How best to educate ‘poor, bright kids’?


I included in my last post, on the selection green paper, a set of seven draft principles to inform national policy on educating high-attaining learners from disadvantaged backgrounds.

I wanted to lay out a framework that would challenge the thinking of proponents and opponents of selective education alike, to show how it might be possible to develop a middle way.

I invited readers to reflect on my draft – to consider what they would add, remove or adjust – and to justify those amendments.

Here are my seven suggested principles:

  • All learners have an equal right to an education that meets their needs, regardless of background and prior attainment. No learner should be denied access to suitable learning opportunities tailored to their needs.
  • Pursuing the twin priorities of raising standards and closing advantaged-disadvantaged attainment gaps means giving relatively greater priority and dedicating relatively more resources to learners from disadvantaged backgrounds, regardless of prior attainment.
  • There is no equivalent justification for prioritising or disproportionately resourcing low attainers over high attainers, or vice versa. A disadvantaged high attainer should attract more priority and more resources than an advantaged low attainer.
  • Attainment gaps must not be closed by holding back improvement amongst learners from advantaged backgrounds. Both advantaged and disadvantaged learners should continue to improve, the latter at a relatively faster rate.
  • Impact will be maximised through the efficient use of scarce resources. That means minimising deadweight costs, investing in standards over structures so capital costs are avoided and, wherever feasible, targeting support at the learners rather than their schools.
  • Education tailored to background and prior attainment is not always most efficiently and effectively provided through universally inclusive learning opportunities (whether or not provided in the same institution). Some opportunities will be restricted to the subsets of learners most likely to benefit. This requires selection in some form.
  • Selection operates at many different levels and in many different contexts, including between-school, within-school and within-class selection. None is inherently superior to the others and they may operate independently or in combination. Key considerations when establishing the optimal pattern of selection include need, flexibility, capacity, impact and efficiency.

Your comments and suggestions are most welcome – or you can read my full post here.



September 2016

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