We weren’t quite sure what to make of these web pages at first. Built by Gapminder in Sweden, they show two hundred and forty families, across forty six countries, and link a series of images of their possessions and homes to their average monthly income.
Was it voyeurism that made us uncomfortable? Was it the notion of ‘economic tourism’? Or simply the discomfort of being shown a stark reality, illustrating how individuals and families, often precariously, cling to hope, aspiration and dignity?
For the team at Gapminder the proposition for Dollar Street is clear. These are the facts and they should temper all discourse about the other – other people, communities and culture.
Was it our imaginations, or did the preponderance of families with incomes of less than five hundred dollars a month across the globe decline to smile in the photographs? Of course this could be a cultural thing, rather than a crude measure of some sort of economic level on an imagined ‘happiness index’.
However, the wealth of Creative Commons images on the site and the short biographies of the people photgraphed make for an interesting comparative study.
To counteract litanies of fear, prejudice and racism can be no small aim. Rendering global ignorance redundant by illuminating the world with facts. No small ambition for a small Swedish independent Foundation.
‘For the first time in human history reliable statistics exist. There’s data for almost every aspect of global development. The data shows a very different picture: a world where most things improve; a world that is not divided. People across cultures and religions make decisions based on universal human needs, which are easy to understand.
The fast population growth will soon be over. The total number of children in the world has stopped growing. The remaining population growth is an inevitable consequence of large generations born decades back.
We live in a globalized world, not only in terms of trade and migration. More people than ever care about global development! The world has never been less bad. Which doesn’t mean it’s perfect. The world is far from perfect’. Source: https://www.gapminder.org/about-gapminder/
For teachersGapminder has a proliferation of resources and toolkits available to explore the world through data.
Having wrangled with the intrusive nature of the Dollar Street image index, and having read the Gapminder mission statements, we felt their argument that the world is indeed ‘a better place’ to be much needed in troubled econo-social and educative times.
Following the ‘Brexit’ referendum and the recent series of affrays across the political landscape, with a resultant refreshed exposition on the economy, the topography of industry is now littered with claims for an upsurge in economic flexibility, innovation, challenge and growth.
We revisit Sir Ken Robinson talking about ‘How to Change Education?’ as a consequence.
What better time in the current climate to look again at the education reform focus of the Robinson arguments about schools as Enlightenment driven, rigid, formulaic and command and control industrial systems.
The RSA Animate, featured above was a wonderful synthesis of those arguments and offers a direct challenge to some more traditional ‘informed thinking’ about the educational process for our children.
You can see the full, original RSA talk (24 mins) by Ken Robinson in July 2013 here…
With the socio-political present focus on ‘the other’, isolation and insularity – the call to arms for fresh thinking about creativity embedded in the Robinsonian education reform argument, to secure the future of all our children, becomes now doubly telling, we think.
‘…Ofsted’s chief inspector of schools, warned that there is a continuing crisis in the education of the poor white working class. Some don’t like to hear that, because they think concentration on difficulties experienced by the white working class detracts from the attention owed to disadvantaged minority students also left behind. But I have little time for that zero-sum game. I think we should address all underachievement‘.
The concept of the working class as a distinctive cohort is problematic. Whether white or dosadvantaged the label attempts t make a singular ‘mass of people’ from a bewildering variety of experience, expectation and shades of outcome.
In her recent article in The Guardian, ‘Why Class Won’t Go Away’, Lynsey Hanley powerfully reflects upon the schisms revealed by the recent referendum and the Brexit debate. The vote, she argues, was split by class and geography.The rising wave of social and economic inequality which has been tolerated for so long at last, in the referendum process, found an outlet for its harboured discontents.
In her work, we would argue, she defines a much more granular and subtle mapping of the working class experience.
Hanley declares that the epithet ‘white working class’ has been a way to define an amorphous cohort in society certainly, ‘…who sort of look like us but who don’t seem to be like us, and we can’t work out why’. ‘The idea that, in a group as heterogeneous as the British working class, it is only the white members who have been “abandoned” has proved magnetic to both columnists and politicians‘, as referenced in the opening remarks from Ofsted above.
