Education · Political

Starting school later: widening the gap?

Yesterday I saw this blog post and heard a Gove-ite slapping down the advocates of learning-through-play on radio 4. Here’s my view:

The counterargument I heard on the radio from the Gove side was that starting school later would increase the inequality in educational achievement caused by poverty/deprivation, because we would be leaving it later to ‘start closing the gap’. I think that idea is very offensive, and it’s unsupported by research.

The implication is that parents in economically deprived/working class homes don’t do enough to support their children’s learning. I’m sure that there are many parents who struggle to give as much time and support to their children as they want to because of hardship, but it’s ridiculous to assume that they will always be worse parents than richer, higher status, better educated ones; that they don’t or don’t want to read to, play with, and actively teach their children. The suggestion that taking their children away from them sooner, rather than enabling them to spend more time parenting by fighting economic inequality, is wholly regressive.

I studied underachievement and social inequality on my PGCE, and it was very clear that poverty is the strongest correlate of underachievement at GCSE. However, the gap WIDENS rather than closes over a child’s school career, which gives the lie to the story pushed by the Tories.

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