Talent is everywhere, opportunity is not

The government's new policies will allow every child to benefit from education, no matter where they live, says Robin Walker

The government's new policies will allow every child to benefit from education, no matter where they live, says Robin Walker

4 Feb 2022, 5:00

Nobody wants children born in one part of the country to be given better chances than others.

The ugly fact, however, is that they do – because while talent is found everywhere, opportunity is not.

It is my personal goal as schools minister to tear down the barriers that some face from an early age, truly levelling up across every corner of the country.

If the question is how, the answer is education. I want every child in our country to benefit from a world-class education, whether that is in the early years, school, college, university or at home.

One of the first steps we are taking is to eliminate so-called “ghost children”, which is why we are making iron-clad our commitment to create a register of children not in school.

This government trusts parents and believes in choice

Robin Walker, schools minister

This government trusts parents and believes in choice. If parents want to educate their child at home, we support them, because we know that most home-educating parents do an excellent job.

But with the pandemic giving rise to more children not being in school, we need to take every precaution so that no child slips through the cracks.

We want to know where every child is educated to make sure that they are safe.

It forms part of our relentless drive to make sure children are not out of school without good reason, because children need to be fully engaged in education to catch up from this pandemic.

Just last week we laid out new plans to end the postcode lottery of how attendance is managed in different schools, and make sure every child and family gets the best possible support to attend school as regularly as possible

‘Still some way to go’ on behaviour

Plenty of schools have created phenomenal behaviour cultures. At these schools, consistent approaches make every child feel safe, including the most vulnerable. And when this happens, all children feel better about school and are more likely to want to attend – and learn.

But there is still some way to go: In 2019, a survey by my department found that 70 per cent of teachers felt misbehaviour meant they lost up to ten minutes of teaching time per hour.

It is stressful too – 63 per cent of primary and 72 per cent of secondary teachers felt that challenging behaviour negatively affected their wellbeing.

Now more than ever we need teachers to be focusing on pupils’ education, which is why this week I launched a consultation on how schools can create a culture of good behaviour.

We’ve already put some ideas on the table, and I am asking the people this affects – children, their parents, teachers and experts – to let us know what they think.

This revised behaviour in school guidance will provide practical advice for all staff to create these positive environments through consistent routines and high expectations, as well as advice on responding to behaviour incidents online.

Teachers ‘do not want to deal with misbehaviour’

Teachers do not go into teaching because they want to deal with misbehaviour. But when it happens, I want teachers to have the best techniques, strategies and tools at their disposal so they can protect the majority of children who are well behaved.

This is why we have also introduced the behaviour and culture national professional qualification, giving leaders in schools the tools they need, and we will always back schools to act when required, including using exclusion as a last resort.

I know that some children will need more help to be able to participate fully in school life, and that’s why this week’s steps will be bolstered by the schools white paper and SEND review, in which we will further outline how we will meet our mission: to make sure the right children get the right support at the right time.

Together these concrete measures will help make sure no pupil misses out on our world-class education – no matter where they are born. As we move beyond the pandemic, we owe them no less.

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  1. Wasting our human resources by excluding so many from participating in learning is I believe a criminal act no different than and even worse than “criminal damage to property” yet, the exclusion of 30% of children from participating in learning effectively sustaining the volume of the “Have-nots” immobility simply due to not being enabled to read fluently enough to engage in an increasingly narrow academic curriculum having abandoned vocational workshops / training for some 30 years and wondering why we don’t have any semi or highly skilled fixers of things – hahah