Help teachers in poorer areas with housing costs, says report

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Aspiring school heads should work in disadvantaged areas as a requirement for the job, the commission said
Aspiring school heads should work in disadvantaged areas as a requirement for the job, the commission said
13 July 2017 4:45PM

Teachers in poorer areas should get subsidised housing to help bridge the geographical divide in education standards, a cross-party report has urged.

The Commission on Inequality in Education also called for aspiring head teachers to work in disadvantaged schools for three years before taking the job.

It found that where children live is a key factor in determining their chances of success in later life, and chairman Nick Clegg said: "Many of us were quite shocked by the growing correlation between geography and growing inequality in the education system."

A report published on Thursday found the performance gap between the richest and poorest did not significantly improve between the mid-1980s and the mid-2000s.

But a comparison of 11-year-olds born in 2000 with those born in 1970 showed the geographic area a child comes from is becoming more of a factor.

The research also revealed differences in the qualifications and experience of teachers in rich and poor areas, with disadvantaged pupils more likely to be taught by younger teachers who lack a degree in their subjects.

The commission, whose members include Conservative MP Suella Fernandes and Labour MP Stephen Kinnock, produced recommendations aimed at attracting better teachers to poorer areas and increasing parental engagement.

They include a call for schools in disadvantaged areas to get funds to help teachers with renting or buying a home.

Another proposal is to make teaching in a disadvantaged area a condition of gaining the headship qualification, which is one route into becoming a head teacher.

Data analyst Dr Rebecca Allen, who sits on the commission, suggested three years as a good length of time for aspiring head teachers to spend at a school, but said it would not be compulsory under the proposal.

"We have to do something to nudge them in the right direction," she added.

The report also calls for homework contracts between teachers and parents, and a Government-funded programme of primary school "family literacy" classes in poorer areas.

Mr Clegg said: "It is simply unacceptable that, as revealed in our report, poorer children are generally taught by less experienced teachers and that their life chances are shaped by the postcode in which they live.

"In the end, this report confirms something that everybody intuitively knows already - the best education relies on good quality teachers and supportive parents."

The commission found disproportionately high numbers of low-scoring 11-year-olds in Yorkshire and Humberside and the West Midlands, in contrast with the North West and London, which have disproportionately high numbers of high-scoring pupils.

A similar pattern was seen in GCSE results, with more than 60% of pupils in London achieving five good grades, compared with 55% in the West and East Midlands.

The findings were published on Thursday as BBC News reported that serious concerns have been raised about educational standards in Derby.

A head teacher told the broadcaster standards in the city were an "utter calamity", while a spokesman for Ofsted said there was "a dearth of effective academy trusts to take over failing schools".

A Department for Education spokesman said: "This Government wants to make sure that every pupil gets a world-class education regardless of their background or where they live, and we have made significant progress.

"There are 1.8 million more pupils in good or outstanding schools than in 2010, more disadvantaged students than ever before attending university and we are investing an additional £500 million a year into high quality technical education."

In a speech at the Sutton Trust on Wednesday, Education Secretary Justine Greening outlined measures to improve social mobility through her department's Opportunity Areas programme.

"There are now 12 of these areas where we can work closely with our partners on the ground to develop more innovative solutions to poor performance to lift up education outcome," she said.