UK School inequalities widening says new report

A four-year study by UCL’s Institute of Education (IOE) evaluating the UK government’s ‘Self-improving school-led system’ (SISS) has concluded that inequalities within the education system are actually widening as a result of government policy.

UK School inequalities widening says new report
Two-thirds of head teachers believe that inequalities between schools are widening according to the results of a four-year study conducted by UCL’s Institute of Education (IOE).

Schools feeling the pressure

The study set out to evaluate the government’s ‘Self-improving school-led system’ (SISS) which was instituted in 2010.The aim of the SISS was to make schools more autonomous and accountable for their own improvement. Reforms have included an expansion in the number of academies and the development of Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) (which have an overarching responsibility for the governance of several schools), the roll back of Local Authorities (LAs) from school oversight and the development of new school-to-school support models, such as Teaching School Alliances (TSAs). The UCL study involved case studies of 47 schools, a survey of almost 700 headteachers, analysis of Ofsted reports from the past 10 years and an evaluation of Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs). Results showed that overwhelmingly schools are more tightly-regulated than ever and are increasingly feeling the need to narrow their curriculum in order to reach attainment levels.

Schools incentivised to compete

Although the government’s aim was to encourage schools to collaborate and share expertise, the report showed that the competitive pressures in the system have discouraged this as schools are incentivised to prioritise their own interests in order to attract pupils and funding.  Co-author of the report and professor of leadership and learning at the IOE, Toby Greany said, “The idea of a ‘self-improving’ system in which schools collaborate on behalf of all children is appealing, but we cannot simply rely on the good will and moral purpose of school leaders to make it work.“The problem is that the system is hard-wired to encourage selfish behaviour, because the consequences for schools of a drop in exam scores or Ofsted grade can be so catastrophic. At present we see a chaotic system of winners and losers, with increasing incoherence and a loss of equity as a result.”

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The report also showed that higher performing schools are admitting less disadvantaged students since 2010, increasing the divide.Josh Hillman, director of education at the Nuffield Foundation who funded the study said, “The fact that higher performing schools are accepting fewer disadvantaged pupils suggests increased school autonomy is perpetuating inequality, and that is a major cause for concern.“This research reveals the contradictions inherent in an approach that simultaneously encourages self-improvement and collaboration, and yet offers a very narrow definition of success in terms of exam results and Ofsted grades. In practice, schools are incentivised to compete, and that is not always in the best interests of pupils, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds.”  
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But the government insists that its reforms are improving the prospects of all pupils. A department for Education spokesperson said, “Thanks to our reforms and the hard work of teachers, the vast majority of pupils are in a good or outstanding school, 1.9 million more than in 2010, and an increase from 66 per cent to 86 per cent over that time.“And thanks to our reforms schools that aren’t delivering for young people are being turned around, with 65 per cent of schools made into a sponsored academy seeing improvement from inadequate to good or outstanding.”Relocate’s new Global Mobility Toolkit provides free information, practical advice and support for HR, global mobility managers and global teams operating overseas.Global Mobility Toolkit download factsheets resource centreAccess hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online DirectoryClick to get to the Relocate Global Online Directory 

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