Our debates and discussions forum hosted by Jeremy Vine looked at some of the most pressing issues in education today; here, we recap the discussions on how educators can help to bridge the equality gap.
How do you close the gap between poorer families and those who are more well off? Many of our panel agreed that we are living in an unequal society and schools should not be solely responsible for bridging that gap. However, as a universal public service that all children use at the heart of any community, schools – as well as parents and governors - must accept a partial responsibility for making education fairer.
Can an iPad close the equality gap? One of our panellists suggested that not on its own, and not necessarily an iPad, but technology can certainly play a part in equalising education. Many children from poorer backgrounds have access to quite sophisticated technology, but they don’t use it for learning. This goes back to our previous blog about teaching children how to distinguish between quality content that is of genuine learning value, and content which has no value whatsoever.
If we can find ways of supporting these children in using their technology for learning at home, then we could make a real impact. But it’s also important that teachers keep in mind their individual family circumstances, and the support they would get (or lack of support) at home for learning – think about what you can do to help families to better support their children with this.
The free school meal graph showing attainment levels indicates that the gap is around 23%, but is inequality simply a fact of life in our society? One of our panellists pointed out that the middle classes of England are exceptionally skilled at identifying and grasping opportunities for their children, and we shouldn’t criticise them for wanting to do better for their kids; indeed, we’d have more luck in his country if every parent cared as much about their kids’ future.
But the fact is that money makes it easier to do those things, and the gap is simply not narrowing quickly enough, particularly when you look at the fact that this isn’t the case in countries like Australia or Germany or Holland. It remains the single biggest issue in UK education and one all teachers face.
So what positive steps can educators can take to make education fair for all? The general consensus from our panel was that the only way to effectively achieve this is to apply what we already know more reliably and rigorously.
If one in seven secondary schools are bridging this gap, why can’t all schools? The answer lies in greater collaboration between schools and the sharing of best practice, ideas, examples and tried-and-tested methods; if more schools made greater use of resources like social media and teaching blogs to find out what has and hasn’t worked, then we could have more widespread sharing of success stories and methodologies that could have a really positive impact on equality.
We’re sharing lots more content from our REAL event over the coming weeks, including summaries from some of our speakers and debates, key themes, new technology trends and classroom ideas.
To stay informed, follow the links on Twitter from our profile @RMEducation with the hashtag #RMreal.