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Compensatory Education

Page last edited: 04/02/2017

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This document has been substantially updated in January 2017 to incorporate information on Coalition education policies related to Compensatory Education and a little provisional information on the Conservative Government of 2015-. Once again the document is rather long but I hope that the following menu will help students to find the information they require on specific policies

Click here for a very useful You Tube podcast on Education Policy and Inequality by Ms. A. Sugden


 Document Contents 

 

 

Compensatory education policies are intended to offset the effects of socio-economic disadvantage which may restrict the educational opportunities of children from socially deprived backgrounds. In practice the policies focused originally upon the assumed cultural deprivation of black children in the USA [as in the Operation Head Start Programme] and working class children in the UK [as in the Education Priority Area Programme] and have consequently attracted criticism from sociologists who argued strenuously against the concept of cultural deprivation.

Conservative governments of 1979-1997 claimed  that overall educational standards could best be improved via the extension of individual parental choice which would result indirectly in the expansion of effective schools and the contraction and possible closure of ineffective schools. The Conservatives claimed that via these mechanisms educational opportunities would be improved for children of all social backgrounds and that the EPA Programme could reasonably  be phased out as it was in the mid 1980s.

It may perhaps be argued that later compensatory education policies introduced by Labour Governments between 1997 and 2010 such as Sure Start, Education Action Zones and Excellence in Cities Programmes, Educational Maintenance Allowances and the Aim Higher Scheme are based less upon the concept of cultural deprivation and more on improving pre-school facilities, improving the schools themselves and providing financial help and advice designed to give socially disadvantaged children a fairer chance to fulfil their ambitions. However despite these policies reductions in inequalities of educational attainment have been limited and indeed critics of Labour education policies have argued that Labour's acceptance of New Right Education policies based around the expansion of the quasi -market in education actually served to increase inequality of educational opportunity

. Under the Coalition Government the Educational Maintenance Allowance and the Aim Higher Scheme have been replaced by alternatives and the Coalition has also introduced the Pupil Premium and modified and extended significantly the Academies Programme which had been introduced by the previous Labour Government in 2002. It is to soon to assess the effectiveness of these measures as mechanisms of compensatory education but given the long term persistence of social class inequalities in educational attainment it will perhaps be surprising if there is any great change in this situation in the immediate future although, of course , hopefully this is a mistaken conclusion.

The 1967 Plowden Report entitled "Children in their Primary Schools" called for, among other things, "positive discrimination" which should "favour schools in neighbourhoods where children are most severely handicapped by home conditions" by targeting additional financial resources on the education of these children. This proposal was readily accepted by the then Labour Secretary of State for Education Tony Crosland and by one of his key education advisers A.H. Halsey who was to become national director of the EPA programme. [According to Crosland real equality of educational opportunity was impossible without positive discrimination because disadvantaged children would be unable to take advantage of the opportunities which schools were offering unless there were also positive discrimination in their favour. This is what Crosland described as the "strong version of equality of opportunity",   a version which he himself very much supported]

Educational Priority Areas were set up in the late 1960s in parts of London, Birmingham, Liverpool and the West Riding of Yorkshire and schools in the EPA areas were provided with additional financial resources designed to "raise the educational performance of children, improve the morale of teachers, increase the involvement of parents in their children's' education and to increase the "sense of responsibility" for their communities of the people living in them." [Halsey 1972]. In particular there were to be new and refurbished school buildings, special courses for teachers in EPA schools, special higher pay scales to encourage teacher retention, more playschools and nursery classes,  policies to improve home -school communication and integration of the EPA initiatives with the work of Health and Social Services departments in wider "Community Development Programmes". Additionally social scientists involved in the EPA programmes  hoped to use so-called action research strategies to test the effectiveness of the programmes in operation and to modify and refine the programmes after discussion with the officials, parents and teachers participating in the schemes.

These policies seemed sensible and well meaning but the concept of compensatory education and the policies introduced in the Education Priority Areas soon generated considerable controversy within Sociology because of disputes surrounding the causes of poverty and of social class differences in educational achievement and related disputes as to how poverty and social class inequalities in educational achievement  might best be reduced.

With regard to the broad causes of poverty sociologists distinguish between "cultural explanations" and structural explanations. Cultural explanations [as for example in Oscar Lewis' theory of the culture of poverty]  explain the causes of poverty mainly in the assumed cultural deprivation of the poor which is believed to involve family instability, fatalism and lack of ambition, unwillingness to participate in the institutions of the wider society and inappropriate socialisation of the young .However, contrastingly, in structural explanations of poverty it is argued that the causes of poverty derive from the unequal distributions of power, income, wealth and opportunity which are seen as an inevitable characteristic of the operation of capitalist economies.

There are also disputes surrounding the causes of social class differences in educational achievement. Such causes might include social class differences in intelligence [which may or may not be mainly genetically inherited], social class differences in attitudes and values which imply that working class families and their children are more likely to be culturally deprived, social class differences in culture which nevertheless imply class difference without working class cultural deprivation, social class differences in material circumstances and factors operative in the schools themselves which operate to the disadvantage of working class pupils.

More radical  sociologists [often but not always influenced by Marxism] argued that programmes of compensatory education had been introduced by "liberal" politicians of the USA Democrat party and by social democratic politicians of the British Labour Party who had accepted cultural explanations of the causes of poverty and sought remedies for poverty which would involve little or no redistribution of power, wealth and income from rich to poor and no challenge whatsoever to the continued existence of capitalism which , in the radical view, was itself the fundamental cause of poverty. The radicals further claimed that programmes of compensatory education were based on an uncritical acceptance of the theory that social class differences in educational achievement were based primarily on the cultural deprivation of the working class. This same concept has been expressed also in terms of the "cultural deficit" believed to be experienced by many working class children or even in terms of the "cultural pathology" of the working class.

