Michael Gove

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JIM CURRAN
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Michael Gove

Post by JIM CURRAN » Mon Oct 12, 2009 1:58 pm

At long last, a class act who might just save our schools... if his party lets him

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/artic ... z0Tj3wOkwI

Rod Everson
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Post by Rod Everson » Mon Oct 12, 2009 5:06 pm

The article contained the following: "Two-thirds of working-class boys at the age of 14 have a reading age of seven or below."

Here in the U.S. we have distinctions like center-city/suburban/rural, or black/white/asian/hispanic, or economically advantaged/economically deprived (basically those who qualify for a free or reduced-price lunch at school), but we don't sort into "working-class" and what, non-working class? So I have no feel for what percentage of your students would be considered working-class. Could someone supply that information?

And then, is it true that 2/3 of them have reading ages below 8 years old at the age of 14? I find this a bit hard to believe, unless "working-class" is defined as someone who failed to attain a particular education standard. Maybe that's the case? I'd appreciate an explanation.

Rod Everson

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palisadesk
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Post by palisadesk » Mon Oct 12, 2009 5:49 pm

Rod, class structure in the UK is quite different from that in the U.S. "Working class" generally refers to people who are wage-earners (not on welfare), but in addition to lower incomes they have a distinct culture that differs from that of the "middle class," and has no direct equivalent in the US. It's not something whose implications or nature can readily be understood by someone from the US. I confess I only half "get it."

"Middle class" status in the US tends to be much more based on income and/or educational level, and is not particularly homogeneous in cultural terms. Whatever their social class backgrounds, people who earn good incomes become "middle class" by virtue of where they live, the cars they drive, the clubs they join, etc. Social mobility is much more fluid here.

Here are some sites with background info on what "working class" means in the UK:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/7296072.stm
Who are the white working class?

http://www.answers.com/topic/working-class

An interesting article showing how "working class" is identified with other characteristics in a way foreign to U.S. perspectives:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/ ... demic.html

As for the numbers, I don't know much about the percentage of UK students who are "white working class," but we have subgroups with similar profiles of low achievement. I believe our reading results for eighth graders on native reserves are approximately equivalent -- that is, a large percentage reading at a second-third grade level. Ditto for populations in Appalachia, Alaska, some urban schools, etc.

Theodore Dalrymple is a British author who has written a great deal on the working-class culture (and the "on the dole" culture, whatever that is called) in the UK in some popular books, and also as a regular commentator to City Journal (online).

Susan S.

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maizie
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Post by maizie » Mon Oct 12, 2009 7:09 pm

I wouldn't even try to understand what Gove means by 'working class'! But I guess that the nearest North American equivalent might be 'low SES'.

I'm not sure that social mobility is particularly static in the UK, though recent research has shown that the rate of mobility has slowed considerably over the last couple of decades. I suspect that the British are just more 'class aware' and so their discourse tends to contain far more references to 'class'.

I find it really hard to take Gove particularly seriously; the Conservative message is rather confusing. Who, for instance, is going to oversee the pruning of 'mumbo-jumbo' from education, particularly if schools are going to be freed from central State direction and left to go their own way?

Similarly, how will they enforce their expressed desire that children are taught to read with SP?

And, giving parents 'more power'; what happens to those poor children whose parents aren't in the slightest bit interested in their children's education?

It's all very well trying to roll back the State (though, I would say in passing that State schools in the UK seem to have a tad more 'freedom' in some areas, such as their choice of programme for the teaching of reading, than those in North America) but will the children at the 'bottom end' fare any better than they do today?

JIM CURRAN
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Subject

Post by JIM CURRAN » Tue Oct 13, 2009 6:25 am

If it’s any help Rod about 14% of the school population in the United Kingdom are on the Free school meals register .

