Social mobility solutions flawed and insulting

20 May

Some of the solutions put forward to improve social mobility are not only flawed, but are insulting to many professionals and parents, argues Professional Officer (Wales) John Till in SecEd (read the article in full here):

“Concern about social mobility, or the lack of it, continues to exercise commentators and politicians.

“Sir John Major’s… ambition, when he was prime minister, had been a grammar school in every town, though the rather larger number of secondary modern schools that would have had to accompany them was never mentioned.”

“Two other ideas have been suggested recently.

25 per cent of places in independent schools should be free

“The first was that 25 per cent of places in independent schools should be free. This is not new. There were similar experiments in the last century, culminating in the assisted places scheme.

“The assumptions behind such ideas are revealing:

  • Parents seeking the best for their children would naturally prefer an independent school, a view which is insulting to the many parents who think differently.
  • Able pupils cannot do as well in comprehensive schools and colleges, which is inaccurate as well as insulting to those institutions.
  • By inference, independent schools are full of more able pupils, a questionable assertion even for schools which would consider themselves to be in the premier division.
  • Social mobility would be promoted by making available to those who could not afford the fees a proportion of free places.”

“All this ignores the fact that independent schools are unlikely to be interested in those reluctant to embrace their ethos and be able to function in that environment.”

“The outcome of such an approach would be more likely to reinforce prejudices than to encourage social mobility.”

Independent schools seeking to become free schools

“150 independent schools were seeking to become free schools. …The appeal of this for the schools concerned is clear. Instead of having to attract enough parents willing and able to pay the fees… all places would be funded by the state.

“But is it likely that such schools would be willing to relinquish control over their admissions? And would they not wish to select pupils on the basis of perceived ability…?

“The consequences of such a development would be serious.

“Local comprehensive schools would be undermined and a selective system reintroduced without any local debate or decision.” 

“Sir John might yet get his grammar schools in a few more towns, but at what cost to local democracy and the wishes of local communities – and to any meaningful social mobility?”

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