Black Students Matter

Shailen Popat

Black Lives Matter.  This statement rings true in the context of violence and murder but also in terms of quality of life.  One crucial factor in quality of life is attainment at school. Over the last 40 years, black students have been attaining persistently lower outcomes at age 18 than their white peers even though both groups commence their schooling demonstrating high ability and capability (Archer et al 2007). The Department of Education School Census (2019) suggested that the gap in performance is widening and many Black students in England’s schools are not sharing the higher educational standards achieved by other ethnic groups over the last decade with less than 50% of black pupils achieving 5 or more GCSEs at grade A* to C including English and Maths. This is particularly concerning given that The Tomlinson Enquiry (2008:2) concluded that ‘… the education system over the past 50 years has developed within a socio-political context in which there has been a lack of political will to ensure that all groups were fairly and equitably treated’.  This half century of unfairness has impacted upon choices available to Black students after they leave the schools system.

For example, Oxford University’s Annual Admissions Statistics Report shows that just 3.2% of all students admitted to undergraduate degrees in 2019 were ethnic British Black. An ethnic Black student applying to Oxford is half as likely to get in as a white student. Not only are not enough ethnic Black students applying, but those who do, are far less likely to get in.   There are concerted attempts by Oxford at both a college and university level to improve access and opportunities for all ethnic and social groups and reflect the national consensus to promote equality of opportunity to elite institutions. However,  Oxford University could legitimately point-out that the foundation of admission to elite universities is performance at A Levels, and therefore, if only 5.1% of ethnic Black students attained three A*-A grades at A Level in 2017 compared with 22.5% of ethnic Chinese, 15.3% of ethnic Indians, 14.3% of ethnic Irish, and 10.9% of White British pupils (Figure 1), then a larger percentage of ethnic Black students will never be able to apply.

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(Figure 1: Department for Education, 11 July 2019)

 

 

In a 2015 report by Lambeth Council in which they had looked at the problem in terms of why some pupils in their borough from African backgrounds were achieving higher attainment than other Black groups, 8 main factors were listed as perpetuating low attainment and disengagement from learning by ethnic black pupils:

 

  1. Stereotyping
  2. Teachers’ low expectations
  3. Exclusions
  4. Poor school leadership on equality issues
  5. Inadequate school support to Black parents
  6. Institutional racism
  7. Lack of diversity in the national curriculum
  8. A lack of knowledge about the diverse nature of the ethnic minorities

 

The Lambeth (2015) study identified a number of good practices that contribute to the success of some Black students, including the high educational aspiration of African parents and pupils; inspirational leadership in school and teachers with high expectations for all students. Ethnic Black pupils, particularly ethnic Caribbean boys, are often assumed to be less academic and often associated with disruptive behaviour.   In America, a 2017 Brown Center Report found that Black students are nearly four times as likely to be suspended as white students, nearly twice as likely to be expelled and even Ethnic Black pre-schoolers are 3.6 times more likely to receive one or more out-of-school suspensions (Loveless 2017).  Much of this can be explained by teacher expectations as to what Black students can achieve.  The Yale Child Study Center looked at implicit biases and subconscious stereotypes held by teachers which may result in them having lower expectations for Black students (Gilliam et al 2016). Yale’s study revealed these biases are directed at much younger children than previously thought, and are present in both black and white teachers.  Researchers showed 135 educators videos of children in a classroom setting. Each video had a black boy and girl, and a white boy and girl and teachers were asked to detect challenging behaviour.  No such behaviour existed in any of the videos yet 42% of the teachers identified the black boy as displaying it.  Such subconscious factors are likely to be a significant contributor to the lack of progress in raising Black students attainment at the same rate as other BAME groups here in the UK too, and we need to commence a national reflective conversation as part of our commitment to ensuring that Black Lives Matter.

 

Shailen-Popat-webprofile

Shailen Popat

Shailen works as a Teaching Fellow in Public Policy and Management based in the Institute of Local Government (INLOGOV). He is also a PhD student in Education at the University of Oxford where he is a Senior Hulme Scholar at Brasenose College.   Shailen has worked for many years in children and young people services for local authorities, charities and also his own social enterprise.

 

References

Archer, L., Halsall, A. and Hollingworth, S., 2007. Class, gender,(hetero) sexuality and schooling: Paradoxes within working‐class girls’ engagement with education and post‐16 aspirations. British Journal of Sociology of Education28(2), pp.165-180.

Department for Education (2019) Statistics: school and pupil numbers.  Accessed at https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/statistics-school-and-pupil-numbers

 

Gilliam, W., Maupin, A., Reyes, C., Accavitti, M. & Shic, F. (2016). Do Early Educators’ Implicit Biases Regarding Sex and Race Relate to Behavior Expectations and Recommendations of Preschool Expulsions and Suspensions? Retrieved from http://ziglercenter.yale.edu/publications/Preschool%20Implicit%20Bias%20Policy%20Brief_final_9_26_276766_5379.pdf.

