As one of the Government’s cornerstone policies, a lot of ink has been spent on working out exactly what “levelling up” will mean for the regions and sectors of the UK. Often the first things to spring to mind include revitalising empty high streets, ageing infrastructure or stalling business sectors. But this leaves out a sleeping giant, education. Education is one area of levelling up that must not be forgotten if the political project is to be anything more than a flash in the pan.
If education is allowed to stagnate in the regions, despite the best efforts of schools, teachers and parents, it will only be a matter of time before regional inequalities re-emerge. At Elastik, we’ve always felt it’s best to tackle these kinds of issues at their source. Just as a good education can be the seed for success in all walks of life, if left unaddressed inequalities in education will be the seed of future inequalities between the UK regions.
In a recent announcement from the Department of Education (DfE), it identified 55 ‘cold spots’ of the country where school outcomes are the weakest. The DfE plans to target intensive investment, support and action to level up in these areas. However, while the areas that need the most support have been identified, the form that support will take is yet to be announced.
Tackling gaps in students’ learning, which go on to create unstable foundations for a child’s education, is a vital step in bridging education inequality. Everyone agrees on this. The real question is how schools achieve this? The Government’s levelling up white paper does propose the use of retention payments in the 55 target areas to help retain teaching talent. There has also been a discussion of schools signing up for a new pilot scheme to help address attendance issues. These are both schemes with worthy aims, but alone they are unlikely to fundamentally turn the tide when it comes to levelling up education.
Truly tackling the root cause of educational inequality lies somewhat outside of schools’ control. Economic disadvantage, ethnicity, disability, gender, and whether a child has been in care or has special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) are all key factors for causing educational inequality, and these aren’t issues that schools can tackle alone. However, there are steps that could be taken at the school level to embrace innovation and create an environment that continues to meet the challenges of today. This includes the adoption of new technology to support existing teaching methods.
By supporting teachers to make the best use of their limited time through the use of technology, schools can increase the amount of time teachers can dedicate to pupils. As a business made up of former teachers, we know that school admin is unavoidable, and it is not why teachers got into the field. Through products, like Elastik, schools can recover vital, focused teaching time and improve outcomes for students.
Ultimate power to tackle educational inequality lies with the Government. In 2019 the Education Policy Institute modelled that it would take over 500 years to eliminate the disadvantage gap at GCSE, based on current progress. Time will tell what the Government’s next move will be, but we can all agree that undertaking and speeding up educational “levelling up” is vitally important.