Sam Butters, CEO, Fair Education Alliance, invites support for the 90-member coalition’s efforts to drive the changes needed to improve young people’s lives.
Inequality in education is still deeply entrenched in our country. The Fair Education Alliance’s annual ‘state of the nation’ report card monitors the progress we have made towards achieving our vision: a country where children’s educational success is not limited by their socio-economic background.
Our latest report card, published 6 September 2017, finds that the progress made has been minimal and in some areas education is actually becoming more unfair. The gap between the most disadvantaged young people and their wealthier peers in literacy and numeracy at primary school narrowed from 8.4 months to 8.2 months and the GCSE achievement gap decreased from 13.1 months to 12.8 months. However, the gap in permanent and fixed period exclusions has remained stubbornly wide, and the gap in university entry has increased for the first time since 2010.
The gap in permanent and fixed period exclusions has remained stubbornly wide, and the gap in university entry has increased for the first time since 2010
It is a stark reminder of the scale of the challenge. As the UK seeks to reposition itself in the world, it becomes more crucial than ever that our young people are able to fulfil their potential, irrespective of their parental background.
That is exactly what the FEA is trying to achieve. We are a coalition of nearly 90 organisations, with members including organisations from the education sector, businesses and social enterprises.
We know that educational inequality is a complex issue to tackle – too complex for one institution or organisation to solve alone. But we believe that by combining the talent, ideas and efforts of educationalists, charities and businesses we can offer a strong collective voice that drives the changes needed to improve young people’s lives.
The members of the FEA have worked together to develop recommendations that, if adopted, could make a significant impact towards closing the gap. These include: ensuring national school spending does not decrease in real terms on a per-pupil basis; support for the continued development of the childcare and early education workforce; and increasing the focus on social and emotional competencies as a critical lever in boosting both attainment and social mobility. The FEA members also identified the need to make teacher wellbeing a priority focus.
Research released towards the end of last month from the Education Support Partnership found that three quarters of teachers have suffered health problems including depression, panic attacks and anxiety because of their workload. More than half have considered quitting in the past two years alone. Our country finds itself in the midst of a teacher recruitment and retention crisis, and it comes as no surprise if teachers are regularly having to work 12-hour days.
How do we solve this?
The FEA recommends that school leaders and government should be more open to addressing these issues through a range of measures. These should include:
• increasing flexible working for school staff
• offering high quality development and support for school leaders
• setting sensible expectations about teacher workload and staffing ratios.
Unless we start listening and responding to the concerns of school staff, we are at risk of missing out on an entire generation of talented school teachers and leaders which could help us close the attainment gaps identified in the latest report card.
We’re extremely proud that the alliance has provided the space for such a diverse range of organisations to come together and collaborate on our joint report and the recommendations that stem from it. We welcome all who wish to join us in our work to make education fair for all children, so please get in touch.
SSAT are proud to be part of the Fair Education Alliance coalition.