 

Lambeth Borough Council (2015), The underachievement of Black Carribbean Heritage Pupils in Schools – Research Project Brief.  Accessed at https://www.lambeth.gov.uk/rsu/sites/www.lambeth.gov.uk.rsu/files/The_Underachievement_of_Black_Caribbean_Heritage_Pupils_in_Schools-_Research_Brief.pdf

 

Loveless, T. (2017).  2017 Brown Center Report on American Education: Race and school suspensions.  Accessed at https://www.brookings.edu/research/2017-brown-center-report-part-iii-race-and-school-suspensions/

 

University of Oxford (2020), University of Oxford Annual Admissions Statistical Report 2020.  Accessed at https://www.ox.ac.uk/sites/files/oxford/Annual%20Admissions%20Statistical%20Report%202020.pdf

 

 

 

 

Universities of the future: making work-based higher education work

Dr Abena Dadze-Arthur, Anita Mörth & Professor Eva Cendon

The COVID-19 pandemic is not the only significant event that marks the dawn of a new era. According to UNESCO’s International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP-UNESCO), globally an estimated 590 million people will be in higher education (HE) by 2040, including more non-traditional learners, who work and study at the same time, than ever before. Inevitably, this begs the question: how can higher education institutions keep up with this expansion and diversification, while effectively equipping graduates for what the World Economic Forum refers to as the fourth industrial revolution?

A new urgency

The good news is that modern conceptualisations of ‘knowledge’ already recognise the imperative of joining up what was regarded hitherto as two incongruous entities: academic scholarship and professional practice. Ongoing debates highlight various compelling imperatives for effectively integrating academia and the world of work within the context of HE: economists emphasise the pertinence of spurring economic growth and re-fashioning national skill formation by aligning formal HE with the needs of contemporary and future labour markets. Educationalists stress the importance of creating competitive knowledge economies by shifting to learner- and employer-centred models of HE, and prioritising continuous professional development and lifelong learning. Moreover, policy-makers and governmental leaders call to mind the Bologna process, and the commitment of national HE systems to implement far-reaching institutional, organisational and cultural changes that respond to the advances of the 21st century.

The inevitability of work-based higher education

As a result, it is slowly dawning on HE institutions worldwide that in order to form skills, knowledge and behaviours that are not only relevant to contemporary and future labour markets, but also meet a nation’s economic and welfare priorities of the 21st century, university students must be exposed to classroom-based learning at the university as well as experiential learning in the workplace. Consequently, systematic collaborations between academic and professional stakeholders are increasingly inevitable in modern tertiary education. There is a substantial role for HE institutions in workforce development, just as much as employing organisations and industry sector bodies have an important part to play in higher education. Universities of the future must provide work-based, or at least work-integrated, learning opportunities that place students at the centre as self-directed learners and self-managing practitioners.

A paradigmatic change

However, evolving higher education institutions to become universities of the future requires a paradigmatic shift that ‘creatively disrupts’ deeply entrenched beliefs, practices and institutions around the incongruity of academia and the world of work. Such a shift must come with a new pedagogy that bridges unhelpful binaries between ‘theory’ and ‘practice’, ‘knowledge’ and ‘competence’, and ‘classroom’ and ‘work-site’. The transformative processes associated with a paradigmatic change must also facilitate new innovative collaborations with non-traditional partners, bringing together HE institutions, employers, industry associations, sector bodies, and professional or technical educational providers. Moreover, the change must bring with it novel approaches to calibrating HE education to employer and sector needs that adopt a long-term view and are capable of avoiding the temporary or short-term priorities of industries and economic sectors. Last but not least, the transformation will not be sustainable if university operating procedures fail to undergo far-reaching reforms in the way they ‘do’ admission, registry, finance, marketing and liaison with external stakeholders.

No one size fits all

Of course, the old adage ‘different strokes for different folks’ holds true and there is no single, one-size-fits-all blueprint that universities are able to follow in transforming and joining-up HE with forms of experiential learning in professional practice. Instead, HE providers, and their constituent faculties, have to develop their very own, tailored approaches to adapting work-based HE. Without a doubt, this is no easy task as a successful transformation hinges not only on a university’s internal structures, institutions and its opportunities for agency, but also on external factors, such as legal frameworks, national and regional policies, local economies, regional labour market demands, employer needs, industry standards, and so forth. Having said that, good practice examples can be powerful catalysts in achieving a paradigmatic change because they not only make explicit the factors that create positive results and drive transformation, but they expand conceptions of what is possible.

