future.  All communities have a rich heritage, which can provide significant resources. In terms of their future, learning about the workplace can begin in primary school, increasing ambitions, breaking down barriers, and providing relevance to learning. Increasing access to learning for all children should be the benchmark of a successful school.

 

Why is working class success only measured by exam results?

The annual media frenzy that follows primary phase national curriculum assessments (SATs) and secondary phase GCSE exam results only serves to remind the majority of the working class families that their children are disadvantaged, with private and grammar schools forming the majority at the top of published league tables. For the minority of working class students who do achieve, this is a demonstration that passing exams is a possibility at primary and secondary. Though recent primary SATs serve to prove the difficulties for those without the related social and cultural capital to respond to questions in the English paper.   EPI Closing the Gap research [2] reminds us that it will take decades to ‘close the gap’. A more meaningful assessment at secondary phase would be destination outcomes. Measuring student’s outcomes by where the examinations take them. If exam results are to be a single judgment of success, all forms of examinations should be considered providing a more rounded picture of what each school has to offer.  

 

Why is there a lack of ambition for the working class?

There is no evidence that the working class cannot achieve - in education, employment, housing and health. There is also no evidence that the working class are any less likely to have a desire for success than others. What there is, though, a lack of societal ambition outside those spurious targets (like university entry) that only concern 50 per cent of the population at best. To increase ambition for the working class there needs to be a mutual understanding of what is available in terms of alternatives, and engagement with the working class about what they actually want. By talking and listening ambitions can be shared - a do with rather than do to approach.

 

So, are the working class born to fail?

Research would indicate that rather than reducing the chances of failure within the working class over the last forty years, we have increased the possibility in housing, education and social care. This should not have happened, nor should it be allowed to continue. Back in 1973 authors of the Born to Fail report referenced Tawney, The continuance of social evils is not due to the fact that we do not know what is right, but that we prefer to continue doing what is wrong.  Those who have the power to remove them do not have the will, and those who have the will have not, as yet, the power’.   

And there is no evidence that the attainment gap cannot be closed for all children, regardless of background, challenge or need. To recommend a national ambition set at 50% will allow excuses and caveats; creating a barrier to change.  Evidence has shown (Impetus Foundation, 2014 [3], Rowntree Foundation, 2016 [4] , PwC, 2016 [5] ) that the key to change is to develop an approach that engenders self-belief, building the core in every child at the earliest stages of their development, Aspiration, ‘I can’, Access, ‘I do, Attainment, ‘I have’, and Achievement, ‘I am’.

Ultimately, it is about taking responsibility, owning a shared moral purpose and shared ambition and integrity that can provide the opportunities and resources needed for all children and their families to achieve. This is social justice in action, and possibly, social mobility that really works.

Extracts from ‘Born to Fail? A Working Class View’ http://www.johncattbookshop.com/born-to-fail

 

Notes:

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Professor Sonia Blandford is one of the country’s foremost experts on Improving the education and aspirations of children from disadvantaged backgrounds. She focuses on providing the leadership in schools to create equal chances for all. Sonia was named in Debrett’s 2016 list of the Top 500 Most Influential People in the UK, and is among the 2016 Women of the Year. She is Vice Chair and Founding Trustee of the Chartered College of Teaching.
She is currently founder and CEO of the award winning educational charity Achievement for All, which provides programmes to improve outcomes for children and young people aged two to 19 years, vulnerable to underachievement, in 4,000 early-years, school and post-16 settings in England and Wales; and visiting professor of education at UCL Institute of Education.
 

[1] House of Commons Library (2017) Sure Start (England) Briefing Paper Number 7257, 9 June 2017. Available at: http://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/CBP-7257#fullreport

 

[2] Andrews, J., Robinson, D., Hutchinson, J. (2017), Closing the Gap? Trends in Educational Attainment and Disadvantage. London: Education Policy Institute. Available at: https://epi.org.uk/report/closing-the-gap/   

 

[3] Impetus (2014), Make Neets History in 2014. London: Impetus Available at: http://impetus-pef.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Make-NEETs-History-Report_ImpetusPEF_January-2014.pdf 

 

[4] Tinson, A. et al. (2016), Monitoring poverty and social exclusion 2016. York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Available at: https://www.jrf.org.uk/report/monitoring-poverty-and-social-exclusion-2016

 

[5] PwC (2016), Achieving Schools: Social Impact Assessment Final Report 2016 London: PwC. Available at: https://www.paperturn-view.com/flipbook/id/achievement-for-all/achieving-schools-social-impact-assessment-pwc?pid=NzY7665

 

Something is missing if we want to make education fair

Tom Ravenscroft, Founder & CEO, Enabling Enterprise

 

Education in England is not fair. It is to the credit of the Fair Education Alliance, of which Enabling Enterprise is an enthusiastic founding member, that we have begun to see this as not a natural state of affairs, but as a fixable problem.

