This isn’t how it works Honey

It might sound dramatic, but I have often likened my experience of hearing about how black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) students do worse than their white peers at university to the five stages of grief.

There was the initial shock and denial that there could be any discrepancy between my white student peers and myself in achieving a first or upper 2:1 class degree. Surely this gap would vanish if entry requirements, subjects, and socio-economic backgrounds were all accounted for?

When I saw that a 13% gap persisted even after other factors were controlled for, I felt frustration and anger. I could not imagine how universities had allowed this to happen. As BAME students, we expect that if we put in the hard work, we should get good grades.

There comes a point in every education where hard work isn’t the thing any more. There really is a stage at which aptitude, innate intelligence, skill, perhaps, is what is being tested.

Different systems might have this at different stages, from the whining schoolboy having to do Greek to the post-doc student having to actually some up with some new knowledge. But we really are trying – the point of the system being – to sort between those who simply work hard at it and those who are good at it.

This is, of course, nothing to do with BAME. Uncovering talent is uncovering talent irrespective of culture, nationality and melanin content. But to fail to grasp that it ain’t about studiousness at some point in the process is to have failed to grasp the point of the system itself.

They’ve missed a bit here

Black and Asian students are more than twice as likely to go to university than their white counterparts, new data has revealed.

In the first survey of its kind research published by the Office for Students (OfS) today analysed each university and college’s student intake, dropout rates, degree attainment and progression to further study or employment for different groups of students over the last five years.

It found that among the nation’s most deprived students, those who were black, Asian and mixed race were far more likely to attend full-time university courses or apprenticeships than their white counterparts in the last five years.

Blacks and Asians are more likely to be second generation immigrants. First generation immigrants often do see education as the route to success for their children. Those tales of Ugandan Asians rocking up with nothing, running the corner shop all hours and then ending up with all kiddies either doctors or accountants – stereotypes usually do have some basis in reality.

So, OK, entirely believable numbers. But there’s something I suspect is being missed. “Black” isn’t really a useful grouping in the UK. The past experiences of Black African and Afro Caribbeans are too different for that. Ad I’d e very surprised indeed if this high uni attendance happened among Afro Cs.

Ah, a visiting fellowship

Cambridge University has rescinded its offer of a visiting fellowship to controversial academic Jordan Peterson, who refuses to refer to transgender people by their chosen pronouns, after outcry from faculty and students.

This is like a visiting professorship but perhaps a tad grander? Or less so?

Come give a couple of lectures, have dinner, goodbye sorta thing? Like the LSE gave Naomi Klein?

Not sure about this to be honest

Singing patriotic songs in assemblies makes teenagers feel proud to be British, a headteacher of a leading inner city school has said.

Katharine Birbalsingh said singing the songs twice a week instilled “resilience” and a connection to the UK among her pupils, the vast majority of whom are from a black or ethnic minority background.

Ms Birbalsingh’s students at Michaela Community School in Brent, north London sing the National Anthem, I Vow To Thee My Country or Jerusalem twice a week.

Thing is, Birbalsingh’s been right about so much in education that it seems picky, pendantic even, to be questioning such details….

You will be assimilated….

Compulsory lessons to teach children from the age of five about gay and trans relationships will be outlined in guidance to head teachers to be published tomorrow.

The controversial new statutory guidance will also spell out for the first time the end of parents’ right to opt their children out of sex and relationships education classes in secondary school.

….into the Borg.

They do seem to be missing the bit about a liberal society being a plural one….

This seems fair enough

Teaching children coding is a waste of time, the OECD’s education chief has said, as he predicts the skill will soon be obsolete.

Andreas Schleicher, director of education and skills at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, said that the skill is merely “a technique of our times” and will become irrelevant in the future.

“Five hundred years ago we might have thought about pen literacy,” Mr Schleicher said. “In a way coding is just one technique of our times. And I think it would be a bad mistake to have that tool become ingrained.

“You teach it to three-year-olds and by the time they graduate they will ask you ‘Remind me what was coding’. That tool will be outdated very soon.”

Comparing it to trigonometry, he said: “We are going to get into the same dilemma. I think is very important that we strike a better balance about those kinds of things.

“For example, I would be much more inclined to teach data science or computational thinking than to teach a very specific technique of today.”

It’s important to distinguish between teaching the concepts of something and the techniques. Boyle’s Law is important, being able to fiddle around with an ICE engine isn’t a skill someone born today is likely to need. No, not because electric, but because computerisation.

The concept of coding, sure, but the techniques of javascript? I tend to think that’s all going to go the way of car engines in fact. Time was when any driver had to know how to maintain at the very least. Nowadays, just turn it on and drive. It’s a black box that works. Computers are getting there. There’s this group over here, engineers, who code. Then 99.9% of the world who don’t.

At which point not worth teaching the details of what’s not used to all, is it?

We need another number here

At half of England’s universities, fewer than 5% of students are classified as being from disadvantaged white backgrounds, according to a new report from the National Education Opportunities Network (Neon). This fact is bluntly stated as being a problem in the introduction of the report rather than the conclusion, but it is worth looking beyond these headline figures. What do reports like this really tell us?

Actually, the number tells us nothing at all without one more such number. What’s the portion of the age cohort that is disadvantaged white?

Guess what’s the one number we’re not told?

Isn’t this discrimination?

Last week, universities in England were preparing reports on how they have diversified their student populations. These reports will be submitted to the director of fair access at the Office for Students. My university, King’s College London, will report, happily, that our undergraduate intake is now 77% state school, more than 52% ethnic minority and has the fastest growing population of low-income students in the Russell Group.

