Hinds: We must tackle social mobility together

19 Jun 19

Schools cannot be expected to address the problems disadvantaged children face on their own - it’s down to society too, says education secretary Damian Hinds.

Speaking at a Reform think-tank event earlier this week, Hinds outlined what he saw as the changing nature of disadvantage and its impact on a child’s education and prospects.

“If we’re going to have an economy that’s operating at its maximum potential, which, of course, in turn is what allows us to afford the excellent public services that we all rely on, we do need every child to be able to fulfil their potential.”

Although he announced a range of measures aimed at better supporting vulnerable children in school, he warned that, “schools cannot do everything.”

“It’s a wider societal question of how the rest of society operates.”

There are five areas associated with disadvantage, he explained, which are ethnicity, language, place, home environment, and adversity in childhood.

When it comes to the home learning environment, Hinds said that what parents do is far more important than who they are.

“Home is the last taboo in public policy,” he added.

A fifth of the difference in development of cognitive ability of a two or three-year-old is down to parental engagement, Hinds explained. Parental disinterest together with strife at home can ultimately affect children’s attainment to the equivalent of being nine grades lower across eight GCSE subjects.

Home environment makes a bigger different to a child’s attainment “than either being born into a low income household or being at a school rated less than good our outstanding”, he said.

Hinds announced that, as a result, a new programme to support parents will be launched next month.

He also set out additional help for “children in need”, a group separate from children in care who are living at home but have needed the services of a social worker at some point. In the last three years that’s been 1.6 million children.

“Overall, if you’ve needed contact with a social worker at any time since year 5, on average you are going to score 20 grades lower across eight GCSEs,” Hinds said.

Yet school is key a protective factor for these children because they are around trusted adults

A raft of measures was announced aimed at better supporting vulnerable children in school, including:

  •  improving the speed of the in-year admissions process so a vulnerable child needing to move schools can access a school place as quickly as possible;
  •  making sure social workers are informed when a child they support is excluded from school, and closer working between schools and councils to improve educational outcomes for disadvantaged pupils.

It was also announced that teacher training will be enhanced so teachers can spot early warning signs of mental illness of children of all groups.

Schools will also receive new guidance published by the Education Endowment Foundation  on how to use the Pupil Premium most effectively.

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