International trailblazers

The recently published report ‘International Trailblazers: Work-Based Higher Education in Selected HE Institutions in the US, England and Denmark. Results of an International Case Study Research Project’ offers just such insight into good practice by mapping in detail the diverse approaches to work-based higher education of five trailblazers across the US, England and Denmark. Innovative, work-based study programmes developed by visionary departments and institutes at Drexel University, University of Pennsylvania, Middlesex University, University of Birmingham, and Aarhus University are presented using a case study approach and deploying data triangulation from national and institutional perspectives. Although the cases differ widely, the report is able to identify a range of factors as pertinent for making work-based education work, including productive partnerships, a purposeful division of staff roles, formalised links to ensure a pedagogy that systematically integrates theoretical, experiential and peer-based learning, permeability between HE and professional training routes, deliberate but flexible government policies and funding incentives, and an impetus for change. Those HE providers that are ready to transform to universities of the future can gain a great deal from these insights, including much inspiration for structural, institutional, operational, pedagogical and cultural changes.

 

Abena Dadze-Arthur is a public management scholar and currently researches work-based higher education for Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research at the University of Hagen in Germany. She also works as an Associate at INLOGOV, where she has been teaching online master-level courses since 2012. Prior to that, Abena spent 10 years working as a public policy reform specialist for various governments in Abu Dhabi, London, and Paris. Her main research interests focus on the transferring and brokering of knowledge across and within institutional and cultural boundaries, and situated agency and cognition under conditions of change.

Photo copyright: Hardy Welsch

Anita Mörth is an educational scientist working with the Department for University Continuing Education & Teaching and Learning at the FernUniversität in Hagen, Germany. Prior to that she was working in quality management at a university for professional studies in Austria before she became a research associate and quality manager at the Berlin University for Professional Studies, Germany. Her main research interests focus on identifying key concepts of current and future formations of continuing higher education, as well as conceptions of learning, gender, and diversity. 

Eva Cendon is an educational scientist and Head of the Department of University Continuing Education & Teaching and Learning at the FernUniversität in Hagen, Germany. She also heads the research team of a government-funded German-wide initiative “Aufstieg durch Bildung – offene Hochschulen“ (Advancement through Education: Open Universities), which involves her working with over 100 universities in Germany on developing new programmes for lifelong learning. Her main research interest lies in linking academic and professional knowledge in university teaching and learning. She engages in participatory, future oriented research on issues concerning universities of the future.

Wider opening of schools during covid-19

Cllr. Ketan Sheth 

Education impacts society and is a measure and driver of our progress as a community.  A good education keeps us physically and mentally strong and plays a key role in the betterment of our socio-economic environment and the communities in which we live. Education is the ultimate pathway of success, providing the support that enables each and everyone of us to keep growing our knowledge and ourselves across the whole of our lives.  That is why education is given the highest status in today’s world. The delivery of our education service, however, has been heavenly impacted at all levels by Covid-19.

We are now starting discussions on easing the Covid-19 lockdown by reopening schools in a bid to restart our economy. The concern is that this might become a breeding ground for a second wave of Covid-19 cases.  Indeed, many parents may decide to keep their children at home, as it is possible that the rate at which the virus spreads may increase when schools open. It is therefore possible that the decline in the number of people infected may be affected. I say ‘possible’ because analysis of international trends suggest there are no definitive indications that opening schools accelerates infection. Schools have not yet been shown to push the reproduction rate (R) above one.

Many of our families and the communities in which we live have actively helped reduce (R) over the last 5 to 6 weeks. As a result the number of hospital admissions of Covid-19, in some communities, has now stabilised. Because of that, the reduction of the reproduction rate has slowed since mid-April, but it is still under 1. This has led to the debate on balancing the needs of the economy and the safety of our communities. In this case, that means our children.

The role of local government is to know and understand its communities and their children. Local government delivers services to local residents every day and is the vital ingredient to finding the best community solution.

As Covid-19 shows, pandemics are not technocratic. They are complex, creating social and behavioural challenges. Parents, teachers, and children are grappling with the threat of contracting the infection, often while dealing with personal loss. Effective management mechanisms between national and local government are therefore critical. We need to strengthen local responses and systems, and respect and build the capacity of local government to manage the policy response from health to the economy, to social protection. Investment in local government will be key to successful recovery and long-term resilience.

Thinking and acting locally will help to ensure that the spread of Covid-19 is curtailed and our communities protected. As far as opening schools goes: this needs to be managed locally and to be responsive to local concerns and needs. A locally crafted step-by-step approach is demanded, setting a code-of-conduct that ensures the highest standards of hygiene, and ensuring all school operations, break times, and classroom divisions meet carefully set social distancing guidelines.

For government to work effectively in the worst of times, it needs to have well-oiled systems, practices and resource flows.  We need to reflect on, and respond to, our population’s needs and changing realities quickly, intelligently, and always with the wellbeing of our communities at the forefront. Anxiety will linger over infection rates, but if we work together at a local level in the communities where we live, we can be agile, and creative, in our services. Together we can do it locally.

