What the government’s report on race gets wrong about the education system

From ‘The Conversation’, by Leon Tikly, University of Bristol

The UK government’s recent report on race, drawn up by the Commission on Ethnic and Racial Disparities, has been roundly criticised for its findings. Its primary claim, as chair Tony Sewell writes in the foreword, that the British system is no longer “deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities” has drawn particular ire.

With regards to education, specifically, the report argues that “if there is racial bias within schools or the teaching profession, it has limited effect”. Sewell’s credentials as an education consultant appear to give special credence to that position. The problem is that it flies in the face of four decades’ worth of research.

As a former science teacher, a university professor and UNESCO Chair in inclusive education – with expertise at local authority, national, European and global levels – I am well placed to unpick quite how flawed Sewell’s statement is. (more…)

We need an evidence-based expert approach to the post-pandemic recovery of young people

Blog post by Patricia Broadfoot, University of Bristol; Roger Murphy, University of Nottingham

In December 2020, the Westminster government promised to set up an expert group to consider solutions to the huge variability of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on pupils’ educational experiences and progress. Two months later the Department for Education (DfE) announced that plans for this group had been scrapped. Instead, the DfE has appointed an education recovery commissioner to focus on so-called ‘learning loss’. Two successive children’s commissioners, the head of Ofsted and many others have expressed serious concerns about the current situation. There has also been widespread disagreement about the best strategies to employ and the resources required.

We need the best possible expertise to identify the issues that must be addressed if children are to flourish. We need experts to provide an integrated picture of the challenges that children face, and to suggest appropriate ways of addressing them. Without such expertise children could suffer lifelong impacts, as argued by two children’s commissioners and in a report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (Sibieta, 2021). That report drew the following conclusions, which reflect our key concerns.

(more…)

COVID-19, education and the immediate policy response

Post written by Victoria Bowen, PhD Researcher in Education, University of Bristol.

On 12th March 2020, the World Health Organisation declared the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak to be a pandemic.  What followed this announcement was to become the largest global disruption to education in history.  1.6 billion learners in 190 countries were affected, as nations implemented regional lockdowns and school closures to curtail the spread of COVID-19 (UN, 2020).  Since then, as the virus circulated widely in society across the globe, school closures have been implemented nationally, regionally, locally, and reactively based on infection rates.  This article follows on from my presentation on ‘COVID-19, school closures and inequality’ at the TLC roundtable event (March 2021).  It summarises the immediate education policy response relating to COVID-19 in English schools. (more…)

The Importance of Science and Scientific Thinking in Education

 Blog post by André Hedlund, Chevening Alumnus, MSc in Psychology of Education from the School of Education at the University of Bristol.

In 2019 I had the privilege of attending an event promoted by the Federal University of Goiás (UFG) with two great references of Brazilian science: Luiz Davidovich, president of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences; and Ricardo Galvão, former president of the National Institute for Space Research and former director of the Brazilian Center for Physical Research. This event made me think about how fundamental the role of science and scientific thinking is for future generations if we want to avoid the things we’re witnessing today. As teachers and educators, should we engage with this debate or should we “stick to our subject” without judging or questioning our students’ assumptions about things related to science? This post challenges the view of sticking to our subject based on the scenario depicted in these two scientists’ talks. (more…)

COVID-19 school closures are threatening children’s oral language skills: but whole-school based interventions could help

Dr Ioanna BakopoulouOral language skills are critical for learning, and they matter now more than ever, writes Dr Ioanna Bakopoulou, SoE, University of Bristol

Capabilities such as vocabulary knowledge, narrative skills and active listening are foundational for young children’s learning. Developed both at home and in school, these capabilities are known as oral language. Oral language is essential for young children’s learning, in particularly their literacy development and their ability to access the curriculum.

Oral language skills have always mattered, but they matter now more than ever. (more…)