The educational theories based upon the concept of cultural deprivation are discussed in more detail elsewhere on the site as are the  criticisms of them. Many sociologists were critical of the theories which explained social class differences in educational achievement in terms of the cultural deprivation of the working class and proposed that other explanations were far more significant. Thus ,for example, Bernstein lamented that his own linguistic theories were being used in support of the notion of cultural deprivation which was certainly not what he intended; Bourdieu's theories suggested that working class children were culturally different but not culturally deprived and that they were likely to be unsuccessful in school because schools undervalued working class culture and assessed pupils in terms of a dominant culture possessed by the middle class but not the working class children; Keddie argued that the very concept of compensatory education itself actually encouraged the negative labelling of working class children as "culturally deprived"; and relative working class educational underachievement can be explained also in terms of disadvantaged material circumstances and /or inadequate school resources and inappropriate labelling processes operating inside schools.

[Click here for further information on differing explanations of social class differences in educational achievement and click here for more details on theories of working class cultural deprivation and criticisms of them.]

In summary critics of USA and UK programmes of compensatory education argued in the 1960s and 1970s that they were based on a misunderstanding of the causes of poverty and of relative working class educational achievement which meant that such policies would inevitably be ineffective as argued most forcefully by Bernstein in his article "Schools cannot compensate for society".

 These are powerful criticisms of strategies of compensatory education but it could be that as criticisms of the theoretical foundations of the EPA Programme they may not be entirely justified. Thus , in a 1974 article A.H. Halsey emphasised the importance of both structural and cultural factors in the explanation of poverty, the necessity of more effective teacher training, better teaching greater efforts by schools to reach out to poorer parents and national policies to maintain employment and reduce poverty as well as policies designed to improve parenting skills .Halsey had therefore recognised all of the points made by his radical critics but believed nevertheless that compensatory education implemented through the EPA programme could play some part in the reduction of poverty and educational inequality but that it would need to be accompanied by broader , structural reforms organised at the national level.

Perhaps it is fair to say, however, that Professor Halsey was over-optimistic. The Plowden Report had originally recommended that 10%[3000] primary schools should be given EPA status but only 130 schools were so designated and the quality of the programmes introduced varied significantly from area to area. Also more poverty and educational disadvantage existed outside the EPA areas than inside them and since coherent national strategies to reduce poverty and social class inequalities in educational achievement were not enacted in the EPA era, the EPA policies alone could be expected to have at best only a limited impact on overall poverty and educational disadvantage. However writing in 1980, Halsey continued to argue that "Education can Compensate" and many would argue that he is correct in this view but only if meaningful nation-wide educational reforms are combined with wider social and economic reforms designed to reduce  poverty and economic inequality.

Conservative governments of 1979-1997 claimed  that overall educational standards could best be improved via the extension of individual parental choice which would result indirectly in the expansion of effective schools and the contraction and possible closure of ineffective schools. The Conservatives claimed that via these mechanisms educational opportunities would be improved for children of all social backgrounds and that the EPA Programme could be reasonably phased out as it was in the mid 1980s.However critics of overall Conservative policies have argued the the growth of inequality and poverty in the 1980s will have adversely affected the educational prospects of more disadvantaged pupils as would the increasing quasi marketisation of education from which , according to researchers such as Ball, Bowe and Gerwitz, the children of affluent parents were most likely to gain.

Since 1997 successive Labour governments have introduced a range of education policies including the expansion of the Specialised Schools programme, the setting up of the Academies Programme and support for Faith Schools all of which are aimed at increasing choice and diversity and raising overall education standards. However as mentioned above critics have suggested  that the "Choice and Diversity" educational agenda introduced by the Conservatives and extended by successive Labour Governments may have contributed to increased inequality of educational opportunity as upper and middle class parents have been able to use their economic, social and cultural capital to secure their children's entry to the most effective schools. However Labour supporters of the "Choice and Diversity" educational agenda have argued that it too can help to improve educational opportunity for disadvantaged children

Labour has also introduced additional policies involving elements of compensatory education designed to improve educational opportunities for disadvantaged students. These policies include especially the Sure Start , Educational Action Zones and Excellence in Cities Programmes , the Education Maintenance Allowance and the Aim Higher Initiative.

Labour's Sure Start Programme has tried to address the alleged difficulties faced by economically deprived parents in providing pre-school educational activities for their children while the Education Action Zones and Excellence in Cities programmes have tried to address some of the alleged deficiencies of schools in deprived areas. In broad terms it has been argued that the Sure Start Programme has improved overall pre-school educational opportunities but that it has been difficult to reach the most deprived parents and children who have most to gain from the Programme  and that the Education Action Zones and Excellence in Cities Programmes may have improved overall education standards only to a limited extent and, again, that the schemes have provided only limited educational benefits for  the most disadvantaged children .

 A recent DCFS report does indicate that differences in educational achievement between pupils eligible for Free School Meals and pupils ineligible for free school meals have narrowed slightly in recent years and that the rate of examination result improvement in schools with high proportions of Free School Meals students is increasing relative quickly but critics have claimed that  Labour's compensatory education programmes have done little to alleviate class disadvantage within the education system and that much more needs to be done if real progress is to be made on equality of educational opportunity.

You may Click here to read the DCFS report entitled  Breaking the Link between Disadvantage and Low Attainment. Although it is rather long it is also set out very clearly so that students can investigate recent trends in educational achievement very quickly and easily.

