Home ConferenceReport whoweare Our story Manifesto childrenletdown

The school system reinforces inequality

England is a very unequal society and, since 2010, education policies have reinforced inequality.  The fragmentation of school provision into community schools, academies, Free schools, faith schools, schools based on a comprehensive intake and schools using selection, in addition to the various sorts of private schools - all with different structures, different accountability and different curriculum obligations - makes it impossible to ensure that children are treated equally and have the same opportunities. Indeed, the system now includes features which promote inequality.

School children suffer unreasonable stress

Children are put under unreasonable stress by the barrage of tests, starting with a phonics test in year 1 and following them through school. The tests are given high importance and children worry about doing badly. The new examinations in year 11 disregard coursework, however diligently undertaken, and a young person’s future prospects now depend on how s/he does in completing a series of stand-alone papers. Little wonder that some students buckle under the pressure.

Too many children are disappearing from schools

Too many children are disappearing from schools either through exclusion or through other forms of “off-rolling”.  The most potent reason is that, with position in league tables so important, some children are being ‘dumped’ to ensure that their performance is not included in the calculations.  There is no effective system for accommodating these children.  They are often out of school for long periods and are denied the educational opportunities that they should receive.  The result is often demoralisation, the loss of self-esteem and sometimes delinquency.

Children with special educational needs or disabilities are neglected

Parents of children with special educational needs or disabilities, both physical and mental, tell of the difficulty of finding a suitable school place.  There is no robust system to ensure that children with disabilities receive the education they deserve in a school which provides the necessary support. High needs budgets are inadequate and support services designed to support pupils with SEND have been heavily cut.

The 11 plus and selection damages children

The English education system is socially segregated and international evidence shows that segregation reduces attainment overall and seriously damages the prospects of disadvantaged pupils. Against this background, the Government’s support for an increase in Grammar school places is irresponsible.  Evidence from Britain and across the world demonstrates that a comprehensive system is best for children and best for community cohesion.  

In most schools the curriculum is too narrow  

Formidable evidence shows that creativity assists learning but the curriculum has been narrowed to focus on a limited number of subjects, particularly on mathematics, science, and English.  Little time is left for drama, art, music, languages, technology, or the learning of practical skills.  Children will not discover a talent if the opportunity is not offered; they will not develop their talent in school if the subject is not taught.

Too little attention is given to social and communication skills

Employers tell us that they want their staff to be well-rounded individuals, with an understanding of the world, with well-developed social skills and the ability to communicate clearly. The focus on “teaching to the tests” and on rote learning limits the opportunity for a free exchange of ideas and for the development of communication skills. Teamwork and problem solving are rarely given sufficient attention.

Too little emphasis on understanding and analysis

Employers want school leavers to have discerning and inquiring minds but the new examinations put a premium on memory at the expense of analysis and understanding.  The new examinations are wholly inadequate as a means of assessing whether pupils are ready for higher education or for the world of work.

School children are being let down