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CSJ calls for Government to Use Education Reforms to Tackle Poor Life Chances

Earlier this year, the Prime Minister promised to put education at the heart of his Life Chances Strategy.

Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, will oversee a radical shakeup of our education system by turning every school into an academy.

But this can only be part of the plan if we are to transform the life chances of the poorest. There are groups of children who experience a shocking level of educational failure.

Five good GCSEs including English and Maths is a standard benchmark, and is now attained by 57 per cent of students. But this is only achieved by:

  • 33 per cent of pupils on free school meals;
  • Less than 40 per cent of all children in some local authorities;
  • 14 per cent of children in care.

As the Government gears up to publish its Life Chances Strategy this summer, we are calling for a razor-like focus on tackling the root causes of educational failure.

Academisation Must Work for our Poorest Communities

By Frank Young

The Government’s ambitious plans to extend its academies programme to all UK schools by 2022 looks set to be a defining feature of this year’s Budget. Academies can be a powerful engine for social reform, but not without a careful guiding hand from Government.

In our 2014 report, 'Closing the Divide', we warned of the dangers of successful academy providers ‘growing too quickly and spreading themselves too thinly’. Instead we pressed the Government to incentivise successful multi-academy chains by establishing local academy ‘clusters’.

The Government is right to be ambitious for our education system and with careful direction it can ensure our best schools really are in our poorest areas.

To read 'Closing the Divide' click here

Focus on the Home Environment to Tackle Educational Failure

By Saskia Greenhalgh

New research published earlier this week found that significant inequalities continue to exist between students of different social and ethnic backgrounds. Remarkably, 74 per cent of Chinese children on free school meals achieve five good GCSEs including English and Maths, compared to 57 per cent of White British children from all socio-economic backgrounds.

It also found that whilst some groups catch up with their peers during schooling, others (such as disadvantaged White British students) fall further behind. This suggests that factors outside of school are at play.

Most parents do value educational achievement, but not all have the confidence or ability to provide the support their children need.

As the Prime Minister has recognised, parenting and practices such as supervising homework have a significant impact on children’s educational attainment. In his ‘Life Chances’ speech in January, he announced an expansion of parenting classes so that parents can gain the confidence and ability they need to raise their children effectively.

The CSJ welcomed this announcement, but it is important that we learn lessons from past attempts if the new scheme is to be successful.

In our ‘Parenting Classes’ report we recommended an online ‘one-stop-shop’ for parents alongside a high-profile national campaign to de-stigmatise parenting classes. At the same time, a voucher system would ensure that cost would never be a barrier to disadvantaged parents taking part.

To read our 'Parenting Classes' report click here

State Boarding Schools Could Support Disadvantaged Children

By Oenone Scott

Boarding schools can provide an opportunity for stability for children from the most chaotic families, ensuring they are able to focus on their education.

What is more, when ‘at risk’ children have access to boarding schools, they are far less likely to be taken into care. Providing residential education is significantly cheaper than the cost of taking a child into care: £10-12,000 per annum compared with £40,000.

There are currently 38 state boarding schools in the UK, which cater to around 5,000 students. These boarding schools deal with only a fraction of the potential student pool: there are 3.2 million children in state secondary education, 70,000 in care and just under 400,000 in need.

In our recent London Manifesto, we called for the next Mayor to develop a plan for new Boarding Houses, to be provided alongside existing state school provision. The Mayor could consider using money from developer contributions towards this new network of State Boarding places and provide a Mayor’s Bursary for children on the edge of care to access new state boarding provision.

To read our 'London Manifesto' click here

Urgent Action for 16 Year Olds Who ‘Fail’ Maths and English GCSEs

By Mark Winterburn

The Government is rightly proud of its record on employment. But if their ‘job’s miracle’ is to last, we need to ensure that our workforce is equipped with the skills for the future. 

Yet, despite improvements in the last Parliament, every year over 200,000 young people leave school without a good GCSE in English and Maths. This can result in a life of low-paid, unstable employment.

It also means that young people will be unable to access apprenticeships. These are crucial to equip young people with the right skills for the changing jobs market, and can be a route out of poverty for the most disadvantaged.

Building on the Government’s move to raise the participation age, our recent Submission to the Life Chances Review proposed a portable fund to tackle this problem. It would be open to the third sector and work on a payment-by-results model, to reward innovative approaches that can help get young people over that crucial benchmark for English and Maths GCSEs.

To read our Life Chances Strategy Submission click here