Friday, 27 June 2014

"Underperforming white pupils" a lesson for politicians, not the teachers!

Headlines concerning  the teaching profession never cover their success, improved results, massive commitment or sixty hour weeks. They are usually about being blamed by politicians for whatever is the current social problem besetting the nation. After hearing "evidence" that pupils from white British backgrounds who are eligible for free school meals have the worst exam results, the Commons education committee naturally thinks "accomplished teachers must help the most disadvantaged kids" in deprived areas, as they did when I started teaching in 1971. Poor teaching is the implied reason, nothing to do with the actual effects of government imposed austerity, just the incompetence of the teachers! It begs the obvious question about the nature of this "evidence", and who supplied it!

     How does Elizabeth Truss have the nerve to say that space for children to do homework is needed, when this government has done nothing about raising the minimum earnings to a living wage, or ending zero-hours contracts, and everything to encourage the closure of libraries and Sure Start programmes, and the removal of spare homework "space" with the spiteful Bedroom Tax. Teachers are having to work an average of sixty hours a week to keep pace with Gove`s incessant and unnecessary changes, and still the education minister claims that schools must become "institutions that work better with modern life". From a parliamentarian, that`s pretty rich!
 The chair of the Commons committee admitted they did not know whether the underperformance of poor white children was because of "poor attitudes to school", or "lack of work ethic or weak parenting". Why not? Did they not spend a week or so in state schools where the "underperformance" exists, talking to the people who know the answers ie the staff and pupils? Until they do so, I suggest they keep their opinions to themselves! Teachers, sadly, cannot expect to be defended by Labour; the shadow education secretary still thinks that only privately-educated pupils develop "character and resilience"! Perhaps he`s forgetting what sort of education his boss had? Clearly Tristram needs a few weeks in state schools too!

1 comment:

  1. In my view the report does contain some useful information although I feel that in general the MPs missed an opportunity to investigate this important issue in suifficient depth. In particular in the section dealing with parental and pupil interest in education they simply quoted some "evidence" supporting the view that working class parents and parents are lacking in ambition and balanced this to some extent by competing evidence that it is not lack of ambition but lack of cultural and economic resources which are more important using information from experts who seemed to be influenced by Bourdieu's theories. I personally sympathise much more with these theories based around the concepts of ecnomic., cultural and social capital than with simplistic theories based upon " lack of ambition.". However I was also disappointed that the MPs made little real effort to evaluate the different theories which arose in a way that , for example, serious A level sociologists would certainly have tried to do. As stated there is some useful material in the report but unfortunately, in my view at least, the MPs seem to have wasted an opportunity.