Addressing it is frequently highlighted as a priority in politics by all parties. That over eighty organisations have committed to collaborate to address the gap is heartening.

 

What are we making fair?

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The challenge is that when we talk about making education fair, our minds most immediately drift to differences in academic attainment. It is clear and compellingly wrong that the most disadvantaged students should be almost twice as likely to miss out on achieving good passes in GCSE English and Maths as their wealthier peers.

It is unsurprising that we place so much emphasis on rebalancing grades, because we want to be rigorous and measurable. And the most robust things we feel we have are exam results.

But a good education is not just exam grades. A good education, of course, involves building a great deal of knowledge and understanding of the world. It should also develop character – that is, the ability to make thoughtful, ethical choices – and good mental health. Finally, it needs to build the ability to do.

And this is often the missing piece: the essential skills that our children and young people need.

 

The missing piece: Essential Skills

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The essential skills are often badged in different ways – soft skills, life skills, enterprise skills, employability skills, or study skills. Whatever the badge, this set of skills covers the ability to work with others, to creatively problem-solve, to self-manage and to communicate effectively.

I have come to realise over the last eight years running Enabling Enterprise and in writing my new book, if we just focus on the grades of our students to make education fair we are missing something fundamental – for three compelling reasons.

The first is that these are skills that are inherently valuable in their own right. Employers, colleges and universities are crying out for these skills. The latest education and skills survey from the CBI highlighted that just 23% of employers prioritise the qualifications of school and college leavers over their skills and attitude. Similarly, the University of Cambridge highlights critical study skills that undergraduates need to succeed – academic qualifications are not enough.

The second reason, is that if we just remove inequalities in grades, we still do not make education fair. Work from the Social Mobility Commission has showed that two young people from different socio-economic backgrounds who have achieved the same grades still go on to have different trajectories in the rest of their lives. The main reason? Differences in parental networks and soft skills.

The third and final reason is that building essential skills does not have to mean neglecting building knowledge. At Enabling Enterprise, we work with children from as young as 3-years-old to give regular lessons in the eight essential skills we focus on: teamwork, leadership, creativity, problem-solving, presenting, listening, aiming high and staying positive. As students build their competence in these skills, their ability to learn also soars.

Private schools are investing hugely in activities to build these skills, complemented by parental networks and a wide range of extra-curricular learning opportunities. We need to rebalance the playing field here.

 

Working together

What is exciting is that through the efforts of Enabling Enterprise’s almost 300 partner schools we have seen that it is possible for every child and young person to build their essential skills. They take as rigorous an approach to these skills as any other academic learning: assessing the students’ skills at the outset, delivering dedicated teaching time just on the skills, continually practising and reinforcing those skills, and then taking students out of the classroom to apply them with employers.

Through the Fair Education Alliance, we are now working with partners including Teach First, Ark, Career Ready, BITC, Family Links, the National Literacy Trust and others to develop a shared language and approach to building these skills.

By working together, and elevating the value of essential skills, we really can ensure that education becomes fair.

 

Tom Ravenscroft is Founder and CEO of Enabling Enterprise, an award-winning social enterprise working with schools across the country to build the essential skills of 3- to 18-year-olds. His first book, entitled ‘The Missing Piece: The Essential Skills that Education Forgot’ is published by John Catt Educational Publishing in October.

You can find out more about the tools and resources mentioned in the blog at www.TheEssentialSkills.org

 

The Fair Education Alliance Response to the Education Secretary's Conference Speech

Responding to the Secretary of State for Education’s announcement of a loan reimbursement programme, the Chair of the Fair Education Alliance Sir Richard Lambert said:

The Secretary of State’s speech today is a welcome step towards improving teacher retention in the UK. We are in the midst of a crisis and it is essential the government takes action such as this to incentivise top people into low-income schools where they can make the biggest difference. 

