Leaving and learning: should we raise the school leaving age?

Sarah Womack 150Sarah Womack is a former political and social affairs correspondent of the Daily Telegraph. Here she asks – should pupils stay in school until the age of 19?

This month (April 2017) marks the 70th anniversary of one of the UK’s most significant social reforms, but you probably couldn’t guess what it is. In 1947, when the school leaving age was raised from 14 to 15 – and, for the first time, there was secondary education for all – critics claimed there were not enough buildings or teachers to cope, and pupils would truant, leading to a crime wave. But serious revolt didn’t happen, and, 25 years later, the leaving age rose again to 16 – and, in 2013-15, participation in education or training was raised to 17, then 18. Continue reading

Crime time: how a Festival event inspired my teaching

Ruth Shaw 150Ruth Shaw is Curriculum Leader for Social Sciences at Nelson and Colne College, where she teaches A-level Sociology.

In November 2016 she attended a crime-themed event, hosted by OCR as part of the ESRC’s Festival of Social Science. The event gave her some real-world inspiration for teaching her students

As a teacher of sociology, this event was a rare and refreshing opportunity to think about how research into crime spans across a range of social science subjects – it was great to discuss ideas that spanned across geography, law, citizenship, psychology and sociology – and as you can probably tell from what I go on to write next, there was lots packed into a day! Continue reading

Grammar lessons

Last year the government set out proposals to expand the number of grammar schools across England representing a significant shift in the education system. Such a change means costs and benefits, and there would be winners and losers writes Luke Sibieta, Programme Director of the Education and Skills sector at the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

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It does appear that those who attend grammar schools do, on average, somewhat better than similar children in the comprehensive system.

Grammar schools may thus be a way of improving the performance of very bright pupils. On the other hand, those in selective areas who don’t get into grammar schools do worse than they would in a comprehensive system. And as children from poorer families are significantly less likely to attend grammar schools, the expansion of grammar schools in the current form would seem more likely to reduce than increase social mobility. Continue reading

How can education and skills work for the many?

Raj Patel is Impact Fellow and Acting Director of the Understanding Society Policy Unit at the University of Essex. Here he discusses the latest issues facing the education and skills sector, ahead of an education debate to be hosted this week by Understanding Society as part of the Festival of Social Science.

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Education transforms lives. So how successful are education and skills policies in the UK and how can they be improved? This question is becoming more complex to understand and answer in an era of mass education and diverse institutions, with patterns of participation, attainment and outcomes highly heterogeneous. Education of course does not exist as an island. Factors such as gender, ethnicity, disability, parental background, family lives, mental health and wellbeing, resources and geography have to be examined forensically to determine what predictive role they play in driving up or dampening attainment and outcomes. Continue reading