 Further more detailed information on the Sure Start, Education Action Zones, Excellence in Cities, Educational Maintenance Allowance and Aim Higher programmes is provided below. [Students should consult their teachers for advice as to how much detailed information about these various initiatives is actually required for examination purposes and make examination summaries as appropriate.]

It has often been suggested that the Sure Start Programme has been influenced at least to some extent by the organisation of the Operation Headstart Programme which had been introduced in the USA in 1965 as an attempt at early intervention to promote the development of disadvantaged children via the encouragement of better parenting techniques. The first Sure Start centres were set up in 1998 and concentrated in areas of severe social deprivation. They were  designed to provide facilities in deprived areas for childcare, early education, health and family support services  and employment advice for families with children under 5 with the aim of reducing child poverty and social exclusion. Between 2006 and 2008 additional centres were set up in less disadvantaged areas while by 2010 the aim was to provide a total of 3500 Sure Start Centres to reach all children under 5 in all areas of the country.

The original overall rationale for the Sure Start Programme was based upon the general idea that parents in deprived areas might well be very keen to do the best for their children but that their lack of knowledge and parenting skills might put their children at a considerable educational disadvantage even before they entered school which would would then restrict their future educational progress throughout their school careers. Recent support for the rationale behind the Sure Start Scheme is provided in several studies which suggest that many children from economically deprived backgrounds enter First Schools at a considerable disadvantage relative to middle class children.

For example the necessity for some forms of assistance for children in disadvantaged families has been emphasised in the research of Professor Feinstein who has shown that social class disadvantages tend to affect the intellectual progress of poorer children even before they enter First School  and in more recent research from the Sutton Trust.

 Click here for information on Professor Feinstein's research findings and click here for BBC coverage of the recent Sutton Trust Research.

 Click here for a BBC item on the Sure Start Scheme suggesting its benefits may be limited

Click here for recent [July 2011] BBC Radio 4 Analysis Programme on Sure Start.

Click here for a Guardian article outlining the history of the Sure Start Programme to 2011

Sure Start and the Coalition Government 2010-15.

There have been controversies surrounding the development of the Sure Start Programme under the Coalition government. Critics have claimed that several hundred Sure Start centres have been closed while the Government has argued that the decline in the number of Sure Start centres has arisen primarily [but not entirely] as a result of amalgamations of smaller centres. Click here and here for recent information on Sure Start closures. [Thanks to Fran Nantongwe  for drawing my attention to these articles.]

  1. Under the  terms of the Education Action Zones programme launched in 1998 Education Action Zones  were to be designated in deprived areas in which new Forums involving parents, teachers, LEA members and business and voluntary association leaders who would devise strategies for the improvement of under-performing schools in the Zone.
  2. 12 large EAZs were designated in 1998 followed by a further 13 in 1999 and by 2002  there were 73 large EAZs  containing 1444 schools serving around 6% of the English school pupil population.
  3. Each large EAZ contained one or two secondary schools together with their feeder primary schools amounting to around 20 schools in each large EAZ.
  4. Large EAZs were to receive 500,000 p.a. of DfES unconditional funding   and it was hoped that they would also raise a maximum of 250,000 p.a. in private sponsorship which would be matched by  additional conditional DfES [now DCFS] funding of up to 250,000 p.a. The large EAZs were therefore expected to receive a maximum of 1M p.a. in additional funding.
  5. Smaller EAZs were also created based upon single secondary schools and their feeder primary schools  and these were to receive 250,000 p.a. in unconditional DfES funding,. They were also expected to raise up to 50,000 per. a. from private sponsorship which would be matched by further funding from the DfES.
  6. It was hoped that the EAZ programme would harness  local initiative and business dynamism which would facilitate improvements in school standards.
  7. Schools in the EAZs would be permitted to disapply the requirements of the National Curriculum in order to concentrate on the improvement of literacy and numeracy if the Forum considered this to be necessary.
  8. Schools in the EAZs were permitted also to ignore national teacher salaries agreements and to pay higher salaries in order to attract and retain good staff

However it soon became clear that the EAZs might face difficulties which the Labour Government had not envisaged. It has been argued that the dynamising effect of business involvement in the EAZs was limited because in some especially deprived areas few schools opted to join the EAZ programme because of the difficulties envisaged in raising private sponsorship; because even when financial sponsorship was forthcoming it was far more limited in amount than the government had hoped [and often in the form of gifts in kind rather than cash]; and because the actual input of business expertise into the programme was also far less than had been hoped.. The following links provide further information on the limitations of the EAZ Programme.

  1. Click here for Economic and Social Research Council on EAZs.
  2. Click here for Literacy Trust on EAZs

The Government announced in 2001 that the EAZ Programme would be discontinued and that the EAZs which were considered to have been successful would be  incorporated into the Excellence in Cities  Programme.

The Excellence in Cities Programme began in 1999 and was targeted specifically on secondary schools containing disproportionate numbers of disadvantaged pupils in Inner London, Birmingham, Manchester/Salford, Liverpool/Knowsely and Leeds/Bradford. Initially the scheme involved 23 LEAS, more than 400 secondary schools  and central government expenditure of 24M p.a. central government spending  but reached 386M p.a.  by 2005/6  and the coverage of the scheme was extended to 58 LEAS containing approximately 1/3 of English secondary schools. The scheme was extended to cover many primary schools and so-called EiC clusters and works in conjunction with newer schemes such as the Leadership Initiative Grant and the Behaviour Improvement scheme .In any evaluation of the scheme however, it should be noted that in 2000/1LEAs current Secondary school spending was around 6B p.a. so that EiC spending was  a relatively small proportion of total LEA secondary school spending

I shall attempt to describe  only the broad features of  EiC scheme as it has applied in secondary schools. In EiC- designated areas Local Education Authorities and their secondary schools enter into partnerships  designed to improve Secondary School performance using an agreed EiC strategy framework involving the following strands.

