Posh and posher indeed
A new report from the much respected international think-tank of rich countries, the OECD, sheds light on some of the social mobility and education themes I touched on in my recent BBC2 documentary Posh & Posher.
It's a long report but worth the study and I look forward to your comments. Its main conclusion is that:
"Despite sharply rising school spending per pupil during the last 10 years, improvements in schooling outcomes have been limited in the United Kingdom."
How can that be, I hear you ask? The last Labour government doubled per capita spending on pupils and regularly pointed to improving exam results as the fruit of its investment. But the OECD confronts the controversial issue of grade inflation and comes to this conclusion:
"Official test scores and grades in England show systematically and significantly better performance than international and independent tests . The measures used by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) . show significant increases in quality over time, while the measures based on cognitive tests not used for grading show declines or minimal improvements ...
"The share of A-level entries awarded grade A has risen continuously for 18 years and has roughly trebled since 1980 ... independent surveys of cognitive skills do not support this development."
The OECD report gives cause to look again at the annually improving GCSE and A-level results. It concludes that pupils' actual performance has been "static" and "uneven".
The report also says that, despite the huge increase in resources devoted to state schools, success remains "strongly related to parents' income and background." The OECD concludes that:
"Incomes and educational outcomes are unevenly distributed in the UK compared to many other OECD countries and intergenerational social mobility is low ... schooling out comes in the UK are among the more unequal in the OECD area. This leaves many students from weaker socio-economic backgrounds with insufficient levels of competence, which hampers their chances in the labour market and higher education."
In plain English, the OECD is saying that despite increasing spending on education from £36 billion a year to £71 billion over the last 10 years or so, we are still seriously failing to open up opportunity to poor kids. Indeed, social immobility might even be on the increase:
"Disadvantaged children seemed to perform worse in 2006 than in 2001, while the impact of parents' incomes on six-year-olds' cognitive and non-cognitive skills has if anything increased recently."
Posh & posher indeed.
Andrew on the One Show (January 20) talking about Posh and Posher