Even the Labour Party, Hanley argues, has embraced the singular entity of the white working class as a means to aggregate reasons for the failure of the party at the polls. She nicely evidences the distance of The Labour Party from its ‘working class’ electorate with a narrative of how, pre the 2015 election, Labour Central Office had been unable to find a ‘worker on the minumum wage’ for commentary recording as no-one in the office knew any.
Perhaps it also highlights the vast distance between Party machines of all colours from their grassroots members lived experience.
‘Far more than in other western European countries, if you are born poor in Britain, in a poor area, the chances are that you will remain poor for the rest of your life. If you are born rich, in a rich area, the likelihood is that you will find a way – or will have ways come to you – to stay wealthy and privileged throughout your life, and your children will do the same’.
Hanley describes living in Solihull in the West Midlands in the 1980’s, where the term ‘working class’ was never used. Instead ‘people like us’ or ‘the likes of us’ held sway she says. This is the working class, arguably, defining itself as separate, as a methodology to protect individual and family from the depredations of ever mounting scoial and economic inequality.
‘It needs to be acknowledged that “helplessness” or “dependency” – as defined by politicians seeking to blame individuals for structural failings – is an adaptive stance rather than an innate fact of character’ Hanley says.
In a recent article in The Huffington Post, Sarah Newton argues that class persists too. The schisms defined by Hanley are securely entrenched by the use of, what Newton calls, ‘constructive cultivation’.
This is a framework of social, economic, educative and psychological processes that push middle class children to engage with and perpetuate a class based educational and expectational life landscape.
‘Until we accept in this country that the class system is having an impact on education choices later in life and face it head on and challenge it, then nothing will ever change’.
Equally important for Newton is the cultural legacy of the working class. This neatly chimes with the Hanley thesis of identity as defence. The layering of approaches to low expectation and social prejudice that condition the individual’s approach to life progress. They are, she argues, inherited from generation to generation.
Class has not gone away, it has become bound to the rocky strata of education, politics and economic behaviour. It is bound to the bedrock of inequality. It is this restraining shale which education reform should try and shatter, permanently.
To make the phrase ‘…I think we should address all underachievement’ a la Hugh Muir really mean something.
Read Lynsey Hanley’s book and explore her argument about working class culture and the enduring nature of class inequality – Respectable: The Experience of Class, Allen Lane, April 2016.
Why is class still so central to the experience of living in Britain? It is an urgent question, evaded through a kind of collective shame, but Lynsey Hanley approaches it with wit and passion.Respectable is pithy and provoking, spiced with the personal but solidly grounded in a lifetime’s experience of analysing the world around her. It is one of those valuable books that enables the reader to re-think her past and re-experience her own life. (Hilary Mantel, a review))
Thursday 22 September, 2016 7pm-8.30pm
Venue: King Solomon Academy, Penfold St, London NW1 6RX
Join us next Thursday for a gathering to show our collective support for comprehensive education and our opposition to the creation of new grammar schools.
This will be a positive rally that will involve a number of inspirational speakers, a chance to find out what happens next and the opportunity to share any ideas you have to try and win the argument in public and in parliament. It should also be great opportunity to meet others who share your concerns about the Green Paper.
Confirmed speakers include: Fiona Millar, Writer and Founder of Local Schools Network Becky Allen, Director of Education Datalab Joanne Bartley, Kent parent and chair of Kent Education Network David Weston, Founder and Chief Executive of the Teacher Development Trust Laura McInerney, Editor of Schools Week Melissa Benn, Writer and current Chair of Comprehensive Future Katrina Black, Regional Director – Europe, Teach For All Louka Travlos, Impact Strategy, National Citizens Service Ndidi Okezie, Executive Director – Delivery, Teach First
Flotsam: an occasional series of ideas from other places…
Bill Gates is in conversation with Nate Bowling, the Washington State Teacher of the Year for 2016 in the US. In the dialogue, the teacher tells Bill Gates that for many students learning ‘…is a matter of life and death’.
