A report published today reveals how ‘the relative performance of White British pupils falls as they progress through school’. ‘Education in England: Annual Report 2016’ by think tank CentreForum examined early years, primary and secondary education and has suggested that a lack of support from parents could be to blame for the fall in attainment by the time White British learners reach 16-years-old, despite being in the top three highest achieving groups at age five.
This research publication has led to many discussions as to the reasons for this fall in attainment and whether it really is the parents who are to blame. Paul Mason, writing for The Guardian, gives his opinion that a part of White British culture ‘has been destroyed’ through ‘the long-term unemployment millions of people had to suffer in the 1980s’. He argues that Thatcherism ‘crushed a story’ and that ‘the problem of poor white kids cannot be properly defined’, which could explain why these young White British pupils could be less aspirational than their ethnic-minority peers.
Whatever the cause, at ASDAN we believe that an effective way to engage all learners and raise attainment is to allow them access to a curriculum that is relevant to their lives, community and environment, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. ASDAN’s Certificate of Personal Effectiveness (CoPE) is a wide-ranging qualification that enables learners to develop and demonstrate personal, key and employability skills, while broadening their experiences and managing their learning in real-life contexts. It is suited to students in Years 10 and 11 and guarantees capability in six underpinning soft skills: teamwork, independent learning, problem solving, research, discussion and oral presentation.
Tailoring the curriculum to meet local needs could help to alleviate some of the issues suggested by Paul Mason. For example, Bedale High School in North Yorkshire chose to use CoPE alongside a land-based programme of study with a group of students from Years 10 and 11. This has not only led to them gaining a City and Guilds qualification, which is highly appropriate to Bedale’s geographical setting and local career prospects, but the school’s ASDAN Co-ordinator also said:
“Evaluation of this scheme has provided evidence that participation and attendance in school has increased for these students. For these students attendance is at its highest level in their school career. Their behaviour for learning in school has never been better, as is their own perception of their behaviour – they feel like successful students.”
In 2014, further analysis of a study from the University of the West of England of more than half a million pupils found that young people who passed CoPE raised their chances of achieving A* to C grades in GCSE English by 11% and achieving five A* to C grades including English and maths by 19%.