52% ethnic minority is rather higher than the UK average. Even among the age cohort in London. So, why this illegal – for such is illegal – discrimination?

Hmm, what’s that? But it’s to make u for the past or summat? But English law doesn’t work that way – illegal discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity is illegal. And yes, given the way peeps talk about Oxbridge all we do need is those numbers showing out of proportion with the target population….

Selective school does good job

London state school secures 41 Oxbridge offers

We can write Polly’s article for her now, can’t we?

The point though being:

The sixth form, which is oversubscribed, annually accepts 300 students, who are interviewed before being offered a place.

Selective school has good results.


We are equal opportunity snarkists around here

There are many plans for making the world better. Some of them stemming even from lived experience of the real world.

Maybe we should go back to the good old days with less than 5% of the cohort going to university. But I’m not a reactionary, oh no. I wouldn’t insist on Latin for admission. I would insist on a decent standard in maths though, and at least one modern language that is not the applicant’s mother tongue.

A spot of science too? One argument would say “settle for physics”. Another argument would say that a bright boy – or girl – could teach himself much of physics from books, but to learn some chemistry you really need to do some lab, therefore demand chemistry for admissions. A finely-balanced argument I’d say. Views sought on biology.

That one might betray, ever such a tad, some of that experience. Say, the lived wisdom of having taught chemistry at a very selective university which used to demand Latin as an entry requirement?

I wouldn’t want to say myself….

Didn’t think Downside would make the list

Using published figures, among the schools and colleges with the highest number of Oxbridge admissions are:

Westminster School, London (independent) – an average of 70-80 pupils each year have been offered places at Oxford and Cambridge in the last five years, the school says
Eton College, Berkshire (independent) – in 2014, 82 students were accepted to Oxbridge. The following year 68 were accepted
Hills Road Sixth Form College, Cambridge (state sixth form college) – an average 60 pupils receive Oxbridge offers, the school says
St Paul’s School, London (independent) – 53 students went to Oxbridge in 2016 and 41 in 2015
Peter Symonds College, Hampshire (state sixth form college) – an average of 48 students received offers from Oxbridge over the past three years
St Paul’s Girls’ School, London (independent) – an average of 45 students went to Oxbridge each year between 2015 and 2017
King’s College School, London (independent) – sent 48 students to Oxbridge in 2017
Magdalen College School, Oxford (independent) – 44 students went to Oxbridge in 2018

Anti-Catholic bias I call that.

And what a surprise to see that the children of Oxbridge academics get into Oxbridge?

For Owen Jones – Any And Every Target Will Be Manipulated

Bless the cute cotton socks of the dear little boy. He’s still not grasped why that idea of a planned economy won’t work:

The educational segregation of children according to the bank balances of their parents – private education – needs to be abolished. But in the interim, it has always struck me that the only solution is to automatically enrol the best performing students from state school, taking class into account. If you grow up in a deprived ex-mining community and get two As and two Bs at A-level, you have outperformed someone at Harrow or Eton from a family of millionaires who gets four As. And until Oxbridge does this, it needs to stop pretending it represents Britain’s academic elite: because it doesn’t.

You’ve not got firm targets, written in stone. Within milliseconds they will be gamed. As with even the current reports that some are taken out of nice and private schools to be finished off at sixth form colleges so as to gain those deprivation points for their Oxbridge entry. Not that it woks all that well given the discretion the interviewers have these days…..but take away the discretion and it would.

It doesn’t matter what the system is

Universities should consider changing the system of traditional degree classifications in order to ease mental pressure on students, psychologists have suggested.

The expectation to achieve at least a 2.1 is driving up anxiety levels and deprives most students of the opportunity to differentiate their achievement from those of their peers, according to preliminary research.

Psychologists at King’s College London said the American system of degree transcripts may be less stressful for undergraduates because it provides a more personal and nuanced account of how a student performed.

Dr Nicola Byrom, who has conducted consultations with students, said there was a “particular issue” with the ubiquity of 2.1s.

“The way our UK grading system at universities is structured does potentially create stress,” she said “Most people get a 2.1, therefore getting a 2.2 is seen by the majority of students as absolutely terrible and yet that’s a fantastic achievement for many students.

“And there’s a huge pressure on students to feel they have to get a first otherwise they’ve just got a 2.1.”

Only that we all understand what the system is.

Bit conservative, isn’t it?

Children are less inquisitive and ask fewer questions because their minds have been dulled by iPads before they even enter primary school, according to the head of Britain’s biggest head teachers’ association.

Andrew Mellor, the president of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), said children were coming into school as passive rather than active learners because parents were using iPads as “soothers” to keep them quiet.

The surrounding world and technology have changed. People now absorb and access information in different ways.

But the teachers are insisting we must all use the old ways? How Tory!

What excellent news

Some universities may be pushed to the brink of insolvency after the most cut-throat A-level student recruitment round vice-chancellors can remember, experts are warning.

This is one of the things markets do for us. Push shite suppliers out of he market through bankruptcy.

Because all university admissions staff are idiots, right?

Following last week’s GCSE results, it should surely be of concern to policy makers that almost all the schools announcing record scores are independent schools that in fact entered hardly any of their pupils for GCSEs. Instead, those schools stuck with international GCSEs, many of which still include the discredited coursework and are entirely unregulated by the standards watchdog, Ofqual.

I hope universities will take care to discriminate carefully in two years’ time between pupils who sat the new tough GCSEs — including youngsters in every state school — and those who did not.
Richard Cairns, Headmaster, Brighton College