Ofsted Head Wilshaw Says UK’s Poor Students ‘Let Down’

(Photo: Pixabay, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Pixabay, Creative Commons)

Ofsted Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw has stated that poor students in the United Kingdom “are still being let down” by the British education system.

In the speech, Wilshaw discussed the “appalling injustice” of children from low-income neighborhoods, who are continually falling behind their more affluent peers.  He will be pushing tougher rules for “feckless parents” who allow their children to break school rules.

The Department for Education said that every child, no matter the background, has the right to a high-quality education, writes Richard Adams for The Guardian.

The speech, set to take place at the Festival of Education, will state that if the educational system in the country is not improved upon to help poor students, it “disfigures” the school system for all of Britain.  “The needle has barely moved,” he will say.

“In 2005, the attainment gap between free school meal [FSM] and non-FSM pupils in secondary schools was 28 percentage points – it is still 28 percentage points now.”

Wilshaw is set to discuss the gap that is continually increasing between the poor students in northern England and those located in the South.  In addition, he will also note how the poor students who attend school in more wealthy areas are being let down.

He will say: “The attainment gap between FSM and non-FSM secondary school children in West Berkshire is 31 percentage points. In Kent it’s 34. In Surrey it’s 36.  In Buckinghamshire it’s 39. And in Reading it’s a whopping 40 percentage points – all far in excess of the national gap of 28. What an appalling injustice.”

He is set to make a push for schools to add more structure to their daily routine, rejecting the idea that “structure stifles,” while at the same time ignoring the constant complaints about uniform rules, arguing that many poor students do not get enough direction or support in their home life.

He states that more structure at school will make up for their chaotic life at home.  Without structure, poor students are being set up for failure, he believes.

Meanwhile, he says middle-class students have a head start on education, as their parents are typically more well-off and they have more access to cultural events.  They typically perform better in school, and for those who do not, their parents can afford tutors.

Wilshaw is also set to stand up for testing throughout the country, arguing that it is “an opportunity” for children.  Testing, he is expected to say, offers teachers the ability to have a better understanding of what students know and provide the individualized help they need, reports Javier Espinoza for The Telegraph.

He suggests one solution to the issue is to no longer show sympathy for “feckless” parents, saying that while they may have once been let down by the education system, they need to understand that how they choose to raise their children has outcomes that effect everyone.  He says these reminders should come in the form of letters, meetings, and sanctions.

Wilshaw is set to leave his position as chief inspector in December.  He will be replaced by Amanda Spielman, who chairs exams regulator Ofqual.