Just last month the 86 organisations of the Fair Education Alliance highlighted teacher retention as a key barrier to addressing the persistent gap in attainment between disadvantaged pupils and their wealthier peers. In the report we recommended financial incentives such as loan forgiveness as a way of solving this crisis. We therefore back the government’s initial commitment to loan forgiveness for teachers in shortage subjects in the most disadvantaged areas. We look forward to hearing more about this proposal in due course. This need to be rolled out quickly and have its effectiveness evaluated.
 

The educational state of the nation: the FEA’s Report Card 2016-17 round-up

The English-Speaking Union is a charity and membership organisation, delivering oracy skills for debating, public speaking and in the classroom. Their Branch Education Officer, Alex Bailey, writes about the launch of our 2016/17 Report Card. 

As the ESU is a member of the Alliance, myself and a couple of colleagues attended the launch, eager to find out what the latest report card would reveal. The evening started with a foreword from Chair of the FEA, Sir Richard Lambert, who reminded the audience of just what has changed since the last Report Card was released in April 2016 – Brexit, a snap general election and Donald Trump.

There are many explanations for these events and one common theme is that vast numbers of people feel left behind, neglected by wider society and worried about what the future holds. This, he stated, makes the aim of the FEA, to close the gap between the least advantaged and their wealthier piers, more relevant now than ever.

When the departing Director of the FEA, and host of the evening, Lewis Iwu, invited the first question from an audience member, he drew their attention to a detachable microphone installed in the back of the seat in front of them. There was a collective expression of surprise from the audience when we all realised every seat in the auditorium was equipped with microphones built in to our seats. Lewis reminded us ‘this is 2017 people’ as he encouraged everyone to contribute to the live tweets and active commentary projected on to a large screen which sat behind the panel. A fitting backdrop for a notable theme of the evening – social media.

Digesting information in the digital age

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Panellist and campaigner for mental health Natasha Devon opened by recalling a worrying surge of calls to Childline in the aftermath of the referendum verdict. The young people phoning in weren’t necessarily thinking through the political, or economic repercussions of the future, but were scared by the barrage of headlines and negative news being sent directly to the devices in their pockets. ‘Things weren’t like this 10 years ago’ Natasha reminded us, referring to the massive shift in the way young people have started to interact with the world in such a short space of time.

Audience member Rachael from Business in the Community asked the panel how we might equip young people with the skills and resilience to deal with uncertainty and worrying information in the digital age.

Natasha put forward three clear solutions:

1. Critical thinking – the ability to question and decipher the deluge of information, especially in relation to social media

2. Healthy coping strategies for stress – we know there are therapeutic benefits related to practising sport, art, music and drama, so let’s not demote these subjects in the interest of a ‘rigorous curriculum’

3. Emotional literacy – the ability to use words and be heard and understood. These don’t have to be taught in PSHE but can be implemented in a ‘whole school approach’.

Also advocating for that very approach was Executive Headteacher of School 21 and former adviser to Tony Blair, Peter Hyman. He started with an appraisal of the ‘regimented’ and ‘rigid’ approach of some modern inner-city schools. He praised Mossbourne Community Academy in Hackney for its exceptional results and spoke of ‘shooting into the system’ the idea that you can take a failing inner-city school with some of the highest levels of deprivation in the country and turn it into one of the most successful.

However, he then went on to call the tough approach to behaviour in schools a ‘deficit model’ and pointed to the Charter Schools in America where the model originated. He argued that students of those schools, despite doing well in their exams, have struggled at college and university where they are faced with a less rigid environment. The approach doesn’t teach students how to be agile thinkers and hold those critical skills which employers most value – character development, resilience and problem solving. He referred to his approach to education as being one of ‘head, heart and hand’.

Lewis rounded up with the final ‘silver bullet’ question to the panellists:

On what single issue would you place our collective energy to achieve maximum results over the next five years?

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Former Lib Dem Schools Minister David Laws summarised another common theme of the evening by saying that we need to collectively ensure that school funding and focused efforts at closing the gap remain a firm priority for government in the years ahead.

Natasha Devon called for a radical shake-up of the education system and said we need to have a serious conversation about creative thinking and its place in preparing children for the future.

Director of Admissions and Outreach at Oxford University, Dr Samina Khan, emphasised the importance of teacher recruitment and retention.

The final word was from Peter Hyman who called for us to get behind oracy and make it a national programme.

By focussing on eloquence of speaking, building confidence and setting out a well-being agenda we can prepare our young people across the country for the fast-changing future.

Alex Bailey                                                                                                                                    Branch Education Officer, The English-Speaking Union

Poorest children almost 13 months behind wealthier peers at GSCE.

