Personalised learning for all by 2020?

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4 January 2007: The Gilbert Report, a government-backed review into the future of education, has published its recommendations for education in 2020.

In what is likely to herald a major change in teaching methods over the next 10-15 years, Gilbert-report-cover resizedthe report recommends more pupil and parent involvement in schooling in order to give every child an education that is tailored specifically to their own, individual needs.

The report also advocates providing children who are falling behind at school with one-to-one tuition, either in or outside school hours, to enable them to catch up with their peers and argues that every child should have a learning guide throughout their school career who can help identify those students at greatest risk of underachievement.

Identifying the problem

The review, led by Christine Gilbert, Chief Inspector of Schools, accepts that England scores well for overall achievement when compared with other countries, but highlights the “considerable tail of underachievement – most notably in reading.” The review highlights underachievement by boys as an “extremely persistent” problem and states that “for too many pupils, school does not engage them or equip them with the skills they need.”

Arguing that “Personalisation is a matter of moral purpose and social justice”, the report points out that “pupils from the most disadvantaged groups are the least likely to achieve well and participate in higher levels of education or training”. And it sounds a warning for the future: “The country cannot accept a situation in which over 20% of children leave primary school without a solid foundation in literacy and numeracy.”

Proposing new solutions

The report proposes an education system in which “a child’s chances of success are not related to his or her socio-economic background, gender or ethnicity”. It argues for high quality teaching that is matched explicitly to the different and developing abilities of pupils; is focused on breaking down barriers to learning and progress; and is underpinned by high expectations.

To promote achievement for all students, the report also suggests that boys and girls could be taught separately and that pupils could be grouped by ability rather than age. Recommending a review of the current role of the national curriculum and exams in education, it goes on to suggest that some students could sit national SATs exams earlier than others, depending on their attainment levels.

Closing the achievement gap

The report identifies a number of ways in which lower achieving pupils can be brought up to the same level as their class mates. These include:

  • a broad and rich curriculum that takes account of prior learning and experiences and helps pupils to develop the full range of knowledge, skills, understanding and attitudes – such as the curriculum practiced at our SHINE on Saturday and Serious Fun on Saturday¬†projects
  • an explicit focus on higher order thinking skills and learning how to learn – as promoted by the SHINE-funded SAPERE project
  • study support and out-of-classroom learning that give pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds additional access to and support for learning – as practiced by a number of SHINE projects, including the DigiSmart, Springboard and Hanover Foundation programmes

Reaction and next steps

The report has received a mixed response from other political parties and professional bodies. However, with £1.3 billion already earmarked by the Government for personalised learning, education experts believe that many of the recommendations from the 2020 Vision Group will be implemented in some form.

Click here to download the Report: 2020 Vision – Report of the Teaching and Learning in 2020 Review Group (pdf file).