Rod Everson
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Post by Rod Everson » Tue Oct 13, 2009 7:18 pm

The problem I've having understanding this is that our smaller, rural schools in the U.S. generally have better overall results than the big city schools, even though most students in the rural schools would be considered to come from something approximating a "working class." Yet only a very small percentage of our 14 year olds would be considered to be reading below the level of an 8 year old. (I would guess 2 to 4%) Our big cities are pulled lower by the performance of students in the poorer areas of the city, certainly, and in those poorer areas it's possible that a number as high as 2/3 could be reached I suppose, though I think even that is a stretch. But when you average poor city schools with rural school populations, there's no way that 2/3 of our "working class" population is reading that poorly.

I guess I'm questioning the 2/3 number overall. Can it really be accurate for a grouping so broadly described as "working class"? That would indicate to me both that British schools are highly segregated into classes and that almost all of the schools populated by the working class are failing completely in their duty to teach. Is this realistic, or was the statistic just pulled from thin air?

Rod

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maizie
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Post by maizie » Tue Oct 13, 2009 8:04 pm

The problem I've having understanding this is that our smaller, rural schools in the U.S. generally have better overall results than the big city schools, even though most students in the rural schools would be considered to come from something approximating a "working class."
I very strongly suspect that the same applies in the UK. There is probably a higher proportion of semi-literate students in 'inner city' schools than in schools in small towns and rural areas. However, our National Tests at age 11 have consistently shown that, officially, some 20% of children, nationwide, leave primary school with a very poor standard of literacy (though the 'reading' measure used in these tests is a very poor one). In reality a significant number of the children who attain the magic 'Level 4' in reading prove to have very insecure reading skills so the real figure is probably higher. Once they reach secondary school there is often very little done to help them improve their reading skills, unless they are labelled as having 'Special Educational Needs' so they don't progress much further in 'reading age'.

But to get back to Gove's 'statistic. The government will have records of children's ethnicity and address (which will have some bearing on the statistic) but children are never officially identified by 'class' (not even the UK is that classbound!); I don't even think that individual children can be identified as belonging to any particular SES, so I can't see that Gove can be basing his statistic on any solid data. It just a soundbite.

Judy
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Post by Judy » Tue Oct 13, 2009 10:53 pm

Did anyone see the 'white working class' estate in Leicester, on the BBC news tonight, where the average reading age was 7 yrs? :sad:

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maizie
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Post by maizie » Tue Oct 13, 2009 11:17 pm

Judy wrote:Did anyone see the 'white working class' estate in Leicester, on the BBC news tonight, where the average reading age was 7 yrs? :sad:
I'm sorry, Judy. How on earth did they know that the average reading age was 7yrs? Did they test every 'white working class' child on the estate? Did they get data from all the schools the children went to (pretty difficult as not all schools keep reading age data on their pupils)?

I'm not saying that it might not be true, just that I can't see how they have arrived at this 'statistic'.

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Post by Judy » Tue Oct 13, 2009 11:27 pm

I don't know how they got that statistic, Maizie. I wondered about that too!

But it wasn't just the children they were referring to; it was the whole population of the estate! It arose because they found that people couldn't read the leaflets that were put through their doors so they had to visit them in person and talk to them to get feedback about how they felt about being in a white minority.

JIM CURRAN
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Subject

Post by JIM CURRAN » Wed Oct 14, 2009 6:32 am

Poor white boys still lag behind

Girls consistently outperform boys
Five out of six poor white boys in England did not meet the government's target of at least five good GCSEs including English and maths this year



http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/7777956.stm

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Susan Godsland
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Post by Susan Godsland » Wed Oct 14, 2009 9:24 pm

Here's an online report of the 'white working class' estate in Leicester' that Judy flagged up:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markeaston/
It emerged in a local study that the average reading age in New Parks is just seven years old. All those shiny leaflets stuffed through letter boxes were so much waste paper for residents who simply could not understand the literature.

Rod Everson
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Post by Rod Everson » Thu Oct 15, 2009 12:26 am

It emerged in a local study that the average reading age in New Parks is just seven years old.
I just don't buy it. It would be nice to have a reference for that "local study."

Rod

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