In case you didn’t see it, on Wednesday, Sir Michael Wilshaw – Chief Inspector for Schools (Ofsted) – released his annual report on the state of education in England. Identifying major gaps and regional variations in educational attainment, Wilshaw blamed low expectations and mediocre teaching while dismissing ‘real poverty’ :
I suppose what I would say to them [regions that are struggling] is to raise your aspirations and make your aspirations for your young people really clear and that poverty is no barrier to success and I think that is what London has proved more than anything. (BBC 11/12/13)
As you will know from our past blog posts, Wilshaw is the latest in a number of politicians and government figures who have explained educational differences through recourse to individualised explanations rather than structural causes – ignoring both a raft of research (including our own) that reveals that young people from ‘disadvantaged’ backgrounds have no shortage of aspirations, and an international body of evidence that shows time and time again that unless income inequality and poverty are tackled, schools and teachers can only do so much.
Such comments come at a time of growing poverty in England – evidenced by the tripling of families using food banks, and growth of in-work poverty - arguably exacerbated by the government’s punitive welfare reforms. To ignore the role of poverty in shaping young people’s lives and educational outcomes is not simply ignorant but irresponsible.
After a flurry of calls and cajoling from her university press office, Kim was interviewed by Channel 4 reporters on Wednesday afternoon. She appears very briefly in this Channel 4 report – aired on Wednesday night – challenging Wilshaw’s comments that poverty of aspiration rather than real poverty is to blame for educational inequality.
(Bit of a shame they spelt Kim’s name wrong but you can’t have it all…..)