Education and school

If we are to deliver a fairer society, in which opportunity is shared more widely, we must secure the highest standards of education for all young people, regardless of their background. It is a pleasure to speak at a conference today with so many dedicated professionals and experts who share this belief, and have guided and implemented the changes we have introduced. Today, thanks to the hard work of thousands of teachers,more 6-year-olds are on track to become confident readers as a result of our focus on phonics. Two hundred thousand fewer pupils are persistently absent from school compared to 5 years ago.

Education and school

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Share via Email It is a familiar scene: But a new report, obtained by Education Guardian, suggests that these well-meaning parents, and thousands like them, are looking in the wrong place.

Instead of trying to decode inspectors' reports or work out whether academies are better than voluntary-aided schools or trusts superior to community comprehensives, they need look no further than the average earnings among parents.

A study by academics at University College London UCL and Kings College London has given statistical backbone to the view that the overwhelming factor in how well children do is not what type of school they attend- but social class.

It appears to show what has often been said but never proved: The report, which uses previously unreleased information from the Department for Education and Skills, matches almost 1 million pupils with their individual postcode and exam scores at 11 and This unprecedented project has revealed that a child's social background is the crucial factor in academic performance, and that a school's success is based not on its teachers, the way it is run, or what type of school it is, but, overwhelmingly, on the class background of its pupils.

If it is successful, all primary and secondary schools will be encouraged to become independent trusts with control over their own admissions.

But many critics have argued that the government should be introducing more rigorous controls over admissions - to ensure as many schools as possible have a balanced intake of middle- and Education and school children. Put simply, the more middle-class the pupils, the better they do.

The more middle-class children there are at the school, the better it does. It is proof that class still rules the classroom. Selecting children whose homes are in high-status neighbourhoods is one of the most effective ways of retaining a high position in the league table.

For statisticians, meanwhile, it proves that the existing tables, which ignore the types of home from which a school draws its pupils, are necessarily an unfair and imprecise means of judging a school's achievements. The data was analysed through Mosaic, a programme devised by the information company Experian, which divides the UK population by postcode into 11 main groups and 61 types, providing detailed insight into the socio-demographics, lifestyles, culture and behaviour of UK citizens.

It is being used in key policy areas, such as health and crime, but this is the first time it has been used to assess the link between education performance and social class. The study revealed how pupils from each of the 61 socio-economic groups performed given their background, allowing statisticians to set a benchmark score and measure each school's performance against that, in light of its intake.

The full report, which has yet to be given a title, will be published later this year and will be available from UCL. Moving to a segregated system Webber and Butler warn that introducing further freedoms for schools, as the government is, may allow middle-class parents and schools to choose each other, leaving those from poorer backgrounds stranded in an increasingly segregated system.

Parentscan see that their children will do better in the most middle-class schools, so they will strive to work the system to get in.

The challenge

So, by giving schools more independence and creating a market in education, you run the serious risk of polarising pupils along class lines," says Webber. He insists the government's attempts to introduce a market in education are also economically flawed: The best educational achievement for the largest number of pupils will be achieved by having a broad social mix of pupils in as many schools as possible.

Some schools that currently draw their pupils from privileged social strata would lose out, but education standards would increase overall. The tables, which work out how well schools should do in light of the social background of their intake, throw up differences with the scores produced by the DfES.

In the primary school table, many previously middling schools come near the top of the pile. For secondary schools, the differences between the DfES's value-added figures and the alternative table are less pronounced.

Conversely, some of the schools that are usually near the top in traditional tables are shown to be not quite as successful when you realise just how privileged their intake is.

But these findings reflect what we have always known: Many of them are at quite a low level when they arrive, but they make massive strides before they leave.

Education and school

We have high expectations of what they can achieve and of their behaviour. That, along with excellent teaching, is our fairly obvious secret. Webber says this is because there is more selection at secondary schools, so they often cream off the more able pupils from disadvantaged areas while maintaining high results.Children with disabilities enrolled in school but excluded from learning because the curriculum has not been adapted to their needs or teachers do not have the capacity or time to make the necessary adaptations, and/or they do not have access to assistive devices necessary for their learning needs.

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Mission To prepare leaders in education and to generate knowledge to improve student opportunity, achievement, and success.

Overview Education touches every aspect of human activity.

Education and school

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Written by Kimberly Greacen, Education World® Contributing Writer Kimbery is an educator with extensive experience in curriculum writing and developing instructional materials to align with Common Core State Standards and Bloom's Taxonomy.

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