With a general election looming, the main political parties have been urged to work together to reduce the disadvantage gap in education results.
In an interview with today’s Yorkshire Post, SHINE’s CEO Fiona Spellman made the call for a joint approach after researchers found that although each of the parties had made bold pledges about tackling educational inequality, their manifesto policies were unlikely to deliver tangible results.
The Education Policy Institute (EPI) found that despite a large proportion of the attainment gap between disadvantaged children and the rest emerging before entry to school, party policies had more of a focus on improving childcare rather than on high-quality early years education.
The EPI’s analysis showed that while each party has “some well-designed and helpful policies”, none has a properly evidence-based strategy to meet their bold ambitions. While theparties were committed to spending billions of pounds, their policies were either over-ambitious or misdirected, the institute reported.
Fiona said: “Tackling the disadvantage gap in education must be a top priority for whichever party is in power. In the North particularly, there is a risk that our most disadvantaged children are being forgotten by an education system that too often fails to recognise and address their specific needs.”
She added: “We must ensure that the political decisions which affect our children are based on the evidence of what is most effective, and that new policies are much more rigorously tested before mass adoption.
“There are significant resourcing pressures at all stages of our education system, and any commitment to additional funding for schools is, of course, to be welcomed.
“However, the truth is, the most significant barriers facing children from disadvantaged backgrounds often lie beyond the school gates. More money for our schools is certainly necessary for improving outcomes, but it is only one part of the solution.
“Teachers are doing a fantastic job supporting our children, often despite the policy environment rather than because of it. Politicians of different persuasions must be prepared to work together in the interests of the least advantaged children.
“After so many years of our political system trying and failing to fix this issue, it’s time we tried something different.”