“If my students are not successful in school, they end up in the prison-industrial complex.”
The conversation reveals that in the US public school system, half the students enrolled live in poverty. With more than 70 percent of students qualifying for ‘…free or reduced price meals’.
In a separate publication Nate Bowling had published a blog article which has garnered a lot of attention. In it he declares that ‘…America does not care what happens to poor people and most black people‘. The article, entitled The Conversation I’m Tired of not Having, Mr. Bowling goes on to decry the lack of simple political will, in the US, to effect change and re-balance equity in educational opportunity and achievement.
‘Polite society has walled itself off and policymakers are largely indifferent. Better funding for schools is and will remain elusive, because middle class and wealthy people have been conditioned over the last 35 years to think of themselves as taxpayers, rather than citizens’.
In both the conversation with Bill Gates, and in his own article, Nate Bowling has some profoundly strong and supportive comments to make about teaching as a profession and the nature of the role his professional colleagues play, in the disenfranchised school system he works in.
The narrative has a strong resonance in the UK, with the laborious ebb and flow of educational policy, coupled to outcomes that continue to widen, not alleviate, the inequality gap for the many.
Bill Gates conversation with Nate Bowling originally appeared in Gates Notes. Nate Bowling’s reflection on teaching and the development of his profession originally appeared in natebowling.com .
Read both articles to get insights into the US public shool system from the perspective of a black teacher. It is interesting, and provocative, to those who would press for the continuance of the status-quo.
Using the Freedom of Information Act, the newspaper has revealed the level of taxpayer money spent on salaries, meals out, travel in comfort, private health insurance and the use of leased luxury cars.
The article reveals the expense clams of a Midlands based chain Chief Executive, who whilst drawing a salary of £180,000 p.a. leases a top of the range Jaguar car and dines in Marco Pierre White restaurants. It is a deep irony that the samed named individual is quoted as explaining how education in the UK faces stringent financial challenges and is seeking to reduce his school chain costs by £500,000.
In total, The Guardian claims, some one million pounds of public money has been spent on executives pay in the last twelve months. This tally includes one chain Chief Executive of a Trust, drawing a salary of £195,354 a year, who claims for the wi-fi costs of her French holiday home.
The Chief Executive of one Trust, The Guardian reports, which runs 12 schools, pays its chief executive and founder, a total package of £225,000, while his wife receives £175,000 as executive principal and founder.
Of more concern is the issue of ‘related party transactions’. This is where Directors of Trusts use companies, with whom they have a ‘close relationship’, to charge for services to the Trusts they are responsible for.
It is difficult, from the continuing Guardian article, to see how the Education Funding Agency (EFA), the body charged with oversight of Academy finances can have the resources, time and attention to detail to adequately police this tide of public money.
‘Academy numbers have risen from 600 to 5,000…the EFA dealt with 125% more financial returns in 2014-2015 than the previous year, despite having 20% fewer staff…’
We leave the last word to Head of Education at Unison, Jon Richards. “There are huge amounts of public money being shovelled around in the schools system, and unless the EFA ups its game, plenty of unscrupulous people out there will help themselves.”
The Sutton Trust have been tracking the progress and effectiveness of Academy chains since the inception of the Academy programme in 2000. Chain Effects 2015 is the latest updated report, superceding Chain effects 2014, which looks at questions of effectiveness and service to disadvantaged pupils.
The 2015 report tells a patchy story of delivery, and how Ofsted inspection grades actually mark a level of achievement that falls below excellent in many cases.
The report notes that, in an analysis of all secondary schools and sponsored academies, the academies achieve lower inspection grades generally. As educational entitites they are twice as likely to fall below the ‘floor standard’.
The findings across the two reports (2014 and 2015) also make noteable the contrast between ‘the best and the worst’.