  1. The expansion of Specialist and Beacon schools [which attract increased government funding] is encouraged in the EiC areas and it is hoped that best educational practice will radiate out from the Specialist and Beacon schools to reach all other schools in the EiC Programme;
  2. Individual schools appoint learning mentors who aim to encourage relatively disaffected pupils to participate more actively in their education.
  3. Individual schools try to recognise their Gifted and Talented pupils and to provide additional opportunities for them to develop their talents.
  4. Learning Support Units are set up to provide for the education of children who are having difficulties in mainstream schools in the hope that with guidance they will be able to return relatively quickly to the mainstream.
  5. City Learning Centres are set up with extended opening hours and good IT facilities designed to serve both school-age pupils and the local community as a whole
  6.  Education Action Zones are incorporated into the EiC Programme.

However research findings on the effectiveness of the scheme have been a little contradictory. In 2005 a NFER Report on the effectiveness of the scheme between 1999-2003 concluded that at Key Stage 3 there was some evidence that EiC pupils performed better in Mathematics in comparison with non-EiC pupils of similar abilities and social characteristics but that  the EiC scheme had had no noticeable positive effects on performance in Key Stage 3 Science and English examinations . Neither had the scheme improved the overall GCSE results of EiC pupils in comparison with non EiC pupils of similar abilities and social characteristics. These particular conclusions of the NFER Report were of course the ones which attracted mass media headlines but the Report noted also that there was some evidence that the overall atmosphere in EiC schools was improving , that it was possible that the EiC scheme had not been in operation  long   enough to have a positive impact on examination results  and that in any case further preparatory work was necessary in Primary schools if newly arriving Secondary school pupils were to benefit from the EiC initiatives.

Government Education Ministers argued in response to NFER findings   that since they referred only to 1999-2003, they were already out of date by the time they were published and failed to take account of most recent government initiatives and the Government arguments were supported to some extent by the findings of a 2005 OFSTED Report  which  concluded that the effects of EiC schemes were variable depending especially upon the quality of the Head teachers and other senior staff involved in the schemes but that they had on average narrowed the performance gap at GCSE level between EiC schools and the national average attainment of 5 or more  A*-C GCSE grades from 10.4% to 7.8% between  and  2001-2004 . Click here for a link to the full OFSTED report.

The Excellence in Cities Programme was discontinued in 2006 and  another report on the Excellence in Cities Programme was published in 2007 by researchers at the London School of Economics and the Institute of Fiscal Studies. They focused especially on attainments at Key Stage 3 and on rates of school attendance and concluded that there had been positive effects on pupil achievement in Mathematics but not in English and that the effects of the EiC programme varied considerably : effects were more positive the longer the policy had been in place; stronger for disadvantaged schools but stronger also for medium to high ability pupils within disadvantaged schools. Unfortunately also the researchers concluded that it had proved difficult to improve the attainments of lower ability pupils within the disadvantaged schools. Click here for a summary of LSE/IFS Research

Click here for a detailed report [and here for a summary of the report] on Labour's Record on Education:  Policy, Spending and Outcomes 1997-2010.

Both of these sources provide a concise outline of the Every Child Matters Programme and these  Guardian items on Every Child Matters  provide some examples of the beneficial effects of the Programme.  Click here for a video on examples of ECM initiatives.

The implementation of the Every Child Matters initiative signalled a clear recognition that there is more to education than simply attainment of good examination results; that schools have an important role to play in fostering the wider well being of their pupils;  and that better inter-agency coordination is necessary to improve the life chances of at risk children. As mentioned the above Guardian items points to some successes of the Every Child Matters initiative but the tragic death of Baby P and the discovery of widespread sexual grooming of children in Rotherham points to the continued existence of extreme dangers for some children while the continued existence of entrenched social inequalities may mean the the ECM programme in isolation may be insufficient to address the difficulties that many disadvantaged children face.

I shall not pursue further the various detailed evaluations of the EAZ , EiC and Every Child Matters  Programmes but it does seem reasonable to conclude that ,although well intentioned, they have had a positive but relatively limited impact on patterns of inequality of educational opportunity  and ,as has already been suggested above, further educational reforms combined with broader social and economic reforms are clearly  necessary if equality of educational opportunity is to become a present reality rather than an unrealistic hope for the future.  

For overall data on the overall effects of Labour Education Policies on patterns of educational attainment you may again  Click here for the already mentioned  detailed report [and here for a summary of the report] on Labour's Record on Education:  Policy, Spending and Outcomes 1997-2010.

It has been noted that under the Coalition Government the term "Every Child Matters" is rarely if ever mentioned but the Coalition Government has nevertheless clamed that it continues to address the issues raised by the ECM initiative but in a different way. I shall try to provide some information on this aspect of the topic in the near future.

Extended Schools

The development of the Extended Schools programme evolved out of proposals for urban regeneration in the 1990s and gathere pace especially as a result of the Every Child Matters Programme introduced in 2004  which emphasised the need to support the full development of each individual child as well as the importance of multi-agency cooperation to promote this objective. In 2005 the then DfES published a programme which committed all schools to proving a core of extended provision. Thus by 201 all schools would be expected to provide:

These services have generally been popular with children and parents and there is evidence that disadvantaged pupils have benefited from the services. However there have also been concerns that central government funding of the Programme has been insufficient thus necessitating charges for some of the services  which poorer parents are less able to afford so that affluent children benefit disproportionately from the Programme.

It has also been noted that although the Coalition Government in 2010-11 did increase the government finances potentially available for the Programme  it did also end the ring-fencing of the programme which meant that at a time of tightening overall education budgets finances potentially available for Extension activities were likely to be diverted to other areas of school budgets.

