Knocking tones off their perch: investigating how young people learn Mandarin Chinese

by Rob Neal

As China’s economic and strategic importance grows, learning Chinese is becoming an option for school children around the world. Yet despite the hype, there is a long way to go before Chinese enjoys a mainstream presence on the curriculum of British schools. Tellingly, only 3000 pupils took a GCSE in Chinese in 2016 with most of these students coming from Chinese-speaking backgrounds. The profile of Chinese learners overall remains biased towards those from more advantaged backgrounds.

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Grammar schools: does selection help social mobility?

n-burgessNuala Burgess is an ESRC-funded PhD student at King’s College London. Her PhD examines sixth form selective practices and the ways in which these shape the post-school choices of moderately attaining students, with a particular focus on the HE choosing of students who do not aspire to ‘elite’ universities.

The government plans of re-introducing the 11+ examination and the expansion of grammar schools has proved controversial – but does research provide any evidence about benefits from selective schools?
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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.


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