It is clear that there are exceptional achievements, where schools with high attainment levels for their disadvantaged pupils have improved faster than the average, in terms of supporting disadvantaged children. However, those chains who did less well, achieved significantly worse outcomes that comparable schools, using baseline data for 2012 as a starting point for the analysis.
Where data has been captiured for pupils with low prior attainment, it is true that academy chains have been successful in ‘…significantly improving the attainment of this group, an important demonstration of value’.
Using a ‘range of government indicators‘ for attainment, it is clear that most academy chains still underperform their mainstream average ‘competitors’ in supporting disadvantaged pupils.
The report makes six main recommendations for improvement to inspection, process and delivery. They are…
The DfE should expand its pool of school improvement providers beyond academy sponsors, including developing new school-led trusts and federations…
New chains should not be allowed to expand until they have a track record of success in bringing about improvement…
Ofsted has had its ability to inspect chains extended but these fall short of the formal powers they enjoy over academies individually and other education providers. Ofsted should be empowered to undertake formal inspections of academy chains…
Agreements for new sponsors should be shortened to five years from seven. Renewal of funding agreements should only be granted where improvement has been demonstrated…
The DfE should include a measure of progress for disadvantaged pupils in their definition of coasting schools…applicable to all schools…
Sponsor chains, with a demostrable need to improve, should seek out successful practice and reflect on what their own chain could learn from this experience…
Source: The Sutton Trust http://www.suttontrust.com/researcharchive/chain-effects-2015/ Accessed: 10.07.2016
In order to map progress across the broader educational landscape you can find the detail of Chain Effects 2014 here.
A recent parliamentary report, by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee,Digital Skills Crisis, looks at the state of IT in business, education and the development of a broader UK strategy.
The report contains not only the analysis, assessment and findings of the committee, but also looks at a variety of conclusions and recommendations for the sector.
The findings of the committee declare that there is a ‘digital divide’ in the UK, with up to 12.6 million adults lackiing basic digital skills. The report finds that there are probably still some 5.8 million people who have yet to use the internet at all.
The report identifies a recent Royal Society report into Digital Skills and notes…
‘If the workforce is to be future-proofed, education systems in the UK must be designed to equip everyone with strong literacy and numeracy skills, information literacy and a mind-set that is flexible, creative and adaptive. This will be crucial to preparing today’s young learners for a future economy in which the skills needed are not only unpredictable now, but will continue to change throughout their careers…’
In the Committee report it is concluded that Ofsted have found the impact of digital technology on education standards has been varied. The variety of outcome, Ofsted argues, is due to a lack of standard investment across the sector, access to high speed broadband geographically and suitable teacher support for the cause of Digital Skills.
The report is generally praiseful of the changes to the ICT curriculum from September 2014, with stress placed on the input of industry experts and academia. However, only a third of teachers hold the relevant qualification for ICT and cites a report from the British Computer Society, which stated that only 25% of computing teachers felt conficdent delivering the revised curriculum.
Some, but not all, of the recommendations made by the Committeee include…
‘The Government has set targets for recruiting teachers in Maths and Physics. They should also make a similar pledge for Computer Science’.
‘We recommend that the Government request Ofsted to include the computing curriculum in their inspections…’
‘The Government should encourage the uptake of existing available resources by schools, many of which are free.’
‘We recommend that the Government work with the Tech Partnership to establish a regular forum for employers to raise and discuss their priorities for ensuring the computing curriculum and its teaching stay up to date, and to help ensure that other school subject qualifications provide a foundation for a broader range of digital careers.’
We recommend this comprehensive, clear headed and detailed report from the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee to all who are interested in education and the digital economy. See the full report here.
Interestingly the RSA have recently published new research, which shows how, in the North of England, enterprise in the digital sector is booming. A veritable Digital Powerhouse in the North in fact.
