Yesterday, Ofsted's Chief Executive Sir Michael Wilshaw announced the findings of a new report into access and achievement, Unseen children: access and achievement 20 years on. The report highlights the ongoing link between poverty and under-achievement, stressing that it’s no longer an inner-city issue and emphasising the risk of ‘unseen children’ slipping through the education net.
Amongst his recommendations to address this issue, Wilshaw has proposed that ‘National Service Teachers’ be parachuted into schools to raise the achievement of disadvantaged children. Cue a media reaction that conjured up images of hit squads and Thunderbirds-style intervention.
This proposed redeployment of skills is a frustratingly 'top-down' solution to a deep-rooted problem. While the underperformance of the poorest children in our schools may well be temporarily alleviated by a parachute regiment of National Service Teachers, providing teachers with a curriculum that motivates and engages learners is far more certain to have a positive and lasting impact.
When embedded into the curriculum, good-quality PSHE and Careers Education can have such an effect. Ofsted acknowledges that poor PSHE provision in schools can leave young people "unprepared…and vulnerable” (Not yet good enough Ofsted Report 2012) and, in a report published this week, the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children has recommended that "young people have guaranteed access to Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education”.
Meanwhile, mindful of the importance of inspiring young people and preparing them for the world of work, schools continue to seek out budget-friendly ways to deliver Careers Education. ASDAN’s recently published Careers and Experiencing Work Short Course has been flying off the shelves in response to this demand.
Policy- and decision-makers must support schools and teachers to provide an inspiring curriculum that develops personal skills and engages children in all areas. Let's empower our young people, and their teachers, to fly high - no parachutes required.