Nevertheless  a recent detailed review of the Extended Schools Programme [see below] suggests that it certainly does have the potential to improve the life chances of all pupils including disadvantaged pupils and recommends that governments give the Programme increased priority in the future. The Following links provide some additional information. 

Click here for Guardian summary of report  on Extended schools 2016

Click here for detailed report on extended schools 2016

Click here for Guardian on Extended Schools 2009

Every Child a Reader: Every Child Counts: Every Child a Writer

Also Labour introduced schemes which were designed to provide additional help on a one to one basis for pupils who were having particular difficulties with language and mathematics. Click here for an item on these schemes introduced by the late Mike Baker. It seems clear that such schemes have the potential to improve the numeracy and literacy skills of pupils who are falling behind and a series of detailed reports suggest that the schemes have had some success in this respect. I shall not pursue this topic in any further detail here but further information can be found here and  here  for links to  detailed reports on the Every Child a Reader scheme. It remains abundantly clear that further initiatives are necessary if all children are to leave primary school reading well as is indicated , for example, in reports from Save the Children.

Click here for a detailed Report [and here for a summary of the report] on The Coalition's Record on Education: Policy, Spending and Outcomes 2010-2015

The Labour Government introduced the Academies Programme , the Education Maintenance Allowance and the Aim Higher Programme all of which were intended in various ways to improve the educational prospects of disadvantaged pupils although several theorists argued that in reality the Academies Programme would be relatively ineffective in achieving this objective.

The Coalition Government modified and extended the Academies Programme and also introduced the Free Schools Programme; it discontinued the EMA programme but replaced it with its own scheme; and it introduced the Pupils' Premium

Under the terms of the City Academies Programme, as it was originally called, City Academies were to be built in areas of urban deprivation but the programme was soon been extended to deprived suburban and rural areas and renamed as "The Academies programme." It may be seen as one significant aspect of Labour's strategy to address the adverse effects of economic and social deprivation on educational opportunity although critics have argued that this approach could actually increase inequality of educational opportunity.

The Academies Programme [ initially called the  City Academies Programme but soon  extended to deprived suburban and rural areas and renamed as "The Academies Programme] was initiated by the Labour Government in 2002 when the first three Academies were opened .The programme expanded steadily and 203 Academies were open by 2010.  These new Academies were  State Secondary schools and usually replaced schools deemed to be "failing" and located in areas of social deprivation .They operated with sponsors which could oversee the development of the Academies independently of local education authority control although between 2002 and 2010 there would be some variation in the conditions attached to sponsorship and Local Authorities would themselves be permitted to co-sponsor Academies.

Under the Coalition Government the Academies Programme has changed significantly and been extended rapidly. Labour's Sponsored Academies  were, as stated, above, schools which were deemed to be "failing" and the Coalition has introduced several similarly sponsored Academies but has also introduced so-called "Converter Academies"  which are high performing schools which are now permitted to operate independently of their Local Education Authorities but without external sponsorship and they are permitted also to themselves to sponsor schools deemed less effective in OFSTED inspections. The Coalition is also actively extending the Academies Programme to the Primary sector of education and the Coalition's Free Schools and Studio Schools are also organised as Academies.

There has been considerable controversy surrounding the advantages and disadvantages of Academies related primarily to the debate around the desirability or otherwise of the further development of the quasi-market in education. As part of this debate the examination results of Academies have been scrutinised in great detail in attempts to draw meaningful comparisons between the results of Academies and all other State non-Academies and/or those State non-Academies with characteristics deemed similar to State Academies.

The members of this committee have been advised by Professor Stephen Machin who has himself conducted important and highly respected research on the possible effects of academisation on pupil attainment some of which is summarised in my own summary document on Academies. The Committee concentrate their research primarily on the effects of sponsored academisation on pupil progress arguing that it is to soon too assess the effects of the Converter Academies.

Their key conclusion is that "Current evidence does not allow us to draw firm conclusions on whether academies are a positive force for change. According to research we have seen, it is too early to judge whether academies raise standards overall or for disadvantaged children. This is partly a matter of timing. We should be cautious about reading across from evidence about pre-2010 academies to other academies established since then."

 With regard to the Sponsored Academies and attainment  the main points included in the Report include the following.

        

As already mentioned the expansion of the Academies Government under the Coalition Government involved the expansion of Converter Academies as well as Sponsored Academies and this is likely to continue under the Conservative Government from 2015 . I think it is fair to say that the general case for Academies remains unproven but this is an issue which you will wish to discuss in more detail with your teachers.

Additional more detailed information on Academies can  be found here .

 Click here for Free Schools Q and A  and here for  a BBC item for and against free schools and here for a critical item from the New Statesman and here for BBC coverage of a Conference for supporters of Free Schools and here for Observer coverage of Labour policy in relation to untrained teachers in Free Schools and Academies. Click here for an Independent article on the variety of Free Schools and here  and here for a similar Guardian articles. Click here for information from the BBC on the enforced closure of a Free School in 2013

The setting up of Free Schools was proposed in the Conservative Manifesto of 2010 and given approval in the Academies Act of 2010 which also paved the way for existing state primary and secondary schools to become Academies. Free Schools are established as Academies independent of Local Authorities and with increased control of their curriculum, teachers' pay and conditions  and the length of the school day and terms. They may be set up by groups of parents , teachers, businesses, universities, trusts and religious and voluntary groups but are funded by central government. Note also that several Free Schools have been set up by chains which already run several Academies and that some Free Schools have transferred from the Private to the State sector.