Reading the two reports together, it is apparent that embedded in this second report from the RSA, is a development success in digital enterprise, that, it can be argued, runs across the grain of the pessimism of the Parliamentary report by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee above.
We offer the new work, Digital Powerhouse (.pdf), using as it does the digital economy of the north of England as both metaphor and research instance to examine and make suggestions for development in what is obviously a successful arena. In spite of, not because of, education if seen through the prism of the House of Commons paper.
…a succinct and user-friendly guide to help schools address prejudice, reduce bullying and promote equality holistically. Created with schools for schools, the guide is sponsored by the NASUWT, the largest teachers’ union in the UK, and has won an Innovative Practice Award 2016 from the Zero Project, for a world with zero barriers.
The work sets out to engage the whole school community, with a very strong focus on placing children at the heart of the safeguarding process. The resources included offer a range of good examples, audit tools and a wealth of links to more information to suppport project development.
‘Materials can be used for teaching and learning activities, assemblies, peer mentoring, school council, staff training, equality policy and whole school development’.
The National Association of Headteachers (NAHT) have recently published an open letter to to the Secretary of State for Education and Minister for Women and Equalities, Nicky Morgan.
The correspondence, the challenge, follows the ending of SATS Week in the Primary sector. We offer the detail of the letter below for review.
Following SATs week, we have collected the feedback of members and urge you to consider some changes to the current and future arrangements for assessment. The experience in a large majority of schools has not been a positive one.
Teachers and head teachers all agree that a thorough review of assessment is necessary. We hope that you will commit to a fundamental review of assessment to avoid further problems next year.
In the meantime there are two pressing concerns and possible solutions:
Hold off on publication of any 2016 test data
A commitment to changing from ‘secure fit’ to ‘best fit’ judgements in the assessment of writing
Publication of Data
Given concerns about both the design and administration of the new assessments, the lack of preparation for schools, the inadequate time to implement the new curriculum for the current cohort, and the variations in approaches between schools resulting from delayed and obscure guidance, it is hard to have confidence in the data produced by this round of assessments.
It is not just that the marks may be lower overall, which could be addressed, but that they will vary in unpredictable ways. We know of widely different approaches to writing assessment across the country, for example. And the content and sequencing of the reading test meant that lower attaining pupils had little opportunity to show their progress. This may result in a skewed distribution of marks that simply setting a lower threshold may not solve. Comparisons between schools become very risky.
School level data should not be externally published under these circumstances. Assessment data should still be available on RAISE Online, which summarises a school’s performance at the end of each Key Stage, and could be shared with parents, but the aggregated school-level scores should not be published externally. We understand that Ofqual is already mandated to conduct a review of this year’s data. In our view a hold on external publication, until we can be sure what the data is telling us, would be a sensible step. In this interim year, we should be cautious about the data that’s been collected.
Problems have arisen with the new secure fit model; teachers need some sensible flexibility when assessing children’s writing and would be happier with a ‘best fit’ model. This would give a more accurate reflection of whether or not a child has grasped the overall skills of writing.
Children who are clearly excellent writers will be incorrectly labelled as working below the expected standard this year simply because teachers are not permitted to use their own judgement about their balance of abilities. We are particularly concerned about the impact on the thousands of dyslexic children in school.
There are few other tests or examinations at any other stage of education, where a student is judged by ‘secure fit’. The top grades at GCSE, A-Level and degree level are all attainable with a score below 100%, and yet only 100% will do if our six and ten year olds are to meet the required standard.
A move from ‘secure fit’ to ‘best fit’ would remove some problems. However, it is clear that the interim framework is not working and needs a sustainable long-term replacement.
Serious problems have emerged in the planning and implementation of tests this year, with a negative effect on schools. We believe that the suggestions we have outlined above would go some way towards settling growing disquiet about assessment and demonstrate a clear faith in the profession to deliver the government’s reforms”.
Russell Hobby, General Secretary Kim Johnson, President James Bowen, NAHT Edge Director Amanda Hulme, Chair of NAHT’s assessment group