MiNet Report: 'The Impact of the Economic Downturn on BAME Education Services'
A new MiNet report on the 'Impact of the Economic Downturn on BAME Education Services' brings together evidence on the vulnerability of smaller organisations, including the closure of services. Rob Berkeley, Director of Runnymede Trust, and Uvanney Maylor, Reader in Education, University of Bedfordshire, acknowledged the timeliness of the report and commented on its importance at the 25th May launch. You can download the report for free here.
School admission changes set out
On 27 May, the Department for Education launched its consultation on the changes to the admissions framework.
The admissions code covers entry to all state schools. School admissions remain highly competitive in some areas, with one in seven pupils failing to get a place at their first choice of secondary school this year. This figure is considerably higher for those living in London.
There are also concerns about a shortage of primary school places in the next few years in some areas, with London predicting a shortfall of about 70,000 over the next four years. Others have expressed concern that the proposed admissions code would undermine the role of the local authority in ensuring solutions are found to shortages in school places and that they do not include enough to encourage schools to include pupils from poorer backgrounds. The changes to the rules on local accountable admissions panels, and limits to the jurisdiction of the schools adjudicator in the Education Bill, are also causing concern as they will reduce both local accountability and the independent oversight of how admissions arrangements are being implemented.
The closing date for responses is 19 August 2011.
The proposals include:
• Allow free schools set up by parents and community groups, and academies - state schools outside local authority control - to give priority to children eligible for free schools meals (those whose parents earn less than £16,000 a year)
• Allow schools to give priority to the children of their own teachers and other staff, something which was stopped under Labour
• Allow popular schools to expand without permission from local authorities or the education secretary
• Allow primary schools to increase infant class sizes beyond 30 pupils in order to take in twins and children whose parents are serving in the armed forces
• Remove the explicit ban on admissions authorities drawing catchment areas and selecting feeder schools in such as way as to disadvantage children from deprived areas
• Ban local authorities from using area-wide lotteries
• Alter the appeals process to make it "cheaper and less burdensome"
• Improve the way places are allocated to children who move area in the middle of an academic year
The Minster for Education, Michael Gove, says the existing system needed to change because it "rationed good schools" and with wealthier families able to go private or move house, "the poorest are often left with the worst schools". To find out more about the consultation please visit the relevant pages of the Department for Education’s website here.
See the BBC’s article, ‘Who will benefit from the new school admissions code?’ for commentary on the proposed code’s potential impact on disadvantaged socio-economic groups here.
ROTA hopes to submit a response to this consultation focused on any likely impacts on BAME communities and welcomes any contributions to our response. Please contact Barbara Nea, on email@example.com or t: 020 7902 1177 to find out more.
Update on the Education Bill
The passage of the Education Bill through Parliament continues, receiving a second reading at the House of Lords Committee stage on 14 June. The main purpose of the Bill is to give legislative effect to proposals set out in Government’s White Paper, 'The Importance of Teaching', published last November.
In December 2010, we produced a briefing on the White Paper’s proposals with a brief analysis of their potential impact on BAME pupils. Our briefing highlighted an overall concern at the limited reference to race equality and duties under the Equality Act 2010. It also looked at specific areas which could potentially exacerbate racial inequality in education.
The White Paper proposed a wide-ranging series of reforms to education, with stated aims to:
• Strengthen the status of teachers and teaching
• Reinforce the standards set by the curriculum and qualifications
• Give schools greater freedom
• Make schools more accountable to parents
• Help schools to learn more from good practice elsewhere
• Enable young people to stay in education and training until the age of 18
On 13 June, while the Education Bill was being considered in the House of Lords, a number of speeches were made which considered some key inequalities faced by BAME communities within the education system, including:
• Disproportionate exclusion rates faced by pupils from certain BAME groups
• The experience of African-Caribbean and Gypsy, Roma and Traveler experience of education over the years
• The disproportionate impact on BAME pupils of changes to the Education Maintenance Allowance, Teacher Training, Contextual Added Value scores, powers for teachers to search pupils
The speech by Baroness Howells of St Davids can be accessed here. The speech by Lord Parekh can be accessed here.
The speech by Baroness Whitaker can be accessed here.
Read Guardian columnist David Gillbourn’s latest comment on the implications of the educational reforms on race equality here.
To find out more about the development of the Education Bill, visit the UK Parliament website here.
To find out how bills pass through Parliament, visit the UK Parliament website here.
Findings from Childcare Affordability Pilot
A pilot programme to assess whether an alternative method of paying childcare support would change customer experiences and behaviour of claiming has been examined in a new Department for Education report.
It is hoped the evidence from the pilot programme may help the government understand how it can support families with children into sustainable employment. The programme tested the impact of a different system of reporting and payment of the Childcare Element of Working Tax Credit, but where the total level of support was maintained in line with the current system. 135 face-to-face in-depth interviews were carried out in London and the South East of England.
Parents who participated found the new system easy to use and an overall positive step with better opportunities to budget. Yet outside of the scope of the report, many questions still remain when considering the need for appropriate and flexible childcare across London. We still await information on how the Universal Credit will be able to address the real cost of work. Currently, since Universal Credit cannot be adjusted to take into account local differences in childcare, the assertion that people will always be better-off in work may not hold.
ROTA’s policy work has continued to highlight the nuanced difficulties BAME families encounter with childcare and how this can impact the chances of obtaining work. It has been recorded that even when BAME parents reach an income threshold and can finance childcare, they may go on to face discrimination by childcare providers who are challenged by the impact of diversity in terms of race, faith and religious belief on their work.
We believe the market for childcare services to BAME families is significant, in essence due to the fact that a greater proportion of children under the age of 16 are BAME. A further concern related to childcare difficulties is that black Caribbean women have the highest rates among women of lone parenthood, and of participation in the labour market.
A further example can be posited in the fact that conventional 9-5 working patterns and associated childcare do not necessarily apply to the Chinese community, whose work is often focused around the catering industry. Hence, working hours are more likely to be during evenings and weekends when there is little formal childcare available. Our evidence shows that families of Eritrean and Somali school-age children wanted them to have additional support with their education, as well as mother tongue teaching and cultural understanding. With this in mind, consideration must be offered to the role that supplementary schools can play in filling a gap in the informal childcare setting at a time when many supplementary schools are struggling to survive.
UK investment in Family Benefits is failing to improve outcomes
Recent evidence has shown that outcomes for children are not improving, despite the UK being one of the biggest spenders in the OECD on family benefits.
The study, 'Doing better for families', found that although the UK government spent on average £138,000 in family support on each child from birth to the age of 18, the UK has higher child poverty rates and lower employment opportunities for parents than other countries with similar spending levels. With high levels of BAME child poverty, and with 4 in 10 London children living in poverty - 12% higher than the national average - consideration needs to be given to more universal support and the nuanced requirements of BAME families.
Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s poverty, ethnicity and education programme
On 18 May, our Chief Executive, Dr. Elizabeth Henry, spoke at the launch of Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s (JRF) new poverty and ethnicity programme. This new programme will increase understanding of the relationship between poverty and ethnicity and develop more effective ways of tackling poverty across ethnic groups.
ROTA welcomes JRF’s acknowledgment, through this programme, of the links between ethnicity, educational disadvantage and poverty at a time when it is being overlooked in policy-making. To read JRF’s review of the evidence base on poverty and ethnicity, please visit here.
To read the accompanying blog from JRF Poverty and Ethnicity Programme Manager, Helen Barnard, please visit here.