As of March 2015 there were 408 Free Schools open and David Cameron announced that if re-elected the Conservatives hoped to open a further 500 Free Schools by 2020.. Click here for BBC item  from March 2015

The New Schools network has been set up as a charity with government funding to advise groups wishing to set up Free Schools and such groups are also very likely to contract an Education Provider to deliver the educational services necessary for the running of the schools although such education providers are not currently allowed to make a profit out of the running of the schools.

Click  here for the New Schools Network website and here for some complexities of statistics and here for further information

The Government's decision to fund the setting up or Free Schools can be seen as an important aspect of its general support for the operation of a quasi-market in education. Thus it is argued that in localities where parents or teachers or other groups believe that the local authority schools are unsatisfactory they will now have the opportunity to set up Fee Schools and that increased competition between the new Free Schools and existing local authority schools will drive up overall educational standards as has occurred , according to the Government, in Sweden where such a system is in operation. Furthermore the UK Government claim that the introduction of Free Schools will increase equality of educational opportunity for disadvantaged pupils currently being taught in under-performing local authority schools. [However, as is indicated in some of the links critics argue that the UK Government's interpretation of the Swedish experience with Free Schools is not entirely accurate.

The UK Government's case in favour of Free Schools is essentially that the operation of the quasi -market will drive up average educational standards and that disadvantaged pupils will benefit from this but the scheme has also been subjected to substantial criticisms as listed below.

1.   It is claimed that they will be set up disproportionately in affluent neighbourhoods and that they may attract "better" teachers from local authority schools

2.   They may be set up in areas where local authority schools are already undersubscribed thus wasting resources.

3.   They may attract the better performing pupils from local authority schools thereby undermining them

4.   The combined effects of points 1-3 may be that they lead gradually to the development of a two-tier education system.

5.   There is a danger that although Free School Education Providers are not currently allowed to make a profit this condition could be relaxed in the future leading to the indirect privatisation of parts of the education system.

6.   Free Schools do not need to employ qualified teachers [which to some extent negates the second part of point above.

7.   They may give too much freedom to faith based schools or fundamentalist agendas although the UK Government point out that safeguards ensure that  such schools must teach a broad and balanced curriculum and that creationism must not be taught as a valid scientific theory   

Click here for  a BBC item for and against free schools which provides further very useful information relating to the above 7 points.

 

Click on the following links for additional information  if required

Click here for BBC coverage of critical OFSTED report on Muslim Free School

Click here, here and here for BBC coverage of possible Coalition conflicts over Free Schools and Academies

Click here for full and regularly updated Guardian coverage of Free Schools [ 433 articles as of December 14th 2013]

Click here and here and here and here and here for further information from the BBC.

Click here and here for items from the Daily Telegraph .

Click here for NAS/UWT opposition to free schools

 

   

        

Family Income Weekly EMA
Up to 20,817 30
20,817- 25,521 20
25,522- 30,810 10

 

The Conservatives had denied during the 2010 General Election Campaign that they would abolish the EMA  but following the formation of the Coalition Government George Osborne announced in the 2010 Public Spending Review that the EMA would in fact be replaced by "more targeted support. The Government claimed that at 560 Million p.a. the scheme was expensive and that it was also wasteful because , according to research from the NFER 90% of students would continue their courses  without the payment.

However controversy soon arose as critics claimed that the Government had misinterpreted the results of this NFER study , a conclusion supported by the main author of the study. Click here and click here  for BBC coverage of  discussion of research surrounding the ending of the EMA .

When the Government had announced that the EMA was to be scrapped it did announce that a targeted replacement scheme would be introduced but there were nevertheless fears that about 300,000 students would lose their EMAs midway through their courses ..

In March 2011 the Coalition Government announced that  it would replace the EMA scheme [estimated cost 560M p.a.]  with a new fund for  low income earners [ estimated cost 160M p.a. ] and that 15 M of this 160M will be used to give 12,000 of the most disadvantaged 16-19 year olds bursaries of 1200 p.a.  The rest of the funds would be added to the existing "learner support fund" [estimated cost 26M p.a.]  which is given to schools, colleges and other learning providers to use at their discretion. The Government also announced details of the gradual phasing out of the EMA payments. [See BBC Q and A on EMA.]  However  click here for discussion of controversies which soon surrounded the successor  scheme.

The Aim Higher Programme provides information and activities designed to encourage children to consider the benefits of Higher Education. It is geared especially toward children whose parents have not themselves undertaken Higher Education courses. You may click here for further information about the Aim Higher programme and you can then discuss its likely effectiveness with your teachers.

Update 2011: The Coalition announced that the Aim Higher Programme would close at the end of academic year 2010-2011 and  that alternative policies would be introduced to encourage HE participation among pupils unlikely otherwise to enter  HE. Click here for further information from the Guardian. and here for information from the BBC and here and here for information from the Times Higher Educational Supplement. When the Coalition Government raised Higher Education tuition fees to a maximum of 9,00 per year it also stipulated that any Higher Education Institutions wishing to charge more than 6,000 per year must negotiate a detailed access agreement with OFFA [The Office for Fair Access] specifying how they intended to improve access for disadvantaged students.The Conservative Government has subsequently continued with this approach. See here and here for for further information. 

Click here for some further data on access to Higher Education 2015/16

Labour also introduced the  One to One Scheme whereby some children [often from relatively disadvantaged social backgrounds] who are considered to be making limited progress in the classroom setting can be provided with individual tuition to help them to catch up. The  the Coalition Government announced in 2010-11 that finances for the One to One Scheme would no longer be ring-fenced but that schools could continue to finance the scheme from within  their overall School budget. Click here for BBC coverage of the Coalition announcement.

