Thursday, 5 February 2009

Born losers

Prompted by Malcolm Gladwell's latest book "Outliers: the story of success", La Lobster wondered what, if anything, was being done in British education to address 'disadvantage'. La Lobster, as you should have gathered by now, is a cynic of long standing. She's old and wise enough to recognise the puff and baloney trotted out by politicians and self interested so-called professional groups, pressure groups, religious zealots and such like. There's acres of talk about getting rid of institutions like grammar schools, widening university education to everyone etc etc. For what purpose? Well, I think you should have been demanding answers that translate into real difference.

It seems, following a longitudinal study by the London University of London's Institute of Education's Centre for Research on the Wider Benefits of Learning (WBL for short), social disadvantage is a pernicious condition unchanged by the weed killer of educational attainment. Here's a sample of their findings:

WBL's research has found that a simple copying test for five-year-old children, in which they are asked to replicate shapes such as diamonds, crosses and circles, is a reliable predictor of later success in school and early adulthood – except for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

"Our research has shown that this particular ability is an extremely accurate indicator of reading and maths ability at age 10 and life success at age 30, as measured by the highest qualification gained by that age," states the report. "However, this link with success holds true for all groups except those children who achieved a high copying score but come from families with low socio-economic status. This is a worrying finding that points to a key reason for the lack of social mobility."

So folk's, you're still discriminating against people who start out in life with very little. What's new?

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