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Educational Opportunity, Social Citizenship and Devolution: ‘community schools’ and educational attainment in Wales Gareth Rees Wales Institute of Social.

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Presentation on theme: "Educational Opportunity, Social Citizenship and Devolution: ‘community schools’ and educational attainment in Wales Gareth Rees Wales Institute of Social."— Presentation transcript:

1 Educational Opportunity, Social Citizenship and Devolution: ‘community schools’ and educational attainment in Wales Gareth Rees Wales Institute of Social & Economic Research, Data and Methods Moray House School of Education 4 February 2011

2 Overview: Policy Divergence and Social Citizenship One of the signal effects of parliamentary devolution since 1999 has been policy divergence, especially with respect to public services, including education. What this implies is the development of different forms of – in T.H.Marshall’s terms - ‘social citizenship’. These have significant implications for the relationships between citizens (pupils, parents), the school and ultimately the state.

3 ‘For Wales, see England’ I shall be drawing primarily on an analysis of Welsh experience since 1999 (based on work done with colleagues, Sally Power and Chris Taylor, at WISERD). This is partly because, unlike for Scotland and Northern Ireland, the extent of devolved powers and policy divergence in Wales is not widely recognised. This is especially important given that much of the 20 th. Century was characterised by an ‘England and Wales’ educational system.

4 Community Schools and Educational Attainment in Wales More specifically, a broadly social democratic version of social citizenship is expressed, inter alia, through a strong commitment to ‘community schools’. However, this is in sharp tension with other dimensions of this account of social citizenship that emphasise particular forms of educational attainment. These tensions generate a ‘crisis of legitimacy’ for devolved educational provision.

5 Community Schools and Welsh Education Policy Welsh schooling is dominated by state provision: only 2% of pupils attend independent schools. The Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) has consistently pursued a policy of non-selective, ‘community-based’ secondary (and primary) schools; comprehensive schools serving defined neighbourhood. Hence, the diversity of types of secondary school adopted in England is not replicated in Wales. In October 2010, the Minister announced that the Education (Wales) Measure 2011 would stop any further Foundation Schools.

6 State Secondary Schools in Wales, by category, to CommunityVoluntary aided Voluntary controlled FoundationTotal

7 Community Schools: some implications 1 Community schools entail a prioritisation of close relationships between schools and the geographically- defined communities they serve. More specifically, they imply a number of key ideas about how secondary schooling ought to be organised. These include: A key role for parents (for example, the new Inspection Framework) and pupils (for example, mandatory school councils) in the management of schools; Local authorities provide the most important mechanism for the wider management of secondary-level provision, especially through funding, admissions and support services (for example, 2008 School Effectiveness Framework).

8 Community Schools: some implications 2 Equally, however, it is important not to over-emphasise the distinctiveness of this system. Welsh-medium schools provide an element of diversity and have different sorts of relationships with their ‘communities’. Community schools operate ‘open enrolment’ systems, although without ‘league tables’ (or great diversity). There are significant variations in how community schools operate in different regions and localities across Wales.

9 ‘Producer Interests’ and Education Policy Community schools have gone hand-in-hand with other, not wholly consistent, ideas about the appropriate organisation of secondary schooling. These include: The valorisation of ‘professional standards’ as the key to assuring the quality of educational provision (for example, the abandoning of testing and ‘league tables’; the prioritisation of CPD); ‘Fairness’ in access to educational opportunities through absence of specialisation and selection. These aspects have been interpreted as reflecting the capacity of ‘producer interests’ to block progressive reforms in educational provision.

10 Social Democratic Consensus and Education Policy An alternative account stresses the effects of what remains a dominant social democratic consensus in Welsh politics. As the then First Minister, Rhodri Morgan, emphasised in a speech in 2002, the WAG (and the National Assembly) place a positive valuation on the ‘clear red water’ between their policies and those pursued by the Westminster Government. What is involved is more than simply the rejection of New Labour’s and now the UK Coalition’s policies. It also reflects a positive commitment to forms of public service provision that embody alternative ideological priorities that are seen to be specifically attuned to Welsh needs and values.

11 Alternative Models of Social Citizenship What this implies is an acknowledgement that social citizenship can rightly differ where values differ, even within the same (UK) state. More specifically, the WAG has made a positive decision to adopt forms of public service provision which reflect a prioritisation of citizen voice, rather than market choice. Educational provision – and community schools, more specifically - clearly reflect this alternative conceptualisation of what social citizenship entails.

12 Education Policy and Patterns of Attainment There are, however, contradictions in the Welsh model of social citizenship; in particular, between the forms of service delivery adopted (such as community schools) and the educational opportunities that are provided. A key element in the Welsh model of social citizenship is the ‘right’ of access to effective educational provision. There is an increasing tension between approbation of the educational policies adopted and concern over what is widely seen to be a ‘crisis of educational attainment’.

13 The ‘Crisis of Educational Attainment’ There have been significant increases in levels of attainment in Welsh schools over the past decade. However, comparisons with other parts of the UK and more widely have produced a ‘crisis of attainment’. There is, of course, a material basis to this (albeit a very complicated one); but perhaps the principal effect has been the creation of a crisis of legitimacy for the Welsh educational system.

14 GCSE Results in Wales, to

15 Pupils aged 15 Achieving 5+ A*-C GCSEs, %

16 PISA 2009: Mean Scores, UK countries and OECD

17 Equity in Educational Attainment? Moreover, research carried out by colleagues in WISERD reveals that this relative decline in relation to the other countries of the UK and elsewhere is not compensated by greater equalities within Wales. Hence, the attainment gaps with respect to poverty (eligibility for free school meals), gender and, in some respects, ethnic background have been widening over recent years. This is clearly contrary to what might be expected from a social democratic model of educational provision.

18 Concluding Comments 1 This ‘crisis’ reflects the limitations of policy divergence and, by implication at least, the model of social citizenship which is thereby implied. The citizen’s access to educational opportunities is regulated not only by reference to the form of educational provision, but also in terms of the outcomes of educational participation. Understandings of the latter are shaped only very partially by reference to Wales and, much more significantly, by comparisons with what are seen to be educational attainments elsewhere.

19 Concluding Comments 2 These complex constructions of social citizenship imply a significant crisis of legitimacy for Welsh schools and educational provision more widely. There are already indications that this crisis will have important impacts on educational policies that will limit the scope of policy divergence in the future.


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