Some information about the current organisation of the scheme can be found here      and  I am currently trying to find further information on the how the organisation of the scheme has changed under Coalition and Conservative Governments. This brief item does suggest that the initiative does actually work 

The Pupil Premium [Click here and here for two items from the BBC and here for Channel 4's Fact Check]

Click here for DfE information on current values of the Pupil Premium and procedures for overseeing the effectiveness of the Pupil Premium. In 2014-15 and 2015-16 annual Pupil Premium rates have been set at 1300 and 1320 for Primary age pupils and 935 ad 935 for Secondary age pupils. Schools may be allocated 1900 p.a. to spend on additional resources for looked after children. {See DFE publication for details].

The following table provides recent information on students achievements at GCSE level related to eligibility or ineligibility for free school meals . The  key purpose of the Pupils' Premium is to target additional school resources on looked after children and those eligible for Free School meals.

Table : Gender, Free School Meal Eligibility and Percentages of Pupils gaining 5 or more GCSE A*-C  Grades including English and Mathematics 2008/9 - 2014/15 [Source : DFE SFR 2011/2012  , 2012/13, 2013/2014 and 2014/15: GCSE Attainment and Pupil Characteristics: English State Schools]

Pupil Category

% gaining 5 or more A*-C GCSE Grades inc English and Maths in 2008/9

% gaining 5 or more A*-C GCSE Grades  inc English and Maths in 2009/10

% gaining 5 or more A*-C GCSE Grades inc English and maths in 2010/11

% gaining 5 or more A*-C GCSE Grades inc. English and Maths in 2011/12

% gaining 5 or more A*-C GCSE Grades inc. English and Maths in 2012/2013

% gaining 5 or more A*-C GCSE Grades inc English and Maths in 2013/14

2014/2015

Boys FSM

23.4

28.1

31.4

32.0

33.5

29.2 29.3

Girls  FSM

29.9

34.4

37.9

40.6

42.5

38.0 37.2

Total FSM

26.6

31.2

34.6

36.3

37.9

33.5 33.1

Boys NFSM/Unclassified

50.6

55.1

58.3

57.8

59.5

55.4 56.2

Girls NFSM/Unclassified

58.1

62.7

65.8

67.5

69.8

65.7 65.8

Total NFSM/Unclassified

54.3

58.8

62.0

62.6

64.6

60.5 60.9

All Boys

47.1

51.5

54.6

54.3

55.4

51.6 52.5

All Girls

54.4

58.9

61.9

63.6

63.5

61.7 61.8

All Pupils

50.7

55.1

58.2

58.8

59.2

56.6 57.1

Total NFSM-FSM Gap

27.7

27.6

27.4

26.3

26.7

27.0

27.8

 The above data indicate that the FSM-NFSM attainment gap did narrow slightly between 2008/9 and 2011/12 and this narrowing continued in 2012/13. However in 2013/14 , largely due to methodological changes in the calculation of the percentages of pupils who had attained 5 or more A*-C GCSE pass grades including English and Maths , the overall percentage of pupils reaching this standard actually fell and also  2013/14 the FSM-NFSM attainment gap actually widened . In 2014/15 there was a slight increase in the overall percentage  of pupils attaining 5 or more A*-C GCSE pass grades but the attainment % of FSM pupils actually fell and  the NFSM/Unclassified pupil- - FSM pupil gap actually increased lwhich does suggest that the impact of the Pupil Premium must not be overstated. However it is also the case that the NFSM/Unclassified pupil- FSM pupil gap in percentages entering andachieving the EBacc did fall slightly between 2013/14 and 2014/15.

Activity

1. Using  information in the above table  on Gender, Free School Meal Eligibility and Educational Attainment answer the following questions.

  • What percentage of all boys gained 5 or more A*-C GCSE grades including English and Maths in 2014/15?
  • What percentage of all girls gained 5 or more A*-C GCSE grades including English and Maths in 2014/15?
  • What percentages of boys eligible for FSM and ineligible for FSM/unclassified  gained 5 or more A*-C GCSE grades including English and Maths in 2014/15?

         What percentages of girls eligible for FSM and ineligible for FSM/Unclassified  gained 5 or more A*-C grades including English and Maths in 2014/15?

2. Which factor seems to be the more significant influence on educational achievement :  Gender or Free School Meal Eligibility?

3. Which factor seems to be the more significant influence on educational achievement: gender or social class?

Further Information

         The following three links on the Pupil Premium suggest that any increase in overall school finances provided via the Pupil Premium will to some extent be offset by the effects of reductions in funding elsewhere in the school budget. Furthermore it is suggested that although many schools are using the monies provided via the Pupil premium to target additional resources on disadvantaged pupils a sizeable percentage of schools are not doing so. [Click here and here for two items from the BBC and here for Channel 4's Fact Check]

         However click here for very useful recent Independent article suggesting that the Coalition are very committed to improve the effectiveness of the Pupil premium and click here for a recent [July 2nd 2013] Guardian article

         Click here and here for additional information from the BBC on the Pupil Premium and here for an Independent article and here for Guardian coverage of a Demos assessment

Both Conservative and perhaps especially Liberal Democratic spokespersons argue that the Pupil Premium should improve the educational opportunities of the poor and promote upward social mobility. Given the scale of the educational disadvantages faced by many such pupils many analysts argue that any improvement in equality of educational opportunity will be decidedly limited. We can certainly hope but should not expect too much.

