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Equal opportunities in English. I am to explore equal opportunities within the English department within my setting. As a micro study I will use baseline data of Gifted and Talented (G and T) students including: whether they are in receipt of free school

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Introduction

Directed Task 1 Equal Opportunities in English 'Our education system should be completely remodelled on such a basis as to secure the democratic principle of equality of opportunity' (Schofield, 1964, p58). We all have our own preconceived ideas as to the definition of 'equal opportunities' therefore with such a diverse range of descriptions are we actually offering a culturally inclusive environment for young people to develop and learn? R.H.Tawney, as early as 1922, wrote 'Secondary Education for all' for the Labour Party's key party statement. Labour party members at this time were aware that the education system was clearly culturally biased offering an ever increasing divide between social classes. Blair claimed that the three main commitments of the Labour Party in 1996 were 'education, education, education'. With education at the forefront of the Labour Party's agenda a significant number of policies were introduced in the anticipation of raising aspirations and offering a far more socially fair society including: Every Child Matters (DCFS, 2003), Higher Standards: Better Schools for All (DfES, 2005) and The Children's Plan: Building Brighter Futures (DCSF, 2007). However, as a result of the Conservative party Spending Review (2010) we are left to question how many of Labour's initiatives will continue and the impact this may have on vulnerable groups. Within my setting I am part of a research and development working party exploring reasons for Gifted and Talented underachievement. As a result of this there are a 'core group of seventy four' students requiring intervention to ensure factors aside from raising attainment are targeted. ...read more.

Middle

With this in mind why are schools continuing to set according to perceived ability and does this prove that 'setting and streaming created and maintained inequalities, particularly for working class students' (Boaler, 1997, p.575)? There appear to be a number of working class G and T students in my setting, yet, due to external factors contributing to a lack of engagement often they are placed in lower ability sets. Are we then reinforcing a culture of low aspirations for potential first generation university students? Out of one hundred and thirty four Gifted and Talented students, forty three receive free school meals and forty one are on the Special Educational Needs Register. Students with these profiles have an average CAT score in the range of 117. A focus on reasoning abilities identifies pupils who may not be found through an analysis of solely curriculum related attainments. CAT also provides a measure of a pupil's abilities against the national average (120), not just in relation to their peers within the school. Within my setting Gifted and Talented students are highlighted as being in the top 10% of students relative to the cohort of students admitted. The use of students being on the SEN Reg and fsm as empirical evidence to suggest possible inequality of opportunity could be classed as an unrealistic indicator however with only 15.2% of fsm students in comparison to 43.3% nfsm achieving 5 or more A* - C GCSE grades including English and Maths across East Sussex (DCSF, 2008) ...read more.

Conclusion

There are likely to be a number of families who are eligible for free school meals who may not actually claim for them including a number of middle class families who may have been made redundant or have ill health. There are so many other factors to consider when looking at empirical evidence which may affect a student's engagement, motivation and self esteem, therefore why are schools so data driven and does this detract from delivering positive, engaging lessons which enable students to make progress? 'Without a system-wide approach to nurturing giftedness and talent, system-wide underachievement occurs with this being most pronounced amongst minority populations' (CSFC, 2010, p.16) From this study I would recommend that the English department explore alternative ways of highlighting pupils who are Gifted and Talented without relying solely on the use of data which could be deemed unreliable. Also, a number of students suggested that they did not like writing, yet, when looking at pupils work little evidence of marking was present. To implement an agreed format to feedback to pupils and their parents may increase motivation to present work in the written form. Pupils need to clearly know where they are at and what they need to do in order to make progress. Furthermore, teachers should consider a variety of resources suited to the needs of the more able which may excite, engage and motivate them to want to learn as 'providing for Gifted and talented pupils in our schools is a question of equity - as with all other pupils, they have a right to an education that is suited to their particular needs and abilities' (DCSF, 2010, p.7). ...read more.

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