So where was I before I was so rudely interrupted by those impudent YoungTory whippersnappers? Oh yes, I was discussing exam results, the attitude of the media and the experts, all just dying to give their opinion. Now, I don’t have a problem with people having an opinion; frankly, I’m very opinionated myself (I’m also usually right which helps!) Results in Scotland were excellent, a tremendous result for our young people and the staff who support them, but barely was the ink dry on the certificates than out came the great and the goodness sake with their derogatory comments and snide remarks about how easy the exams were. Made my blood boil because these so-called experts clearly have no idea what an achievement these results were for some of our young people. Actually, all of our young people.
Colleagues across all sectors from nursery to further education see on a daily basis the struggle some children have to engage with education; not because they don’t want to but because of the effort it is just to get to school in the morning. Exam results start with the learning in primary school and it is heartbreaking as well as heartwarming to see the lengths some children go to to learn. Children from dysfunctional families getting younger siblings out in the morning, never knowing if they’ll be fed of an evening, or if they’ll be abused, or see violence, abuse of drugs or alcohol in their home. Help with homework, computer for research, a pencil to write with. Yeah right!
Not all families are dysfunctional, some, including the working families, are just poor. My union recently hosted a conference of the impact of poverty on education and it made for sobering thought. So many factors play their part in the poverty our bairns experience because whatever affects the family budget hurts them. Local Authority cuts mean less support staff in schools, loss of jobs, increased cost of meals which hits working families just over the threshold for free meals. The imposition of the Bedroom Tax, the damage done by ATOS are just two examples, not only of financial harm, but of the social and emotional stress families suffer. If the parents are under these pressures then so are the children and this impacts on their access to education. A recent study reported in the Guardian demonstrated that the inequality gap in this country had widened. In 1969, the Born to Fail Report showed a gap between richest and poorest children of around 14.6%. In 2013, that gap has risen to 25%. Glad to see growth somewhere in the country aren’t we?
Our children are under attack as never before yet they continue to achieve. One pass in one subject, for some of our bairns, is the endeavour of a lifetime of struggling against the odds; odds which would floor Cameron and his ilk. The last thing these kids need is their self esteem and pride in their achievements rubbished by so-called experts jumping on a media bandwagon. Interestingly, after the English GCSE results were announced, one commentator reported that children from fee-paying schools did up to four times better than children in State schools. Rich kids are just naturally brilliant (refer to Cameron & Co!) or widening inequality in our society? I know which one I believe. Question is, what are we going to do about it?