[Although I concentrate here only on the question of tuition fees there are other very significant issues affecting the future of Higher education as is indicated in this Guardian article on the future of the Humanities in Higher Education]

In December 2010 the UK Parliament passed the Coalition legislation which provided for the increase in Higher Education tuition fees in English institutions to  a maximum of 9000 p.a.  with effect from September 2012 . The precise details of the tuition fees scheme are quite complex and you may  click here  for a Q and A on Tuition Fees and University Funding from the BBC for further detailed information. Notice especially that the higher tuition fees would apply  also to English students studying at all UK Higher Education Institutions but not to N. Irish , Scottish and Welsh students studying at N .Irish, Scottish and Welsh Higher Education institutions who would however pay the higher fees if they enrolled at English Higher Education institutions. Welsh students  at English HE institutions would receive grants to cover the difference between English and Welsh tuition fees.

Click here for a Parliamentary brief providing useful summary information

Students would receive loans to cover the costs of their tuition fees. They would also receive a combination of grants and loans to help to cover their maintenance cost where the relative size of the grants and loans would depend upon parental income. Also universities were to offer a mixture of fee waivers and bursaries to help to reduce the financial hardships experienced by relatively socially disadvantaged students. It was recognised, however, that combined maintenance grants and loans would not be sufficient to cover full maintenance costs which meant that many students would need to work to supplement their grants/loans  and /or take out additional private loans.

Consequently assuming tuition fees of 9,000 p.a. and maintenance loans which varied between 5,500 p.a. and 3,575 p.a. students could well leave university with debts to the government of more than 40,000p.a. on which interest would be charged. Once new graduates were in paid employment they were to contribute 9% of any gross income above 21,000 p.a. toward repayment of their loan. Thus for example a new graduate earning 30,000 p.a. would contribute about 16 per week to loan repayment.

It was widely believed that as a result of the increase in tuition fees there would be a significant fall in entrance to higher education and that the decline would be especially large among disadvantaged students. In the event university entrance initially increased as many students opted not to take a gap year but to enter university as early as possible in order to avoid one year of higher tuition fees. After that the number of entrants did indeed decline but recovered and by 2015 exceeded the pre-fees increase entry levels. The rates of entry of students who had been eligible for free school meals actually increased faster than the rate of Non -FSM pupils but , unsurprisingly, there is still a substantial entry gap between students eligible and ineligible for free school meals  especially in relation to entry into higher status universities. And even though entry rates have recovered it may be that in the absence of the higher tuition feees entry rates would have increased much more substantially. Click here for further information on the effects of higher tuition fees 

 

Compensatory Education and the Conservative Government 2015-

When Theresa May replaced David Cameron as Prime Minister she made speeches in which she emphasised here objective to ensure that the UK would become a "truly meritocratic society" and subsequently a "shared society" in which all citizens would eventually have equal opportunities to succeed. Mrs May and her supporters are obviously hopeful that the UK exit from the EU combined with effective domestic economic policies will generate increased demand for skilled, well educated workers  and thereby improve workers' living standards. . It is possible also that Mrs May's references  to the "shared society" may suggest that taxation and social policies may be used  to reduce the high level of wealth and income inequality which have persisted in the UK since the 1980s and that any such reductions in inequality might  to some extent at least promote increased social mobility for disadvantaged students. In this optimistic scenario it is hoped also that the continued expansion of the academies and free schools programmes, the future introduction of more grammar schools, the improvement in vocational education, the continuation of the pupil's premium and the setting up of 12 new "Opportunity Areas"  will operate in an overall positive economic environment in which increased social mobility is more likely.

However in an alternative, less optimistic scenario it may be that both Brexit and overall Conservative domestic policies  will fail to promote the growth of highly skilled, well paid employment which is a prerequisite for social mobility. In recent years the growth of graduate level employment opportunities has lagged behind the increased number of graduates thus obliging many of them to accept non -graduate  employment. This ,combined with the long term decline in manufacturing employment,  has worsened the employment prospects for non-graduates as particularly those  with the lowest qualifications are often forced into insecure, precarious., low paid work. It is possible also that , notwithstanding the rhetoric of the "shared society",  Conservative economic and social policies will fail to mitigate the current high levels of economic inequality  which further reduce the prospects of social mobility.

Critics have claimed also that current Conservative educational policies will have little positive impact. It has long been argued that the emphasis on the quasi-marketisation of education has increased rather than reduced inequality of educational opportunity; that increasing the number of grammar schools  is unlikely to promote increased social mobility; that vocational educational policies have been flawed for years and that this situation is unlikely to improve under the current Conservative Government; and that the pupils premium , although praiseworthy, has had limited effects on the attainment gaps between pupils eligible and ineligible for free school meals.

In this scenario the impact of the  Opportunity Areas Programme  may well be limited and it should be noted in any case that although there are indeed specific areas in the UK where prospects for social mobility are particularly  low , approximately 75% of disadvantaged pupils  live in such designated areas which means that further policies are required to address social and economic disadvantages, which, far from being geographically concentrated, are widely dispersed throughout the UK.

 Basil Bernstein wrote in the 1970s that "Education cannot compensate for society" and  trend data on the gaps in attainment between pupils eligible and ineligible for free school meals suggest that progress in reducing these gaps  under recent Labour and Coalition Governments has been limited. Time will tell whether this  will apply also to the rate of progress under the current  Conservative Government.

 

The following links provide additional information on Opportunity Areas and  on aspects of social mobility in general

Click here for Social Mobility Opportunity Areas [BBC]

Click here for DFE Press Release on Opportunity Areas

Click here and here for Schools Week articles on Opportunity Areas

Click here for Educationdatalab article on Opportunity Areas

Click here for TES article on announcement of 6 new Opportunity Areas

Click here for TES article and here  for a detailed research report on Setting and Social Mobility

Click here for Guardian Coverage of recent Social Mobility Commission Report.

Click here for The New Social Mobility : Dr Geoff Payne

Click here for detailed academic article by Stephen Gorard

Click here for detailed academic  article by J. Anders and  G.Whitty

 

 

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