Alan Milburn, the Government’s adviser on social mobility, published a report last month on access to the professions which revealed that the group who achieve most highly are coming from a much narrower social class background than was the case in the 50s.
He is highly critical of the professions, particularly medicine, when it comes to recruiting from disadvantaged backgrounds.
There are and indeed have been for many years, educational initiatives and interventions to address this issue of raising educational achievement to the point where children from disadvantaged backgrounds can get the qualifications to get them to university in the first place.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has undertaken three pieces of research around intervention schemes to try to show where public money might be best spent.
The report says “that success will result from interventions than enable and encourage parents actively to engage with their child’s learning”.
One local example of a school doing just this is Four Dwellings High School in Quinton. Anuja Jalota, an assistant head there, set up in 2007 a parents’ group working towards BTEC Diploma in Applied Science (equivalent of four GCSEs). In the first cohort, all the parents gained a merit and three are now employed as auxiliary nurses at the QE.
The success has led to Anuja running the course again. It is opening up greater employment opportunities for the parents, increasing their confidence and building the relationship with the school.
These are parents who did not do well themselves at school but the course is changing the attitude to education at home. The children are seeing their parents studying at home and this is exciting their own interest.
The parents have taken part in assemblies at school. Anuja said: “The parents are really engaging with their children’s education now and the home as well as school is seen as a place you learn.”
This Four Dwellings initiative is showing the Joseph Rowntree theory in practice. It is coming at engaging parents with their children’s education in a way that directly benefits the parents as well as the children. It deserves wide funding support and encouragement.
*Sarah Evans, Principal, King Edward VI High School for Girls