Read All About It – Part 1 (Attainment)

Only 3% of children in Knowsley, Merseyside, achieve grade A to Cs in the five core subjects of English, maths, a science, a language and history or geography.  However, in Buckinghamshire 33% hit the target.

Unfortunately, the key message of this news story is not about “closing the gap” between pupils’ attainment from schools in different socio economic areas: instead one tabloid chose to lead with the headline:
“Labour’s Exam Grade Betrayal”
There is a lot of excellent work being carried out in this area by organisations such as The Sutton Trust and Teach First.  However, we need to be clear that addressing this fundamental educational challenge will also solve many of the social issues we currently face including disengagement, unemployment and obesity.

A new approach to raise aspirations in inner city and economically deprived areas is long overdue in order to break the vicious cycle of low educational attainment, unemployment, obesity and poor parenting.  With politicians still trying to get to grips with the root cause of the recent riots, we are beginning 2012 with a new series of Celebrity Big Brother, watching football authorities trying to unravel more than one racist incident within the professional game and Russell Brand’s decision to file for divorce after only 14 months of marriage.
The XFactor_iPhone_ Wii generation need a new breed of hard working, level headed and sensible role models whom they can aspire to.  With the imminent increase in tuition fees and the rise in graduate unemployment, it is hardly surprising that youngsters have added glamour modelling, Big Bother contesting and becoming a WAG to their list of career ambitions.  The days of easy credit and  buy now, pay later may soon be a thing of the past but its legacy is very much still evident in the attitude and lives of many people.
Continuing the footballing theme, Wayne Rooney is never far from the headlines and giving children from his home town of Croxteth, just outside Knowsley, countless examples of petulance and lack of emotional control.  It is a shame that the media don’t report on the actual amount of time spent developing the skills needed to become an international footballer whilst still a child.  The irony is that this level of commitment appears to be mutually exclusive to educational dedication and many talented footballers are left stranded if they are not offered a professional contract by the age of 18.

In penultimate place in the table of poor performance we have Sandwell with only 4.7% of pupils achieving the minimum of five grade A-C’s.  The first regional ambassadors that spring to mind are both comedians: Lenny Henry and Frank Skinner.  Whilst I admire and appreciate the comedic talents of both, the increasing exposure of comedians on TV, in arenas and on social media gives the false impression that comedy (like football, dance and singing) is now a choice of career with realistic odds of making a living.

Stoke-on-Trent authority also made it into the worst performing authorities with a marginally better figure of 5.9%.  I have sympathy for teachers working in Stoke where Robbie Williams has overtaken Wedgwood and Oatcakes to become its most well known export.  With the local economy struggling, employment opportunities scarce and the social shift towards instant gratification, it is very difficult to argue against the disenfranchised attitude of this generation.

Whilst there will always be a place for talented individuals who represent a cross section of entertainment genres and disciplines, the scales have well and truly being tipped to such a level that having an affair with your brother-in-law now warrants “celebrity” status.  We need to find creative ways to impact upon children’s attitudes and behaviours if we are to return to the belief that gaining a decent education is a worthwhile investment of their time and effort.