I am back fresh from Florida and thought that on the train I would get familiar with the goings on in the UK since I was away. So, apparently according to the BBC education section online, the biggest thing that has happened since my departure 10 days ago is that children are missing out on places in the schools in England that are considered “better”… And you can pretty much bet that if it is happening is England it is happening elsewhere in the UK too. Scotland in my case.
It got me thinking, should it really be that much of a battle to get into a decent school these days? Have we still not passed the years where all the schools are teaching different levels of education? If every school in Scotland (or England/Britain in general) is now teaching the Curriculum for Excellence (or the equivalent) then why are parents so unhappy when their child is accepted into a school? Why do we think certain schools will be detrimental to a child’s learning, where I came from in the highlands of Scotland it was that school or another on 45 miles away! Every teacher in Scotland has to go through the same rigorous and expensive 4 years of University Education (plus probation if you want to be picky), and pass too. Even with that, most schools are given the same amount of money to run their school annually. So what makes the standard change from school to school? In the article Councillor Marland from Milton Keynes even goes as far as to say..
“Unless schools, or someone, steps into coaching the poorest families on admissions, then it’s those from affluent backgrounds that will get the good places.”
Well it is well known that every teacher is different and not every teacher will put the same amount of effort and time into the lessons to make them at a good standard. It’s a tricky subject to write about too, but we also need to face the fact that some people are very judgemental about people even if they don’t say it and poorer families just don’t get a look in because of prejudice. Have you ever seen a child from a poor background go to a school like Harrow? Now that is just my opinion based on some of the things I have seen during my practice that people are judgmental about the way people live their lives. I have no physical evidence to back up what I have said so please feel free to disagree but most people will read this and say – yes I have or know somebody who has judged someone before, even if it is nothing to do with education.
For some reason Nicola Sturgeon and her Government have decided that testing every child in Scotland will close the vast attainment gap that is quite the problem here in Scotland. Yes – because putting a poor 7 year old in front of a test when they are having a bad day is going to close the attainment gap and solve the problems this country has. Come on Nicola? Surely you can come up with something better than that? Teenagers in S4, 5 and 6 all have to go through the rigorous examination system set out by SQA year after year and it’s nearly impossible for them to change their score if their having a bad day. Thats a lot for a 15-18 year old to handle let alone 5-11 year olds! I still remember that feeling of impending doom getting a D in my Gaelic test when I was 9 and having to go back and tell my parents (although there were very caring and loving and just happy that I passed, but that isn’t really the point). We are asking children to go through a lot to close an attainment gap when they might have teachers and schools who are not prepared to go the extra mile to help them towards that grade – and that’s if they even get into what society considers a decent school in the first place!
But prejudice against childrens families and how much they earn doesn’t just stop there! Oh no, once you get out of school it continues to the colleges and universities with certain courses only being for students who come from a “poor” catchment area. Everytime I think about this my brain instantly screams WHAT! Are universities and colleges seriously taking students just because of where they come from! With the drop out rates the highest they have ever been and some students going through an absolute battle to get into university, should universities and colleges not be taking students in who actually want to learn and have a passion for that course. I tried for 3 years to get into teaching and that is one of the hardest things I have ever been through. I am also happy to write that when I went to an interview at Glasgow University I was asked what my parents did for a living! One year later and I am still furiously wondering what my parents have to do with me being desperate to become an educator. I should be taken on my credits as my own personal achievements – not the fact my mother is an administrator and my father a musician and shop owner. I could rant about it more – but I won’t for your sanity as the reader.
We can all dream about a prejudice free system – I frequently do but right now I must get off this train to be back to the freezing Scottish weather, my holiday blues and accept that for the moment, it’s just a dream.