Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said:
“Equality of opportunity for all children and young people must be an underpinning principle of our education system. Whatever a child’s or young person’s background or ability, there should be a place for them, teachers to inspire and motivate, and a system that allows every individual to reach their full potential. This research clearly highlights the potential barriers to schools achieving that aim, and we’d urge the government to listen.
“The first finding of the report is that segregation, selection and streaming presents a risk to the progress of our most disadvantaged pupils. This supports our own opposition to the creation of new grammar schools – there is a wealth of evidence that selection at 11 does not improve outcomes for all children. Instead NAHT argues that greater investment in high quality early years education would have a much bigger impact on life chances.
“The report’s warnings on the impact of setting and streaming in comprehensive schools should be heeded by the DfE and Ofsted – a high stakes accountability system and a single focus on educational attainment mean that some of our most vulnerable pupils could be missing out.
“We also agree with the report that schools can't improve equality for pupils if they are struggling for money themselves – vital interventions that could improve equality are already disappearing. Cuts to local authority budgets have greatly reduced the sources of support for families on low incomes, and schools have been left to pick up the pieces.
“But government funding is not keeping up with growing costs, and schools are finding they can do less and less as they are forced to cut the numbers and hours of teachers and teaching assistants. It is the children most in need of support who are disproportionately affected by government underfunding, and are now at risk of simply getting lost in the classroom.”
James Bowen, director of NAHT Edge, said:
“It is now widely accepted that the quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers. There is no better way to improve pupil outcomes than to invest in the school workforce. This report confirms this, recognising that attracting, supporting and retaining the very best teachers is vital. Highly skilled and well-motivated teachers are essential if you’re going to stand a realistic chance of improving equality for pupils. Certain areas and schools have always struggled to attract teachers, and these are often the ones with the children that are most in need of them.”
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