The Fair Education Alliance (FEA), a coalition of 86 organisations, has today published its third annual State of the Nation Report Card in association with founding corporate supporter and lead sponsor, UBS. The report finds that educational inequality remains deeply entrenched in the UK and outlines a number of policy recommendations for improving social mobility. The country is in danger of failing to hit is social mobility targets by the end of this parliament. The report’s findings include:

  • Marginal progress on some indicators over the last year - the gap in literacy and numeracy at primary has narrowed from 8.4 months to 8.2 months
  • The GCSE achievement gap has narrowed from 13.1 months to 12.8 months
  • On current trends, the nation will fail to meet the coalition’s national targets for tackling educational inequality by the end of this parliament
  • Children attending schools serving low-income communities fare the worst in the South East, both in terms of the lowest GCSE attainment and the largest gap compared with schools serving high-income communities. The gap in this region is still the largest in England, at 18.7 months. This compares to a national average of 12.8 months
  • Children from more affluent families from state schools were almost four times as likely as young people from low-income families (3.8 times) to go on to join a higher-tariff university in 2016.
  • One in forty children who were eligible for free school meals, went on to one of these higher-tariff institutions, compared with almost one in ten better-off children.

In response to the findings, the coalition of 86 has proposed a number of recommendations. These include:

  • School Funding: A commitment from the government that national spending should not decrease in real terms on a per pupil basis.
  • Destinations and Careers: - Every primary and secondary school in England should have a designated and trained senior leader responsible for developing and delivering a whole school approach to destinations
  • Grammar Schools - The government should continue to resist calls to expand selective education in the future.
  • Measurement of Social and Emotional Competencies: A framework of measures should be available to all schools in the UK to support their knowledge of the social and emotional competencies of their students.
  • Early Years: The government should commit to ensuring that every group setting serving the 30% most deprived areas in England is led by an early years teacher or equivalent by 2020.

 

Sir Richard Lambert, Chair of the Fair Education Alliance commented:

“Inequality in education is still deeply entrenched in our country and our Report Card is a stark reminder of the scale of the challenge. The government must address the funding crisis in schools – freezing school budgets in a time of rising inflation will only make the journey more difficult. As the UK seeks to reposition itself in the world, it becomes more crucial than ever that our young people are able to fulfil their potential irrespective of their parental background.”

 

David Soanes, UK Country Head UBS:

The Report and the Impact Goals themselves are also a clarion call to action: they place the spotlight firmly on the most pertinent issues in order to raise awareness and influence policy, but also to illustrate the wasted potential, to individual lives and to the UK economy. We cannot become complacent; these recommendations should set the tone for policy and practice – together action is needed through replicable and evidence-based approaches. Much more needs to be done.

 

About the Fair Education Alliance:

The Fair Education Alliance was launched in June 2014 and is a coalition of 86 of the UK’s leading organisations from business, education and the third sector. The aim of the FEA is to work towards ending the persistent achievement gap between young people from the poorest communities and their wealthier peers. 

The FEA believes that England must meet five impact goals to be achieved by 2022. The Report Card reports on progress on each.

1.     Narrow the primary school literacy and numeracy attainment gap

2.     Close the gap in GCSE attainment

3.     Ensure that young people develop key strengths including character, wellbeing and mental health they need to support high aspirations

4.     Narrow the participation gap in post 16 education or training

5.     Close the graduation gap, with a particular focus on the most selective universities

UBS’s UK Community Affairs Programme

For over 30 years, UBS's strategic Community Affairs programme has consistently addressed economic and social deprivation in the London Borough of Hackney, supporting community initiatives in education and social entrepreneurship. Through carefully selected, and rigorously managed multi-year partnerships, a central objective of the programme is to break the link between disadvantage and poor skills and attainment. Impact has been achieved through a combination of targeted financial support and employee volunteering. As a founder member of the FEA UBS continues to seek out, promote and support practical solutions and programmes working in partnership to tackle educational disadvantage.

David Soanes, UK Country Head, UBS, chairs UBS's Community Affairs Committee which oversees this programme. Externally David chairs Business in the Community’s Education Leadership Team.

