Being Vile About the Sutton Trust Report

So we had the Sutton Trust report.

Parental background continues to exert a very significant influence on the academic
progress of children:
o Those from the poorest fifth of households but in the brightest group at age three
drop from the 88th percentile on cognitive tests at age three to the 65th percentile
at age five. Those from the richest households who are least able at age three
move up from the 15th percentile to the 45th percentile by age five.
o If this trend were to continue, the children from affluent backgrounds who are
doing poorly at age three would be likely to overtake the poorer but initially bright
children in test scores by age seven.
o Inequalities in degree acquisition meanwhile persist across different income
groups. While 44 per cent of young people from the richest 20 per cent of
households acquired a degree in 2002, only 10 per cent from the poorest 20 per
cent of households did so.

But we\’ve also got this:

The problem with this famous Eyferth study, which formed the backbone of Flynn\’s Race, IQ, and Jensen, is that it was a study of children. So? After Flynn wrote this book, behavioral geneticists gradually made the amazing discovery that the heritability of IQ (and many other traits) sharply rises as children grow up, while family effects on IQ fade out.

Now I have no idea whether that last is in fact true, but if it is it provides us with a way of interpreting the Sutton Trust\’s results. A way that will be most un politically correct. Children of the poor do badly in the educational system because they are dim. That dimness being a genetic problem, one which becomes apparent as they age.

It is, in fact, the exact opposite of the Trust\’s thrust. It isn\’t that a bad environment hampers the children of the poor, it\’s that we only find out about their dimness as they grow older.

No, I don\’t think I like that conclusion either but what if it is actually true?

What if, say, the educational mobility of the 50s through 70s was a one off event? That there were those with the brains but not the opportunity to rise, that once the opportunity arose they did in fact rise but that there\’s no more such to come?

All depends rather on the heritability of IQ I guess and that\’s something that creates a firestorm whenever it\’s mentioned.

As I say, I\’m not sure I like that conclusion but I\’m absolutely certain that it will enrage all of the right people.

Correlation and Causation

One would have to have a heart of stone not to laugh here:

Despite billions being invested in education, children born in deprived homes are no more likely to escape the poverty trap than they were 30 years ago, it is claimed.

That isn\’t laughing material, to be sure, but this is:

Comparing a series of research papers carried out over the past 50 years, it found a sharp fall in social mobility between 1958 and 1970.

Everyone in the debate agrees that it is education which creates even the possibility of the desired social mobility. The Grammar School/Secondary Modern system was progressively scrapped from the 50s to the 70s in favour of the Comprehensive system. This, it was insisted, would lead to greater social mobility.

In fact, social mobility fell, not rose.

Correlation or Causation?

Your call.

Faith Schools

Yes, I know the arguments about indoctrination on the taxpayers\’ shilling but:

The academic superiority of faith schools was underlined today as they dominated top positions in new league tables for 11-year-olds.

Two thirds of the 250 primaries in England achieving "perfect" test results were Church of England, Roman Catholic or Jewish schools.

Despite making up just a third of schools nationally, faith schools increased their hold on the top places from 44 per cent two years ago to 66 per cent in 2007. Last night, they hailed the results as a testament to good teaching and discipline.

Is it possible that at least some of the hatred from people like Polly T is that they actually do teach pupils better ? Thus showing up the rest of the comprehensive system?

Education System Problems

Something of an indicment of the current way of doing things, don\’t you think?

Sex education lessons are so poor that most teenagers have no idea about sexually transmitted diseases or pregnancy, according to new research published today.

I understand about the problems with teaching 20% of them to read: it\’s not, after all, a natural activity. \’Ritin\’ is also a bit odd.

But you\’ve got to have a really bad education system if you can\’t teach teenagers to fuck properly.

Simple Answer

A quarter of graduates do not have full-time jobs more than three years after getting their degrees, according to government figures.

The Higher Education Statistics Agency, which examined the career progression of 24,000 people, also found that 20 per cent of those who were employed were not working in graduate occupations.

So too many are getting a degree then.

Absolutely Agreed Polly!

It\’s time to end faith and grammar schools that damage children\’s chances and limit most parents\’ choices.

It is absolutely the time to remove the limits on most parent\’s choices. Of course, we shouldn\’t do that by the method you advocate, which is that pupils are assigned to a school, rather, we should work the other way around. We should maximise parents\’ choices by slapping a voucher on the back of every kid and letting parents choose as they wish.

As they do in Sweden.

Academic Selection

Yes, I understand Labour\’s (perhaps "the left\’s" is better) hatred of private schools, I can even get my head around the dislike of Grammars (a single competetive exam at 11 years old might not be the very best way of predicting future academic success, for example) but this is astonishing:

However, the Department for Children, Schools and Families insisted that grammar schools left poor children behind. "The Government has never been in favour of academic selection and never will be," said a spokesman.

That\’s vastly stronger and as such near insane. Not even selection within schools? A math prodigy is to be taught the same syllabus as someone who will never be more than marginally numerate? If we are to have no academic selection at all then I guess that means the end of special needs education, doesn\’t it? The end of schools specialising in the arts? Stage schools and the like?

Am I reading too much into that one phrase or are they really that barkingly egalitarian?

Ballotting on Grammar Schools

Something that slightly puzzles me here:

Labour is set to reignite the political row over selective education by making it easier for disaffected parents to force the closure of their local grammar schools.

Jim Knight, the schools minister, has instructed officials to look at how to simplify the balloting process by which schools can be forced to drop selection under a 1998 law.

Why is there no mention of being able to have a ballot to enforce selection? Is it simply because the article doesn\’t mention it? Or is it not actually possible to ask for such a ballot. And if the latter, why not?

Teacher Training Days

So surprising, eh?

Sending children home from school to allow teachers to train is a waste of time, a leading academic says.

Pupils in England lose about a week of schooling every year as staff take "inset" days to brush up on the latest teaching techniques and Government reforms.

But research claims there is "depressingly little evidence" that it has any effect on teaching standards.

So teaching teachers the latest trendy educational nonsense doesn\’t improve teaching. Fancy that!

Joined up Government

That is, I believe, what we were promised a decade ago, isn\’t it? So the first lines of two stories in The Telegraph today:

Private schools could lose their multi-million pound tax-breaks unless they help state-educated pupils get into universities such as Oxford and Cambridge, it was disclosed yesterday.

The number of failing schools has soared by almost a fifth this year, new figures showed yesterday.

None of those failing schools, as far as I can see, are in the private sector.

So, is it joined up thinking to remove subsidy friom what works and to spend more on what does not?