The true scale of the failure of state education in Britain is reported only rarely. That, in itself, is a subject of interest. But today is one of those rare days when truly important figures providing evidence of this failure are on at least one front page.
This is an excerpt:
A quarter of teenagers are leaving school with practically nothing to show for 11 years of compulsory education, a report discloses today.
Last year, about 147,000 pupils failed to get any GCSEs higher than a grade D. This included 28,000 – almost one in 20 – who failed to gain a qualification of any kind.
The findings, in a report published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, come just weeks after head teachers warned that schools were producing an “army of the unemployable” as tens of thousands of teenagers quit education at 16 with no qualifications.
Mick Brookes, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said the Government’s over-emphasis on testing and targets was fuelling truancy rates and causing children to skip exams and slide into delinquency.
The report criticises primary schools for failing to help children early enough – and says secondary schools often entrench disadvantage.
It says working class pupils are more likely to attend worse-performing secondary schools, which will be seen as an explicit criticism of government reforms.
Researchers also warn that the Government’s obsession with league tables had “adverse effects for low achievers.
(full story in Daily Telegraph)
It is easy to be distracted by relatively minor facts and the major, central ones can go unreported for most of the time and forgotten. But this is truly important and should be stuck on the computer screens of every education journalist: 147,000 children each year fail to get a single grade C or above in their GCSEs.
It is shocking. It is a dreadful failure of state education. It should be a scandal which reverberates year after year, as the scandal of NHS waiting lists used to do. I do not blame the present Labour government in particular for this – though it has probably made its contribution to the lower of achievement. It is the fault of having education supplied by a state monopoly. State monopolies tend to be incompetent. They tend to put in the wrong incentives for many of those involved including parents and children as well as heads, teachers and the vast, uncounted army of non-teachers employed in education by central government, quangos and local authorities.
Anyone who cares about education in general and particularly the life chances of those in the lowest quarter of society, should be demanding the abolition of state education as we know it. It condemns thosuands of children to illiteracy and makes them more likely to become alienated delinquents as they are forced to stay in education despite having lost all interest in it.
Why, then, is this failure of state education so rarely written and talked about? There are a variety of reasons. One is that those of us in the media tend to be middle-class. We are not the ones primarily damaged by the failure. Middle-class newspapers, particularly, just are not that interested.
A second, perhaps more important, reason is that education correspondents, with a few honourable exceptions, tend to ‘go native’. They go for civilised briefings from well-intentioned civil servants and politicians. They thus tend to be sucked into the official view of how things are going. They read hundreds of optimistic government press releases.
Thirdly, there is a desire to believe that state education is a ‘good thing’. Evidence to the contrary is seen briefly and then put to one side and forgotten.
All these are human reactions. Quite unexceptional. But it can also be seen as negligence – negligence in reporting the truth.