UBS

UBS provides financial advice and solutions to wealthy, institutional and corporate clients worldwide, as well as private clients in Switzerland. The operational structure of the Group is comprised of our Corporate Center and five business divisions: Wealth Management, Wealth Management Americas, Personal & Corporate Banking, Asset Management and the Investment Bank. UBS's strategy builds on the strengths of all of its businesses and focuses its efforts on areas in which it excels, while seeking to capitalize on the compelling growth prospects in the businesses and regions in which it operates, in order to generate attractive and sustainable returns for its shareholders. All of its businesses are capital-efficient and benefit from a strong competitive position in their targeted markets.

Teachers face significant barriers to addressing emotional health in education survey finds. The Fair Education Alliance warns new government not to drop this agenda

The Fair Education Alliance (FEA) - which represents over 85 leading business, education and voluntary organisations - today publishes a new report, Reflections on Emotional Health, Wellbeing and Character in Schools,

The report identifies some of the reasons why emotional health remains a significant issue in the education system, where there is existing good practice, and provides support for school staff and policy makers to take action.

The group’s report follows their survey of 500 school staff about social and emotional health in education, highlighting the need for action. The key findings were:

  • Insufficient time (71%) and a lack of available budget (59%) were cited as the biggest barriers to addressing Social and Emotional wellbeing in schools.
  • 94% thought it was very important to identify children who require specialist support for wellbeing or social and emotional development.
  • Having clear next steps for pupil development (83%) and being easy to use (70%) were identified as being the key priorities for social and emotional wellbeing measurements.

Dame Alison Peacock, Chief Executive of the Chartered College, commented:

"This report marks the start of an important project that considers a whole-school approach to improving children's health and wellbeing. Young people's time at school often marks such a formative period in life and therefore it is important that teachers and school leaders can work together to help develop our children to become more confident and resilient citizens for the future. I look forward to following the Fair Education Alliance's work in this area."

Bea Stevenson, Co-Chair of the FEA’s wellbeing group, commented:

“We recognise the importance of ensuring that children’s emotional health not only remains high on the policy agenda but also that schools and practitioners are given the support they need to implement change. We hope that this report supports both these aims and are committed to working in cross sector partnership to embed understanding and good practice across the school system.”

Jennifer Shearman, Senior lecturer in the Faculty of Education at Canterbury Christ Church University and contributor to the report, said:

“This report showcases the power of cross-sector mobilisation to send a strong message about educating the whole person.  Here academics, university professors, corporate leaders and leading third sectors organisations speak with one voice about why addressing emotional health in all children is so important, and how it can be achieved. We are committed to making policy change a priority through our collaboration and partnership.”

We can do maths

Many people in this country are happy to say- ‘I could never do maths’- but would be ashamed to admit that they can’t read. We have seen a successful drive to improve reading standards, but maths still lags some way behind. One clear theme emerging from the recent study of good practice in early years and primary maths (FEA, 2017) is the centrality of positive attitudes and a can do mentality in driving improvement and enjoyment in maths; in many of the schools and settings it was purposefully identified as an area for change.

And why does it matter? Evidence shows that achieving Maths GCSE at grades A*-C provides a powerful base for success in life; other research indicates that by 10 years old children’s maths attainment can be an indicator of their future earnings; those who do well at maths at age 10 are more likely to have higher earnings in adulthood. Children begin school at the age of four or five with considerable differences in maths skills and understanding; some primary schools in some areas of England address this well. Children tend to perform better at maths in primary school than they do during their secondary education (DfE, 2016). Nonetheless, the gap in maths performance at age 11 between children from economically disadvantaged families and their more advantaged peers still exists and widens significantly during secondary school. In 2016, just over half of all children from economically disadvantaged families achieved the expected level in maths at age 11 (58%). This compared to their more advantaged peers where 76% achieved the expected level (DfE, 2016). This means that a significant proportion of children from economically disadvantaged families leave primary school without the basic maths skills to succeed at secondary school and beyond. It does not have to be like this.

The recent FEA (2017) maths report shows that primary schools and early years settings that are getting it right are delivering a high quality mathematics education irrespective of children’s social or economic background. With a whole school or setting approach to maths not only are children achieving and enjoying maths, but so are teachers and parents. 

Professor Sonia Blandford

Founder and CEO, Achievement for All

Read "Closing the attainment gap in maths: A study of good practice in early years and primary settings" here.

The Fair Education Alliance's response to the Spring Budget 2017

The Brexit vote was a wakeup call to the fact that our country’s institutions leave far too many people behind while others thrive. Given this context, the decision to focus on grammar schools in this budget is disappointing. It represents a maldistribution of resources.

