Category: Education

The lost boys of the North East: why are the region’s young men trailing behind young women at school?

Stephen Lambert

Educationalists are divided as to the reason why young white working- class men are doing less well at every stage in the school system while young women are doing better than ever. The children’s Commissioner in Growing Up North puts it down to poverty and poor material circumstances in the home. There’ some evidence that teachers are not strict with boys. They are more likely to extend deadlines for written work, to have lower expectations of boys, and tend to be more tolerant of low level anti-social behaviour in the classroom.

The glass ceiling hasn’t been smashed but it is fracturing

Stephen Lambert

As the psychologist Jussin (2017) notes girls’ low-take up of STEM-based and IT subjects has less to do with ability or discrimination than the fact that girls who excel at maths/science are as likely to be good at humanities based subjects. Young women she concludes are ”better all – rounders, but too few of those who are good at science choose it as their specialism post-16.”

Are English grammar schools the engines of social mobility?

Stephen Lambert

Grammar schools were designed for that quarter of the population deemed ‘academic’, and secondary moderns for the rest. Selection was based on an IQ exam, the 11-plus, the brainchild of Cyril Burt, the psychologist. Passing the 11-plus was the visa to the local Grammar school. The system lasted till the 1960s when a number of left-wing intellectuals, including Tony Crosland and Michael Young, called time. The system wasn’t working. The time was right for the ‘comprehensive revolution’. In 2020, most young people in the region go to their local high school.

Going out with a zoom

Bryan Vernon

As always at a retirement event, the people whom you have upset don’t come and you are offered an inflated sense of your own worth but basking in this illusion is pleasant. The more formal atmosphere enabled a much larger number of people to remind me in brief unscripted speeches of some episodes I had forgotten. I missed the opportunity for conversations with individuals. Asking people about their parent’s dementia, their child’s troubles, their bereavement, cancer, depression or divorce in front of an audience starved of entertainment by Covid-19 would probably be inappropriate, although I did not test this hypothesis.

International day for disabled people: the need for an inclusive approach

Julie Ward

In 1984 I found myself running an arts and disability agency for the north of England, and encountered the tail-end of the mass segregation programme that had resulted in millions of people with mild to severe physical and mental disabilities being locked away in large institutions, forced to do menial work for pocket money and with little say about any aspect of their lives. The arts activities that my organisation ran often opened up deep emotional scars from years of abandonment, disregard and abuse. Paintings, poems and performances were littered with powerful symbols of imprisonment and freedom.

Private schools lie at the root of the UK’s inequality

Stephen Lambert

70,000 youngsters are now educated in private boarding schools. Till recently in decline, they’re going through a revival partly due to the popularity of Harry Potter films. As the author Alex Renton points out in ‘Stiff Upper Lip’, wealthy families from the Far East, Russia, Germany and Saudi are sending their boys and girls in huge numbers to these establishments to boost family status and to enable them to make the right connections and ”meet the right people”.

The pandemic of violence and what to do about it

Julie Ward

So what can we do to stem the tide of gender-based violence apart from the usual petitions and letters to MPs? We need a system change across society starting with sex and relationship education so teachers and school governors should work together to implement age appropriate lessons. We need to increase women’s visibility across all sectors at the highest level, which means empowering girls to study STEM subjects and encouraging women to stand for election at every opportunity; it is heartening that we already have women police and crime commissioners in the region with more women standing in the forthcoming elections.

To have and have not: the north’s growing education class divide

Stephen Lambert

The stark reality is to many disadvantaged youngsters living in inner-city wards and the outer-council estates are trapped in over-crowded housing conditions where there’s little space to do homework. Many lack personal computers or laptops – termed ‘digital exclusion’ – a situation compounded by the Covid-19 lockdown.

Finished at 55?

Stephen Lambert

Despite the publication of the Augar Review, the last decade has seen adult and community education being starved of resources with the virtual disappearance of ‘night-classes’. Day-time opportunities for older adults to update their skills to become plumbers or electricians have been cut to the bone. Yet, these are things that could help the older unemployed worker get back onto the jobs ladder.

Education and the thought police

Julie Ward

To prohibit learning about anti-capitalism is like trying to teach the history of the Civil War without mentioning Oliver Cromwell and the Roundheads.

Stop scapegoating students

Carlos Conde Solares

Over the past few years, the average British millennial has been stripped of their European citizenship, and all the exciting life opportunities it entails, largely against their will. Young people remain well and truly locked out of an inhuman housing market. They are forced to work long hours on top of full-time studies yet will still graduate dozens of thousands of pounds in debt and into yet another catastrophic recession that is not of their own making.

A-levels, Covid-19 – a right Eton Mess?

Peter Benson

This government made 11 U Turns on their own policies in the last 14 weeks. Whilst many of these have been welcomed, why did they get it so wrong in the first place? It does not inspire trust.

Fixing Democracy

Richard Henson

What is Democracy? Democracy is about giving the people a say. Not being told what to do, but having their views represented. The conventional way to do this is to have a parliament with people’s views represented by the candidate who gets the most votes in an election. Parliamentary Democracy In the UK, our parliamentary […]

BREAKING: Head of Ofqual resigns

Yvonne Wancke

The head of Ofqual, Sally Collier, has resigned today. This follows the turmoil around the A level and GCSE results this year. Originally A level students were given teacher assessments in place of exams. This was replaced by the use of a controversial algorithm based mainly on two key factors: the student’s prior attainment (in […]

Johnson flip flops on holiday

Yvonne Wancke

Today it was announced that the controversial ‘algorithm’ which decided A-level and GCSE grades would finally be abolished. This is a huge U- turn from the Westminster government. The algorithm was initially used as a way of standardising this year’s A-level results and was based largely on a student’s prior attainment as well as a […]

The computer said no!

Peter Benson

Education should be an essential part of a thriving vibrant democracy. However, on Thursday 14th August when A-level results were released this concept was in question. I had the opportunity to join a student led protest outside both Downing Street and the Department of Education on Friday 14th August. My daughter is scheduled to receive […]

Blame it on the algorithm?

Yvonne Wancke

Algorithms have been mentioned a lot in recent days. We hear that it was an ‘algorithm’ that was responsible for the ‘downgrading’ of A level results this year. In fact, there is nothing wrong with an algorithm. Of itself it is neutral. Neither good nor bad. Let’s take a closer look. Firstly, what is an […]

What a mockery!

Yvonne Wancke

Today it was announced that A-level and GCSE students in England would be guaranteed to achieve a grade which was no lower than their ‘mock’ grade. This begs a number of questions. Firstly, how accurate is a mock grade? Many of us have heard countless times the expression “it’s only the mocks”. As one Newcastle […]

73.4% of statistics are made up on the spot

Yvonne Wancke

On graphs, statistics and misleading numbers We are bombarded with numbers, graphs and statistics every day. We turn on the TV, pick up a newspaper, click on a website and there they are, a vast array of images, figures and assumptions, so much to absorb and understand. It can be tempting to just soak it […]

The state of our leaders

Robina Jacobson
Kanchenjunga South Peak, India

We need state leaders from state schools  Sixty-five years ago, Joe Brown a twenty-four-year-old plumber from Manchester, was invited to join the first successful expedition to ascend Kanchenjunga. He was told that all equipment and expenses would be funded by the expedition; all he needed was £20 pocket money. Brown said later: “I couldn’t tell […]