 

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Cllr. Ketan Sheth is a Councillor for Tokyngton, Wembley in the London Borough of Brent. Ketan has been a councillor since 2010 and was appointed as Brent Council’s Chair of the Community and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee in May 2016. Before his current appointment in 2016, he was the Chair of Planning, of Standards, and of the Licensing Committees. Ketan is a lawyer by profession and sits on a number of public bodies, including as the Lead Governor of Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust.

In light of covid-19, are school exams old news?

Shailen Popat

On 18th March,  UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that, because of the covid-19 crisis, all schools would close and that summer GCSE and A Levels would not be sat. This has caused concern and anxiety for pupils, parents and teachers. However, is it actually an opportunity to rethink how we assess at these key points? Could we use this year as a pilot on whether exams could be replaced with school internal assessments and may that lead to more valid judgements and reduced stress?

Any expectation on teachers to assess students’ work adds to their workload and so it must be worthwhile. Critics like to argue that teacher assessment is both less reliable and more unfair than standardised testing. This is largely because teachers, like all humans, are subject to biases like the halo effect, confirmation bias, the anchoring effect, overconfidence bias (Didau 2019). We also overestimate our ability to assess students’ work fairly and reliably, and we tend to look more favourably on students with good behaviour. Some studies have demonstrated that the information that a student has a learning disability led to teachers giving a lower mark than teachers who were not given that information (Didau 2019). There’s also evidence to suggest teachers are unconsciously biased against children from ethnic minorities. And utilising prior attainment such as mock exams also raises issues about validity, as these were not sat at the end of a course of learning and students should have developed over time.

Teacher assessment has been used before. When GCSEs were introduced in the 1980s, coursework was included as a requirement in many subjects as it was felt that it may more validly assess important skills than exams. Coursework was intended to allow the assessment of the process through looking at a wider body of student work and to encourage creativity, reflective thinking and independent learning. Critics of coursework have concerns about authenticity, citing the possible unreliability of teacher marking, the potential for the assessment to be open to cheating, possible instances of students receiving excessive assistance from others and the reported risk of internet plagiarism led to concerns around whether work can be authenticated as the students’ own. Such issues led to Qualification and Curriculum Authority (QCA) decision in 2006 to remove coursework from GCSE mathematics, and to replace coursework with controlled assessments in other GCSE subjects. From September 2015 onwards, coursework was worth just 20% in some subjects such as English and there was no coursework in sciences, economics, sociology, psychology and business studies.

Controlled assessment is the approach to internal assessment where an awarding body sets requirements or controls for the setting of tasks, undertaking tasks, and marking tasks. The levels of control are set out for each subject in the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual)’s GCSE Controlled Assessment regulations. Controlled assessments were used where they would assess different constructs to written exams, and controls were set at the most rigorous level that would still allow assessment of these constructs. Surveys suggested that teachers had a generally positive view of controlled assessments, with one study reporting that over 70% of teachers considered it “important” or “very important” to have some form of internal assessment in their subject (Crisp and Green 2013). However, other studies found that there were concerns that teachers were coaching students to get the best grades by running practice assessments that were very similar to the actual assessments, and that different interpretations of Ofqual’s controlled assessment regulations led to some variation in guidance on the controls in the same subject across different schools (Crisp and Green 2013).

The other purpose of national examinations is to hold schools accountable, but again this could be done differently. Some academics suggest intelligent sampling, wherein not all students are tested but just a nationally representative sample. As the purpose of these exams would not be to judge individual pupils, they would be low stakes and therefor place reduced pressure on the pupils who would sit them. Of course, for teachers and schools the stakes would remain high, but there is something healthy about not sharing this accountability pressure with pupils. International tests such as PISA, TIMMS and PiRLS, all undertake survey-based assessments of educational systems around the world.

Therefore, if qualification bodies and teachers can seize this opportunity to demonstrate integrity in teacher assessment, the case for keeping them will strengthen.

References

Crisp, V. and Green, S., 2013. Teacher views on the effects of the change from coursework to controlled assessment in GCSEs. Educational Research and Evaluation, 19(8), pp.680-699.

Didau, D. (2019) ‘Should we scrap SATs? Cautiously, yes’ 

Shailen Popat is a Teaching Fellow in Public Policy & Management and teaches Msc programmes and supervises dissertations at INLOGOV. He is also an interpretive policy analyst who is currently reading for a PhD in Education at the University of Oxford. His academic perspectives are informed by 20 years of professional practice with Local Authority and voluntary sector children and young people’s services where he has worked as a Senior Practitioner, Team Leader and has founded and run RealiZe Youth Services for which he was recognised at the Northamptonshire Education Awards 2015.