The Chancellor should have helped millions of children in existing schools cope with over £3 billion in real terms cuts – a situation that will affect staffing, buildings and extracurricular activities, all of which would help the nation’s children to succeed, irrespective of their background.

Instead, resources will be directed into schools for the select few that will get into grammars. Parents already face pressure to spend money on preparing their children for entrance tests so it is unlikely that families who are just about managing will be able to secure spaces at these selective schools for their children.

Despite our differences over this policy, we recognise that the government shares the same aims as we do - to create a society where every child can realise their ambitions. We are looking forward to continuing our work with the government on building an agenda that includes investing in early years education, supporting teaching and leadership in schools and strengthening careers advice for young people.

Lewis Iwu, Director of the Fair Education Alliance

The forgotten group: middle attainers on SEN Support


Middle attainers on SEN support can be a forgotten group in schools; with teachers focussing on stretching the most able and raising the bar for the lowest achieving 20%, those in the middle with additional needs fail to make expected progress.

At a national level, the profile of those on SEN support shows the three most common additional needs as moderate learning difficulties (27%), speech, language and communication needs (21%) and social and emotional and mental health issues (17%); additional needs are likely to overlap within these categories. Those on SEN Support are also more likely to come from socio-economic disadvantage than their peers without an identified SEN and are less likely to move out of this category during their schooling. But it does not have to be like this.

An inclusive approach with frequent and rigorous interrogation of pupil data improves both progress and attainment for children and young people on SEN Support. This is of particular importance for those whose prior attainment is somewhere in the middle. If they fail to make the expected progress by KS2, they start secondary school behind and are less likely to ‘catch up’ by KS4. At 16 they move on and may not have the skills needed to gain employment or the minimum qualifications needed for further education or training; instead they repeat the same learning with a post 16 provider. 

Ofsted is quite clear, in their review of SEND in 2010, education providers which achieved the best outcomes for their pupils/students with SEN had high aspirations for their learning and focused on enabling them to become as independent as possible; this has not changed today. Getting the best outcomes for those in the middle attaining bracket on SEN support means school leaders and teachers asking questions about their progress and attainment: what challenges do they face in learning? what challenges do they face in accessing learning? and where are the gaps? Comparisons can be made with pupils/students with similar prior attainment, using national, local and school level data sets. 

The SEN reforms introduced in September 2014 have gone some way to close the gap for those on SEN support. Identification of need is more accurate and happens earlier, more teachers engage with specific professional development and SENCOs, qualified to Masters level through the National SENCO Award, provide the practical day to day guidance. But more can still be done. Until every school in England develops an inclusive approach, with teachers and leaders asking challenging questions about learning and outcomes, those on SEN Support, in the middle attaining band may never progress beyond the middle. 

Professor Sonia Blandford, Founder and CEO Achievement for All

 

Closing the numeracy attainment gap

The Fair Education Alliance - which represents over 75 leading business, education and voluntary organisations - today sets out the practical steps that schools and government can take to improve maths results among children from the least privileged backgrounds.

The FEA’s numeracy group, co-chaired by Achievement for All and KPMG, has identified what makes some schools serving poorer communities successful in improving outcomes in maths. It lists the policies that should be adopted more widely in order to improve the chances of children from the poorest backgrounds and so dramatically improve social mobility in England.

The group’s report follows the latest PISA results which highlighted a very large numeracy gap between the highest and lowest performing students in England - equivalent to about 8 years of schooling and one of the biggest across OECD countries. This achievement gap begins long before they start primary school and only widens throughout their education.

The FEA is calling for the adoption of a number of policies to drive progress in closing the numeracy attainment gap. 

A national maths professional development programme (subject knowledge and pedagogy) for early years settings which includes better support for practitioners in assessing and supporting children’s progress in maths.
Data recording – the FEA's numeracy working group proposes that the current Ofsted inspection framework is changed so it looks for greater evidence of how well settings are supporting children’s early maths development.
Parental engagement - evidence shows the centrality of parent engagement for better outcomes in children’s short and long term learning and development. All early years settings and primary schools should have focused approaches to developing this further.
Transition - continuity in approaches to maths support children’s understanding and further development. There needs to be a focus on continuity in approach and practice from early years to primary school and primary to secondary school and beyond.
Action research/individual research projects - focused teacher/practitioner CPD builds teacher and practitioner skills and confidence in teaching maths. They become confident in performance and attitude. This is further developed through action research in schools and early years settings or teacher/practitioner individual projects.

You can read the full report here

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.