Proposals to increase equality and fairness are like “trying to nail jelly to the wall.”
No, we are not in school anymore. And neither, according to new research from the Equalities Review, are “under-performing ethnic minority pupils”, or indeed lesbian, gay and bisexual teenagers. As Trevor Phillips, chair of the panel, points out: “We may not yet have nailed the jelly, but we feel that we have at least wrestled it to the floor.”
While the review freely admits that “there is relatively little data that give us a picture in this life stage for lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender young people”, it does stumble across a worrying finding, concerning the seriousness and impact of homophobic bullying. “Research among Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual (LGB) adults examines the high level of absenteeism, self-harm and suicidal tendencies among those adults who had been bullied while at school,” it continued.
The report went on to find that LGB teenagers were more likely to leave school at 16, despite reaching the equivalent of six C grades at GCSE. And this, the report concluded, was “prima facie” evidence that such concentrated bullying inevitably leads to long-term disadvantages. Their research in this troubled sector is ongoing and the full findings will be released in the final report, due out this autumn.
The report goes on, inadvertently highlighting the ongoing debate raging within FE as to targets, levels and stages being indicators of success. And as much as FE attempts to throw off the shackles it has unwillingly inherited, the report cites performance as still being measured by levels and stages. Dispensing with any notion of Further Education as a benefit to a progressive society, “Performance at GCSE grades A*- C is an effective pointer to whether an individual is able to pass the capability threshold that qualifies them for the world of work at all, and for effective participation in society.”
FE Plugging the Gaps
Recent studies and numerous calls for concern from industry have shown the exact opposite; that the skills and vocations offered by FE are plugging the gaps left by the regimented secondary education sector. And it points to more controversial conclusions in relation to adult development.
“The evidence made available to the review suggested that”¦young people who fail to acquire qualifications by 19 are unlikely to make up this shortfall later in life.” Their research makes for uncomfortable reading. Nearly half of the country’s employers are unhappy with school leavers” basic literacy skills, citing “5.2 million adults who lack the literacy skills of a 14 year old”.
Following Sir Alan’s scathing comments on FE colleges, it would be wise to perhaps suggest some of his apprentices fall into this category, being unable to articulate a coherent sentence. And we must agree with Mr Phillips in his recognition of the vast amount that still needs to be achieved in the battle for equality. Not wanting to state the blindingly transparent: “We are moving in the right direction, but inequality still persists.”
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