England's education system leaves children from poorer homes behind: report
LONDON, Dec. 4 (Xinhua) -- In certain parts of England, children have the die cast against them even before they start nursery education, the official education watchdog said in its annual report on Tuesday.
Amanda Spielman, chief inspector at the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted), painted an overall positive picture of the country's education standards, but she admitted that some young people still have the deck stacked against them.
"There are still children who lag behind. Children for whom it seems the die is cast even before entering nursery, and who never catch up in 12 years of schooling. Wealth remains a predictor of educational performance," she said.
The Ofsted report calls on policymakers and practitioners to redouble their efforts to tackle challenges and drive up standards in the years ahead.
The report reveals that 95 percent of early years providers are judged good or outstanding, while 76 percent of further education (FE) colleges and 86 percent of schools are at least good.
Almost 500 schools across England have been judged inadequate or requiring improvement in every inspection since 2005. This means that some children may have been in a failing school for their entire time at high school.
Spielman said a child in Hackney, London, is more likely to fulfil their potential than ever before, but in certain coastal towns and white working class communities, attainment, progress and aspiration are too low.
What makes the inequity for some children even starker is that many of those schools are concentrated in particular parts of the country, serving the same demographic groups, often the white working class.
"Some schools that haven't improved for more than a decade remain, and our colleges look less financially secure than in the past," she said.
Spielman added that schools have become another front in the new culture wars, expected to tackle an ever growing list of societal issues.
Ofsted's annual report provides a summary of the office's findings from inspections, visits and research over the past year. It presents a 'state of the nation' commentary on the quality of education, training and care services in England.
Spielman said: "There is a group of young people who seem to have the deck stacked against them. I often liken the path through education to a slope. For affluent and high ability children the slope is, in general, fairly shallow, and the path to reaching their potential only moderately challenging.
"For others from poorer backgrounds, who face challenges in the home, or who struggle with learning, the gradient is steeper and the path is harder. Our job as education and care professionals is to reduce that gradient, to make that path shallower."
Urging policymakers to avoid searching for the latest gimmicks from the tech world to tackle the problems, Spielman added: "Some policymakers and practitioners are constantly looking for the next magic potion that will infallibly raise standards or reduce the numbers of children in care." To put all children on the path to success, the most important thing is to get the basics right, which begins with early literacy, she said.
According to Spielman, the percentage of children on free school meals who reach the expected standard on the check is 12 percentage points lower than of their more affluent classmates. Schools that focus on early reading make a major difference, she said.