Thursday, 27 November 2014

Race to the top - we're concerned - should you be?

It's over two weeks since I and the Chair of Weelingborough Black Consortium wrote to the Chief Executive of Northamptonshire County Council  about our concerns about the consultation on improving educational achievement, "Race to the Top". It's disappointing that there's been no response.

They appear to make statements comparing free school meal (FSM) with non-FSM kids (p. 3) and then leap to talking about specific groups within that – white ‘working class’ boys and looked after (p. 6).

There is no evidence that white FSM are the lowest achievers in the area. Nationally Gypsy/Roma are the lowest achievers, even if you only look at FSM kids. FSM is very misleading when described as ‘working class’. Most working class people do not qualify for free school meals.

Senior academics in this field, Professor David Gillborn, Dr Nicola Rollock, Dr Paul Warmington (University of
Birmingham) & Sean Demack (Sheffield Hallam University) present the following analysis:

"The best available data demonstrate clearly that working class pupils, in all ethnic groups, achieve less well on average than their middle class peers. However, the current debate is skewed by a focus on the smaller inequalities of achievement between working class children in different ethnic groups. The broad image of ‘White working class’ failure reported by many commentators is based on data that describe the low average
attainments of those in receipt of free school meals (FSM). This is a crude indicator of family poverty and does not capture the everyday meaning of ‘working class’: most people who think of themselves as ‘working class’ would not be placed within the FSM group in educational statistics."

The County Councils own Equality Duty Report for 2014 states: "Most ethnic groups results track just below national averages when compared to national results by ethnicity. Exceptions to this include ‘Pakistani’, ‘Indian’, ‘Other-Black’ and ‘Mixed: Black/ White African’ where results indicate these groups are achieving slightly above the national comparator" and graphs show that national trend that demonstrate lower acheivement for African caribbean, Somali, and Gypsy/Roma/Irish Traveller pupils, is clearly present in Northamptonshire.

When the County Council is publishing evidence which contradicts the proposals in the consultation document questions have to be asked as to why this approach has been taken. For freedom of information requests it is clear that no Equality Impact Assessment took place and this consultation was conspicuous by it's lack of engagement with Black communities in Northamptonshire where had these proposals had clear evidence this could be presented and the proposals justified.

If you feel strongly about this please sign the petition on the matter here