Archive for the ‘Secondary Education’ Category

My thoughts on “Schools that work for everyone”

Monday, January 9th, 2017

My name is Yewande and I am an office volunteer at ALLFIE. A few weeks ago, I was working with our Campaigns Coordinator Simone, looking through the new Government consultation. It is called “Schools that work for everyone”.  Their plan is to make schools more selective and to introduce more grammar schools. So my job was to find out if the consultation showed how these changes are going to affect disabled pupils (including those with SEN). The subject of grammar and selective schools has always been a controversial one so I was interested to see what the new Prime Minister and her Government’s take would be on them. This blog post is going be about what I think of the consultation.

Worryingly, there is no mention of disabled pupils or those with SEN in the consultation. My view is that grammar school and selective education is not good for disabled children and young people. I believe that education should be inclusive of all children and young people regardless of ability. Inclusive education is a fundamental human right, and should be taken seriously.

I also believe that when it comes to selective education, a limited view of “ability” is being tested. The test criteria are most likely to be very narrow; as a result many disabled pupils will not be able to pass, due to the nature of their impairment. The testing will not be broad enough to accommodate the fact that people learn in different ways, especially when you have an impairment.

One of the main points of the consultation is that some schools will still remain non selective. If parents of disabled children cannot get them into selective schools, then the next step usually would be to send them to a non-selective school. This may seem like a positive development; however it is still a cause for concern. It is fair to say that more of the funding will go to selective schools, because the Gov. wants to make most schools selective. When the funding goes to the selective schools, it means that non selective schools will have fewer resources. This will result in non-selective schools having fewer students and fewer good teachers. Most parents and teachers do not want to be part of a school that does not have enough money. Low student and teacher numbers can lead to poor quality education, and may even mean closure for some non selective schools. This puts parents of disabled children and young people in a difficult position. If their child or young person is not getting a good education in a non-selective mainstream school, many of them will feel that they have no choice but to send them into segregated provision, by that I mean special schools and special units.

In conclusion, I believe that the Government plans are a huge step back for inclusive education. Even if a small percentage of disabled children and young people are chosen to attend selective schools, it is still wrong because education should welcome all pupils instead of fitting a few into narrow criteria. The disabled pupils who get selected have less chance of receiving an inclusive approach to their learning, even if they are struggling with certain aspects of it. We should find ways of improving our education system for disabled pupils by exploring various learning styles and showing teachers the different ways that children and young people learn. The Government also should provide funding and resources for schools to develop an inclusive ethos.

The Government is showing that inclusion is not a priority for them by not mentioning disabled pupils and students in the consultation. If more parents start to feel that they have no option but to send their child or young person to segregated provision, the less chance there is for children and young people to be educated together. If children and young people of all abilities are not educated together, there is less opportunity for us to create an inclusive society.

 

Yewande Akintelu-Omoniyi

ALLFIE Office Volunteer

How grammar schools excluded me as a disabled child

Monday, December 5th, 2016

Our anonymous writer tells us how he was barred from grammar schools in the eighties due to disability.

As a young child starting infant school I was often absent from school due to various illnesses, and the fact I was born with disabilities didn’t help the situation. Due to my unavoidable absences my infant school teachers saw me as behind the rest of the class and basically an obstruction to other pupils’ learning. As I was seen as a “struggling student” I was not given extra help but instead left in a corner to play with Lego as others were learning. I was lucky as I was reading and writing ahead of my peers, only all my learning happened when absent from school from my mother and grandparents.

Eventually time passed and my peers and I were due to move up to junior school. This was when my mother was informed I would not be with my peers but placed in a “special school” to help me catch up with children my age. I was then sent to a different school which I had to travel to via minibus everyday due to the distance. The staff at this school were obviously more aware of pupils’ abilities as I came top of the class throughout my junior school years, even with continued absences. When I was in my final year the headmaster attempted to get permission for me to sit the 11 plus exam – a special school pupil apparently had no need as they wouldn’t pass or qualify for local grammar schools. My headmaster gave me his own version of the test and then sent the results and a personal statement of my abilities to my local grammar school and Manchester grammar school, explaining that although I was disabled I could manage all the work without any problems. Both grammar schools replied to my mother and my school explaining that, although academically I could easily be accepted, they could not take students who couldn’t participate fully in their curriculum, which included an extensive sporting requirement. I accept this may not be the case in all grammar schools but in Manchester and Altrincham in the mid eighties this was their excuse.

In 1986 I started at my local high school where I found in the first year I was bullied extensively – and not just by other students. The work I was given consisted of workbooks and papers I had already completed at my junior school, as since I was ahead of some of the other pupils, teachers had given me the work  so I had something to do, never expecting the same work to be handed out at secondary school or that both grammar schools would refuse me. As anyone can imagine, along with the bullying, being bored in almost every class resulted in me not wanting to be at the school on most days. Although my absences were less now they were still more often than most and a lot of teachers decided I was lying about my disabilities and other illnesses to get out of attending school, so if I was being accused of truancy for the first two years I felt I may as well play truant. I would leave my house to go to school most days and end up going all over the country finding and visiting libraries, art galleries and museums – probably giving myself a better and more intense education anyway.

