“We’re all going on a summer holiday”

Summer, after all, is a time when wonderful things can happen… for those few months, you’re not required to be who everyone thinks you are, and that cut-grass smell in the air and the chance to dive into the deep end of a pool gives you a courage you don’t have the rest of the year… summer opens the door and lets you out. Deb Calleti, author.

I think it’s fair to say American writer Deb Caletti, sums up pretty well the loveliness of summer. Now I know some of you may think I’m getting slightly ahead of myself having just experienced the coldest March in the UK since 1962, not to mention a eclectic mix of snow, hail, rain with only fleeting moments of sunshine these past couple of weeks, but according to an article on the BBC News website today, education secretary Michael Gove has urged for longer school days and shorter holidays for students. Gove argues, “If you look at the length of the school day in England, the length of the summer holiday, and we compare it to the extra tuition and support that children are receiving elsewhere, then we are fighting or actually running in this global race in a way that ensures that we start with a significant handicap.”

Those opposing the idea include Christine Blower of the National Union of Teachers who said in response to Gove’s statement, “Teachers and pupils already spend longer hours in the classroom than most countries and also have some of the shortest summer holidays.” I think Brian Lightman of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) hits the nail on the head though when he says, “The quality of the learning happening in the classrooms when children are in school is more important than the number of hours they spend there.”

Some of my fondest childhood memories are of my school summer holidays. Cycling to the park with my friends, (for actual fun and not to keep fit!), picking berries with my Mum and sister to make jam, catching grasshoppers and keeping them as ‘pets’ for the day, going to the beach and coming home with windswept hair and a fresh set of freckles on my face, to name a few. The idea of having my holiday shortened would have horrified me as a child and does now as an adult. It seems students today are under constant scrutiny and feel a huge pressure to perform. What’s more, many schools make a point of setting coursework over the holidays to be completed by the time students return. In my opinion, young people need time to kick back and enjoy a well deserved and much needed break. Life is about balance and making sure you have time out from studies to refresh your mind and enjoy some quality time with friends and family.

Let the kids play is what I say!

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Giving girls an education

An item in the news today grabbed my attention, looking at a new documentary that follows nine girls around the world in their quest to get schooling.

Entitled ‘Girl Rising’, it features the stories of individual girls from Cambodia, India, Peru, Egypt, Nepal, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Haiti and Sierra Leone. What unites them is their desire to get an education, and the difficulties they face in doing so.

Considering myself ‘well-educated’ in comparison to many globally, I for one am passionate that all girls have the chance for an education. As currently an all-female team (girl power and all that!), the issue of education for women is important to us Mangos. Each of us have completed compulsory education, further education and we are all lucky enough to have a degree under our belts. Without this background, we are conscious that the likelihood is that none of us would be in the privileged position we are today.

As the documentary points out, education isn’t just about getting job however. Education for women globally improves health standards, reduces child trafficking, increases a country’s GDP, and breaks the cycle of poverty – as well as giving individual girls the chance at a better life. As narrator in ‘Girl Rising’, actress Meryl Streep said “Educating women and girls has the most optimistic, positive effects on families, communities and economies worldwide.”

A number of initiatives are working to recognise the impact of education, including the Girls’ Education Challenge (GEC) from the British Government which launched last month. This aims to help up to a million of the world’s poorest girls improve their lives through education. One example is the £30 million Step Change projects forming part of this that will be led by non-state organisations and will quickly and effectively expand education opportunities for 670,000 girls at primary and secondary level in nine focus countries.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative launched in 2000 is a partnership of organisations committed to narrowing the gender gap in primary and secondary education. It also seeks to ensure that, by 2015, all children complete primary schooling, with girls and boys having equal access to free, quality education.

I hope that hearing the stories of these individuals can really bring home the importance of global education for women, and will encourage people to support initiatives such as the above.

Here is just a taster of some of the facts that astounded me surrounding women and education. Research has found:

• Worldwide, 66 million girls are missing out on an education
• It is estimated that, of those girls who are enrolled at school, 100 million will drop out of school before they even complete their primary school education
• In 2008, it was estimated the economic cost to 65 low and middle income transitional countries of failing to educate girls to the same standards as boys is a huge $92 billion each year
• In 2004, the amount needed to be spent on basic education for all was less than the amount the USA and Europe spent on ice cream ($31 billion)
• A girl with an extra year of education can earn up to 20 per cent more as an adult
• When a girl in the developing world receives an education, she marries four years later and has 2.2 fewer children
• In Nigeria, 71 per cent of women with no education think violence is justified when a woman leaves the house without telling her husband, compared to 33 per cent of those with secondary education
• Early pregnancy limits the chances of a girl finishing school. In Ghana, 83 per cent of parents listed the possibility of girls falling pregnant as a disadvantage of schooling them.
• The tendancy for girls doing household chores sees girls in Guinea Bissau for instance working an average of eight hours a day on household chores compared to an average three for boys, meaning a lack of time for schoolwork

The seven new ways to measure social mobility

Let’s admit it, in the UK, we are obsessed with class. The supermarket you shop in, the newspaper you read, where you go on holiday and where you went to school, can all lead to assumptions regarding social standing. Class, until now was separated into three neat categories; working class, middle class and upper class. But things have moved on from the ‘Upstairs Downstairs’ era and as a result sociologists have now acknowledged a more complex society that includes seven social classes.

