The COVID crisis has highlighted the call for a ‚’levelling up‚’in society. Secondary education is a good candidate for reform.
In her last manifesto, Mrs May stressed her determination to strengthen fairness, equality and opportunities for all in our education system, though these are not necessarily compatible.
Imagine all secondary pupils of one year group in the country gathered into a square. Draw three parallel lines across horizontally, to form four different sized groupings. In tier one would appear pupils from the private sector with grammar schools and a few other state schools. These pupils will ahave access to the Russell universities, other first class institutions and professional training where influence and connections are important, in fair and equal competition. In tier two, pupils from the most successful state schools in academic achievement, will have limited access to the opportunities listed above, but the second tier of further education establishments will be available to them and these will be available fairly across the tier. In tier three, a limited choice of those opportunities and a range of careers through apprenticeships and ‚’ on the job‚’ training will be the basis of choice. Pupils in tier four are more likely to seek work in the service industries, and of course are more likely to face exclusion. One could trace a similar discrepancy from tier to tier in terms of facilities and subject choice.
There is equality of opportunity in education and it is more fluid than the grid suggests but in the main it runs horizontally not up and down our social strata.