A report by Carol Voderman for the British government says that almost half of English children are leaving school at 16 without managing a C or better in their maths GCSE’s and they should all study maths until they are 18.
The report also says that 300,000 16 year old English students leave school every year without a good enough understanding of maths to function in everyday life.
Firstly, the motivation for commissioning this report: the British government intends to force English children to stay at school until they are 18 by 2013. The report gives the “evidence” required to justify the requirement to send your children to school for another two years. There will be more reports like this as 2013 gets closer to show that the British government are doing the “right thing”.
Secondly, the reason why English kids are getting such poor results: inadequate funding and a lack of grammar schools. The British government spends significantly less on education in England than the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish. I’ve not heard any mention of problems with numeracy in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland so presumably the extra funding they get from English taxes has resulted in a better education.
I’ll concentrate more on the lack of a functioning grammar school system as I’ve done the funding thing to death on this blog over the years. It’s an indisputable fact that some people are thinkers and some people are doers. Some people’s brains are wired for academic education and some are wired for vocational education. The two tier education system that we used to have with grammar schools catered for this difference by filtering out the children that were capable of an academic education and sending them to grammar schools and sending those that weren’t capable of a purely (or primarily) academic education to comprehensive schools where they could get a well-rounded education.
There is no shame in the grammar school system – you get the type of education you need, rather than everyone getting the same type of education regardless of suitability. It’s not surprising that half of all English children are leaving school without a C in their maths GCSE’s, some kids are just never going to get algebra, geometry, statistics, etc. They need a vocation education with education by practical example rather than pure theory. When the national grammar school system was in place, it gave opportunities to many academically gifted children from deprived backgrounds who would otherwise have seen their talent wasted.
Now back to the motivation for commissioning this report: building the back story for the increase in the school leaving age in England in two years time. When this first came up I questioned how it would work and who would pay for it …
Will boarding schools be required to provide married quarters for childhood sweathearts who decide to get married at 16 or will the minimum age for getting married be increased to make sure you don’t end up with married couples spending double Science arguing about who’s cooking the dinner when they get home from school and why they have to have the mother-in-law round for Sunday dinner that weekend? What about couples who decide to start a family at 16? It’s perfectly legal – will schools start providing crêche facilities? Who will pay for them? Will 16 year old girls be entitled to maternity leave from school? What about the benefits that will be paid out to these people who have a family at 16 but can’t work because they have to go to school until they’re 18? Ok, so most 16 year old parents would rather laze around on benefits rather than get a job but not all of them do. Upping the age you can get married to 18 won’t work either. You need your parents consent to get married at 16 or 17 in England now but there’s nothing to stop you going to Scotland and getting married at 16 without your parents permission because the law is different there.
Add to that the question of what will happen to families moving between England and Scotland or England and Wales. Will a Scottish or Welsh 16 year old who has already left school at home moving to England be required to re-enter school? Will 16 year old English kids be able to move to Scotland or Wales and leave the education system entirely without qualifications and without completing their basic education? Will English kids be able to go straight from secondary school in England to university in Scotland or Wales, bypassing sixth form/college or will they have to study for another two years (at whose expense?) before they can go to university? Will Scottish and Welsh kids be able to go to university in England two years earlier than their English counterparts?
I have tried to put these questions to the British Department of English Education but the contact page on their website is broken. I’ll let you know if I get an answer!