Extra Cash for Schools Giving Places to Poorer Children
News today that the government is considering plans to offer cash incentives of up to £2,000 per pupil to good schools who allocate places to children from poorer families (as defined by their eligibility for free school meals) over other “middle class” children. This is designed to “reverse the education gap between the richest and poorest children”.
Surely an admirable aim?
Well no one can argue with the aim of helping any child get a better education, but as I mentioned a few months ago on the plans for independent school academies, the likely result is simply going to be to widen the gap between good and bad schools. Basically the proposal will give more cash to better performing schools who play the game, no doubt at the expense of the under performing schools.
Universal Standard of Good Education
As with the notion of universal healthcare, under threat from the latest round of NHS Reforms, the solution should surely be to improve the standards in all schools by increasing the standards and quality in teaching across the board. Giving more money to already successful schools will undoubtedly help them to continue with their success, but what about the schools who miss out?
Unfair on the Middle Class Aspirational Parents
Of course this would also be unfair on parents of so called “middle-class” children who have moved house specifically to get into the catchment area of a “good” school. But this in itself is a nonsense. Surely the way to look at this is to understand the reasons why some schools are performing better than others. Understand what makes a good school good, and then try and export this to the under performing schools to bring up their quality and standards.
The rather bigoted and narrow minded implication of this proposal is of course that what makes a school good is simply the fact that it has lots of middle class children driven by middle class parents who push the school and their offspring into performing well. Nothing about the quality of the facilities, the teachers or anything else.
So what’s the alternative?
All very silly in my humble opinion. If you have good schools then as above try and understand what makes them good. If they have inspirational head teachers who have turned them around then move the teachers. You don’t need to pay these people as “super heads”. They are doing a public service and should be happy to improve the quality of a failing school (a little naive perhaps but there must be some public spirited ones out there). If it’s the facilities that are different then improve them at the schools underperforming. And what of the parental pressure? Again define this in tangible terms and look to replicate it. What form does the pressure take? Active involvement in parent support groups? Well incentivise parents at under performing schools to get involved. Poor parental influence outside of school in terms of homework supervision, acting as a role model, etc etc. Well then sort this out (a tall order I know but it’s back to the “society values” again).
So please Mr Gove before you head down this route please reconsider and try and fix the underlying causes of the education gap, rather than taking yet another step to make it even wider….
Just a thought…