Educational inequality

Britain has a largely excellent school system, blighted by unequal outcomes. By 2006 only 28% of children in the most deprived quarter of schools gained five or more good GCSE passes at A*-C. That compared with 67% of children in the least deprived quarter of schools.

Storytime in school

We also have the weakest system for giving less academic children a proper training in a profession, craft or trade in Western Europe North of the Alps.

The key to educational progress is recruiting enough good teachers to our deprived areas. There is every reason to re-introduce higher pay for teachers, especially in secondary schools with a high proportion of children on free school meals. In addition every young person with a reasonable school record should be offered an apprenticeship.

Testing and league tables

The Government has insisted that the overall test results for each school are published. But there are many problems with the tables that appear in newspapers. Some give only raw results with no adjustment for the type of children going to the school. The adjusted figures get much less publicity.

Most of the published scores relate to the percentage of children who reach a certain standard, such as gaining 5 GCSEs. If children are a long way below this threshold, even with good teaching, they are unlikely to get near this target and therefore will not impact on the schools overall published statistics. Therefore there is no incentive for schools to focus on these children

Values and discipline

Disruption in the classroom is one of the main impediments to learning. In a survey of children aged 11 to 14 in metropolitan areas 29% said that every day other pupils tried to disrupt their lessons. Forty-three per cent said that other pupils were ‘’always’’ or ‘’often’’ so noisy that they found it difficult to work. Disorder on this scale is highly disturbing. Schools should consider piloting new tests at ages 5, 11 and 14 to assess each child’s emotional well-being.

Children's evidence

My school helps people who are bullied and that's why I really enjoy going to school because the teachers and pupils are really nice and friendly.
- 11-year-old girl

My school is helping me prepare for life because it is teaching me so many useful skills - everything from how to cook to how to speak in public to how to climb mountains and how to communicate with other people well.
- 15-year-old girl

Read The Children’s Society's view on schooling.