I left school in the early nineties with two GCSE grades F and G – not a great start to life – so I worked for a year, then attended a general vocational course at my local college, going on to study English literature and ESOL/TEFL as it was known then, becoming a qualified adult literacy support teacher and a qualified ESOL teacher.

Segregated education on the grounds of physical or perceived academic ability is not only a disgrace in this day and age but can also ruin people’s lives. If I had been accepted at a grammar school, given something to learn and not repeat and not been discriminated against due to my disabilities, my life may have turned out very differently.

Grammar is bad

Thursday, September 29th, 2016

Nigel Utton, former headteacher and chair of Heading for Inclusion, explains his views on the government’s proposals to increase the number of grammar and selective schools.

When I was a primary Headteacher in Hampshire all of my children were well prepared for the move to secondary school.  The vast majority went to Amery Hill Comprehensive which shared its facilities and even provided some teaching, particularly in modern languages from reception right up to year 6.  The Headteacher and I had regular meetings and our staff worked with colleagues in respective departments to ensure the children went up with confidence and enthusiasm.  They already knew the building, staff and other pupils well and had a very positive transition.

Moving to the selective model in Kent was a tremendous shock.  My school fed into at least six different secondaries; two grammar schools and four secondary moderns with some children being shipped further afield when the place planning went wrong – which it regularly did.  Until the children had the results from their 11+ exams none of us knew where they would be going.  The curricula, especially the languages learned were different in each school.  Preparing our children for transition was a cumbersome affair with the secondaries offering sporadic activities mostly to years 5 and 6 to try to tempt the children to their school.    On these grounds alone we should resist a return to a selective education system.

The argument that grammar schools somehow increase social mobility is frankly a lie.  Comprehensive schools do that – as I know from my own experience.  I was the first from my family to go to university because my comprehensive school had that aspiration and provided me with the broad education to get me there.  Working in Kent, where, due to political cowardice, selective education has continued unchecked, I have seen first-hand how aspiration is stifled almost at birth.  Parents of preschool children have often already decided which of their offspring are ‘grammar’ children and which are not.  This goes very much along class lines – with the parents’ own educational experience being a key factor.

My educational philosophy is that all children should be educated in local inclusive schools.  My preference would be for a curriculum based around children’s individual needs both emotional, physical and academic.  Kent’s model is based in segregation.  Children with impairments are largely educated in separate ‘special’ schools; children who fail the Kent Test are sent to secondary moderns at age 10/11 and those who pass are sent to grammars.  Where the model fails is that children do not fit into simple categories.  The Kent Test is divided into language and mathematical components.  To go to a grammar school children have to achieve above a particular score in both.  Hence children who may only have exceptional mathematical or language ability are denied a place at the ‘best’ schools.  Every year I watched extremely talented children being rejected by the system.  The knock on effect on self-esteem was tangible.  I was horrified talking to adults in Kent who had failed the Kent Test who actually still remembered their scores decades later.

What I hated most was seeing how divisive the system is in social terms.  Right from reception class adults and indeed classmates refer to children as having grammar or non-grammar potential.  Enough educational research on teacher/parental expectation shows us that these early attitudes have potentially devastating long term effects on a child’s learning and actually become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The best comprehensive schools educate all the children, building on their strengths and developing areas where they may struggle.  Children learn with their local peers creating a positive cohesive community.  Parents and the local community work together to ensure that their school is a place which contributes to a common cause.  Bussing children around to different areas, as happens in Kent and other selective authorities, at best renders difficult and at worst destroys this essential function of education.

A child’s ability is not fixed at the age of 10 when the tests are administered.  Surely the key task of education is to develop children beyond where their abilities seem to hold them.  Putting in a glass ceiling is anathema to an educator.  Segregating children into different types of school with different aspirations is everything that many of us have been fighting against.

The fact that some comprehensive schools, particularly those in areas where deprivation, lack of aspiration and generational underachievement, do not seem to provide the same levels of education as those in more affluent areas with a different demographic, is not an argument against comprehensive education per se.  It is an argument for putting massive educational and financial investment into those areas to raise aspiration and provide hope through building coherent communities.  Creaming off a small elite of children into a grammar school merely creates social division and a hierarchy of worth.

Sir Keith Josephs visited my comprehensive school when he was Secretary of State.  As Head Boy I was asked to welcome him to the school.  At the time he thought that assisting bright children into private education was the way forward.  To a standing ovation I told him that those of us in my school were totally opposed to his scheme and were proud to be at a comprehensive school.  Having been a teacher for 23 years, I am even more convinced that I was right.

 

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Baccalaureate target yet another barrier to inclusion?

Friday, January 21st, 2011

Over the last couple of weeks you may have seen news reports referring to the Baccalaureate target, a new league table target introduced by the coalition government as an indication of secondary school success rates. (more…)