The seven categories represent a class structure in this country that is much more dynamic with increasing levels of social mobility. Being born the son of a fisherman doesn’t mean that you can’t become the head of a highly lucrative motorsport association, as was the case with F1 boss, Bernie Ecclestone.

Arguably the least class conscious people are children. State schools can be a melting pot of children from different backgrounds, ethnicities and class.

While the hope is that children born into the most deprived groups, now known as the Precariat, (precarious proletariat) will exceed expectations of their social class and go on to be successful in both work and life, there is still much work to be done. While there are huge societal inequalities that need to be addressed before social mobility can be achieved, much of the onus falls on schools and colleges as this is something that the government can control more easily. This may be a heavy weight for schools to bear but there is evidence to suggest that schools really do play an integral role in narrowing the gap in achievement.

The Association of School and College Leaders has recently published a practical guide which is intended to act as a toolkit to help schools create effective strategies to improve outcomes for disadvantaged pupils. The guide has been designed so that even schools in the most challenging circumstances can act to close the performance gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers. The guide asserts that a successful strategy for raising attainment should involve a strong culture of high expectations.  From the head teacher to the pupils, an aspiration to excel must inform every aspect of the school, from staff appraisals to pupil targets. The guide reinforces that schools need to create a culture of no excuses and challenge attitudes that a child from a particular estate or family is restricted to a future of low achievement.

While there will always be people who are born into privilege and others born into poverty, education still gives people the best chance to break out of class stereotypes.  The introduction of seven new classes acknowledges that the social make-up of the UK is more layered and evolving than it was several decades ago. That has to be a good thing.

Let’s admit it, in the UK, we are obsessed with class. The supermarket you shop in, the newspaper you read, where you go on holiday and where you went to school, can all lead to assumptions regarding social standing. Class, until now was separated into three neat categories; working class, middle class and upper class. But things have moved on from the ‘Upstairs Downstairs’ era and as a result sociologists have now acknowledged a more complex society that includes seven social classes.

The seven categories represent a class structure in this country that is much more dynamic with increasing levels of social mobility. Being born the son of a fisherman doesn’t mean that you can’t become the head of a highly lucrative motorsport association, as was the case with F1 boss, Bernie Ecclestone.

Arguably the least class conscious people are children. State schools can be a melting pot of children from different backgrounds, ethnicities and class.

While the hope is that children born into the most deprived groups, now known as the Precariat, (precarious proletariat) will exceed expectations of their social class and go on to be successful in both work and life, there is still much work to be done. While there are huge societal inequalities that need to be addressed before social mobility can be achieved, much of the onus falls on schools and colleges as this is something that the government can control more easily. This may be a heavy weight for schools to bear but there is evidence to suggest that schools really do play an integral role in narrowing the gap in achievement.

The Association of School and College Leaders has recently published a practical guide which is intended to act as a toolkit to help schools create effective strategies to improve outcomes for disadvantaged pupils. The guide has been designed so that even schools in the most challenging circumstances can act to close the performance gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers. The guide asserts that a successful strategy for raising attainment should involve a strong culture of high expectations.  From the head teacher to the pupils, an aspiration to excel must inform every aspect of the school, from staff appraisals to pupil targets. The guide reinforces that schools need to create a culture of no excuses and challenge attitudes that a child from a particular estate or family is restricted to a future of low achievement.

While there will always be people who are born into privilege and others born into poverty, education still gives people the best chance to break out of class stereotypes.  The introduction of seven new classes acknowledges that the social make-up of the UK is more layered and evolving than it was several decades ago. That has to be a good thing.

The 7 new classes (according to the BBC Lab study):

  • Elite – The most privileged class. High level of all three capitals (economic, cultural and social).
  • Established middle class – High levels of all three capitals but not as high as Elite. Gregarious and culturally engaged.
  • Technical middle class – New, small class with high economic capital but less culturally engaged. Relatively few      social contacts.
  • New affluent workers – Medium levels of economic, but higher levels of cultural and social capital. Young and      active.
  • Emergent service workers – New class with low economic but high ’emerging’ cultural capital. High social capital. Young      and often found in urban areas.
  • Traditional working class – Low on all three capitals, but not the poorest. Older on average than other classes.
  • Precariat, or precarious proletariat – Most deprived group, with low levels of all three capitals.