Every child should have access to great education, no matter their background

As I travelled to London by train last week, I had a shocking experience involving four young men speaking with a young child on their mobile phone.

The group had Facetimed a young pre-school boy and were teaching him what can only be described as gang culture. It struck me how hard this child would find adjusting into a classroom environment and have access to great education when his early life lessons were so anti-social. How difficult would it be for teachers to enable him access to great education?

It would have been easy for me to sit and judge these young men as irresponsible. Should I have “caused a scene” and given them my opinion of what they were doing wrong?

I did of course show my displeasure whilst fighting my emotions to also show them compassion. They are more than likely victims themselves of a failed discriminatory education and are only doing what they were taught to do themselves by peer pressure or poor parenting.

So how do we break this cycle? How does society and educators ensure these barriers to learning and social skills are improved?

This question led me to looking at what the government and highly skilled educators think will help solve this social dilemma which I have attempted to bring together here.

Below are some highlights from a recent blog from the DfE on how they want to ensure every child no matter what their background has the same opportunities, you can read the full article here  The Education Hub

The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities

The government has published its response to the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report which includes actions from the Department of Education and their partners which focuses on improving education outcomes for everyone.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said

“Talent is spread equally across the nation and opportunity should be the same. Education plays a key part in rectifying that imbalance.

That is why the Government’s response to the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report includes a number of key actions for the department, which we will be taking forward. The actions include a new Model History Curriculum that will support high-quality history teaching and promotes inclusion and equality by helping schools create a resource on pupil hairstyles and uniform policy.

I am incredibly proud that we are leading the way with a package of measures to help tackle ethnic disparities, promote unity and build a fairer Britain for all.”

The Children’s Commissioner is to improve the support offered to families

The Children’s Commissioner for England will commence an independent review in April 2022 to improve the way public services understand the needs of children and families, so every child has the best start in life and the opportunity to reach their full potential.

The Department for Education will help schools understand how to make sure their uniform and appearance policies are not discriminatory.

Uniform policies should not discriminate, and pupils should feel comfortable while being at school.

In addition, we will work with leading schools to help them create a resource on considering pupil hairstyles within uniform policy.

Careers guidance will be improved

To improve careers guidance for all pupils in state-funded secondary education, we will extend the current statutory duty on schools to secure independent careers guidance for pupils throughout their secondary education.

Amanda Spielman’s speech at the 2022 ASCL Annual Conference

Student Absence

Ofsted’s Chief Inspector Amanda Spellman spoke at the conference about student absence and there will be initiatives which will help schools to get children back into school you can read the whole speech here 

The report on ‘Securing good attendance and tackling persistent absence’ looked at what Ofsted were seeing on inspection. It considered some of the root causes of absence.

“Many of our findings were not surprising. The causes of persistent absence now are often no different to pre-pandemic – but they have been exacerbated.

Children whose parents are struggling financially, or with domestic violence or substance abuse, have always been prone to absenteeism – and often this is about their parents’ attitudes and actions, rather than their own. We know these problems grew through the pandemic, so unsurprisingly, we are now seeing more children failing to make a consistent return to the classroom.”

A register for home-educated children

Concern was raised by the recent increase in the number of children being home educated.

Amanda Spellman said “there will always be parents who do a fantastic job educating their children at home. But it remains the case that we take a very liberal attitude to home education in this country, compared to many other nations.

We need to recognise that home education is very hard. Most parents are not equipped to do it and if they are motivated by their own or their child’s anxiety, rather than a deeply-held desire to home-educate – the outcomes for their child are unlikely to be great.

And we should also remember that sadly a small number of parents have darker motivations for taking their children away from their teacher’s sight.

It is tragic that Arthur Labinjo-Hughes never returned to school after lockdown. He was supposedly being educated at home.

So, I am very pleased at the recent announcement by the government that it will be starting a register for home-educated children – so we know who they are, where they are, and who is taking responsibility for their education.”

Levelling up for a fair education system

A recent blog from the RSA challenges the government’s much anticipated Levelling Up White Paper which sets out cross-society plans for system change, to spread opportunity and prosperity across the whole of the UK.

Milla Nakkeeeran challenges some of the government’s plans and in some important areas, such as child poverty, wellbeing and community partnership, Milla says the paper lacks specificity.

Read the whole blog here by Milla Nakkeeran  

Growth Mindset

Lastly, it is important to mention mindset. We must approach this deep problem with a growth mindset rather than a fixed one. We need to listen and bring together the many voices in our society who know these young people well, such as community leaders, teachers, parents and carers and policy makers.  Often these views will be at odds to that we are used to and unless we listen change will not come quickly enough for the boy on the train.

We are not there yet!

 This reminded me of Carole Dwecks brilliant video on developing a growth mindset and the power of the words “not yet”.

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