Education is a gateway to a better future for our nation’s young people. Their time at school is an opportunity to discover the possibilities which lay before them and to gain the knowledge and skills they will need to step into adulthood. Or at least it should be.
Most young people in our country are offered a solid education and take their chance. The system, although requiring significant improvement, tends to equip the next generation with the skills they need to find work and make progress.
Radical and necessary reforms are now underway to give school leaders more freedom, to ask more of teachers and to improve standards dramatically. Some were set in train under the previous Government and some were called for by the Centre for Social Justice in our 2007 Breakthrough Britain education report.
But there remain stark inequalities within the education system as this interim report demonstrates. Over two million children attend schools that fall short of being good or outstanding. More than 230,000 pupils fail to achieve five A* to C grades at GCSE including English and mathematics. For those on free school meals – the common poverty measure in our education system – only 36 per cent achieved five A* to C grades compared to 63 per cent of those not eligible.
The report also reveals how certain ethnic groups fare – with white working class boys particularly struggling. We also reveal that some children start school at the age of four in nappies, with the behavioural level of one year olds, unable to answer to their name or speak. This represents a significant and damaged minority. For those at the bottom, such educational failure and its poor outcomes can wreak havoc. All too quickly many are on the pathway to poverty, crime, social breakdown and worklessness in later life.
Through the lens of the children and families worst affected, our review focusses on five key themes: school readiness at entry level; school reform, including an assessment of Free Schools and the Academies programme; teaching; leadership and Further Education. We have gathered academic and anecdotal evidence from across the country, learning from those on the front line of educational failure.
This is part one. For the next 12 months the team will develop ideas which can spark educational reform to transform the experiences of the poorest children and the work of schools in the most deprived neighbourhoods.