GCSE and AS – Educational achievement update

A new report from the CentreForum think tanks has found that:

  1. The gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers remains significant, with 4 out of 5 disadvantaged pupils failing to achieve a world-class standard at secondary and more than half not reaching our primary benchmark.
  2. The relative performance of White British pupils falls as they progress through school. In the Early Years, White British children are among the highest achievers but, by the time they finish secondary school, they fall ten places in the rankings to just below average.

Read on: http://centreforum.org/publications/education-in-england-annual-report-2016/



It always seems to be that when there is social unrest in the UK, people are quick to blame ´racial´factors, unsurprisingly the usual suspects of The Daily Mail and Telegraph offered a number of articles with racial overtones;

‘The chavs have become black – the whites have become black’: Anger as historian Starkey blames ‘fashionable gangster culture’ for riots

Racial tensions reach boiling point in Birmingham as vigilantes arm themselves with baseball bats after deaths of three young Muslims   http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2024788/Birmingham-riots-Vigilantes-arm-baseball-bats-deaths-3-Muslims.html#ixzz1Ux9B6Dxb

These riots were about race, why ignore the fact? http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/katharinebirbalsingh/100099830/these-riots-were-about-race-why-ignore-the-fact/


More personally, I found there to be covert and overt racial references on my Facebook feed (not from friends I hasten to add) – this was by far the most shocking;

Gareth: “Why don’t we just get some American police over as I’m sure they will do what they do best and just shot anyone that doesn’t stop.. I don’t have a problem with that and I’m sure it will all stop very soon after that”

Robert; ” Ha Ha…’Trigger Trigger Shoot that N1ggar'”

Just like the riots in the 1980s, ‘race’ is clearly seen by some sections of society as a key reason for these examples of social unrest, yet how true is this?

Indeed, race had some part to play in the initial protests as Mark Duggan was a black British man who was shot by police, hence, it seems fair to say that many of the community would have felt that Duggan was a victim of racial typecasting especially given the lack of evidence that he shot at the police. Yet, just because there is a racial element, this does not make this a “race riot” – this expression connotes the idea of one ethnic minority rioting against the police or another race – yet ´this does not seem to be the case. Although, likely to have a liberal bias, The Guardian´s Paul Lewis stated,

“The make-up of the rioters was racially mixed. Most were men or boys, some apparently as young as 10.

But families and other local residents representative of the area – black, Asian and white, including some from Tottenham’s Hasidic Jewish community – also gathered to watch and jeer at police.” http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/aug/07/tottenham-riots-peaceful-protest

What´s more, it is clear from the myriad of footage of the riots elsewhere in England showed a multicultural set of deviants – so much so, that it really makes it hard for the right wing to frame these riots as race riots – take a trawl through Google images and this proves the case…indeed, most of the Enfield and Eltham rioters were white for example…so although, there it is clear that ethnic minorities have been involved in both attacking and protecting communities, it is not prevailing cause as Rob Berkeley, director of the Runnymede Trust, which researches issues of race and equality claims:

“…Race is clearly playing a part in the backdrop to these riots, and where relationships are already bad I suspect it has made it worse. But I fear that people will rush to judgment, to the suggestion that this is all to do with black youths, for instance. From one side we hear that it’s about feral youth, and from the others its all about inequality. Until we hear the voices of the people involved – and at the moment we are not – it’s very difficult to say.”

Yet, it is clear that the right wing are hoping to exploit the race card, according to the Guardian; “the BNP says it will hold its “biggest ever day of action” this weekend and has published a leaflet titled: Looter beware: British defenders protect this area. The EDL claims its supporters are organising across the country and will provide “a strong physical presence, and discourage troublemakers from gathering in our town and city centres”.

I will continue to look out for any good debate on the issue…


HBO’s drama series, ‘The Wire’ is so fantastic that Sociology degree students are studying it at the University of York and Harvard, and I for one am not surprised. Not only is the show incredibly entertaining and engrossing, it is also  the most well observed and multi dimensional pieces of drama I have seen.

Perhaps part of the reason for the shows brilliance is the leg work that journalist David Simon put into researching the plethora of issues to do with crime and policing; Simon, the show’s creator spent a year with the Baltimore police force (resulting in the book, Homicide’ and further time on ‘the corner’ with the drug pushers (resulting in the TV mini series, The Corner). Former police officer and school teacher, Ed Burns also contributed to the writing, thus providing further narrative authority.

Furthermore, in order to heighten the verisimilitude further, Simon chose to use alot of non professional actors in minor roles, slang is so prevalent sometimes it is hard to understand and the narrative does not often fall prey to stereotype or cliche. It is novelistic in structure and the multi layered narrative is refreshing for viewers who wish to invest a little bit of brain power when consuming media texts.

It is such a great show for sociology students, it investigates crime, poverty, policing, racism, drug use, education, corruption, political intrigue, social class, ethnicity, sexuality, the ethics of journalism…the list goes on…

It does take a few episodes to get to grips with, but I assure you, like Barack Obama (whose favourite character is said to be a gay stick up man called Omar) you will be well and truly hooked.

Critical essay: http://york.academia.edu/RowlandAtkinson/Papers/272640/Non_Text-Based_Sociology_The_Wire_and_Its_Relationship_to_Public_Sociology_and_Progress

University modules: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/sociology-degree-students-to-study-the-wire-1974850.html


Waiting for Superman

Filmmaker Davis Guggenheim explores the US education system and presents a very depressing representation. Whilst the analysis at times is simplistic (“…until the 1970s the U.S had the best education system…”) and the narrative one sided, without doubt, Guggenheim presents a persuasive case for educational change. For example. he argues that there are over 2,000 ‘faliure factories’ in the USA, that in some high schools the drop out rate is 30%, an incredible amount. Interestingly, teachers in the U.S are heavily protected by unions and it is therefore very hard to dismiss failing teachers who enjoy the protection of tenure. Moreover, he highlights the cost of imprisonment in relation to education – education is cheaper. The ‘Knowledge is Power’ (KIP) programme appears to help overcome material and cultural deprivation and perhaps proves the sytem can overcome it’s shortcomings (http://www.kipp.org/). Amusingly, despite ranking 25th in Maths and 21st in Science (out of 30 developed countries) and 8th out of 8 for Maths in another study (DECO 2003) , Americans rank first in confidence!

Although of course the US is a very different society to the UK, there are definitely similarites between the two; many of the issues remain the same – overcrowded prisons, undereducated inmates, urban ‘sink schools’, an over representation of certain ethnic groups ‘failing’ in education and the lotttery of education.

Yet, I feel that there is a tendency to scapegoat teachers and lot of dubious statistics are used to back up his arguments. Guggenheim presents a reductionist argument claiming that teachers are the key determining  factor on a childs educational success. This of course is a very limited  premise – surely material and cultural deprivation are hugely important factors too! Tamin Ansary’s article “The Myth of America’s Failing Schools very much attacks Guggenheim’s claims:” http://www.infotk.com/digest/TeachersHelper/The%20Myth%20of%20America’s%20Failing%20Schools.htm

Yet, despite its shortcomings, it a very decent watch and really encourages us to reflect upon common sensical ideas about education systems.