When I was growing up I used to like the top of the milk on my cornflakes. I didn’t mind that the consequence of that was that the milk in my tea was semi-skimmed. Now milk is uniformly the same.
The Head of Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw, wonders why the outcomes of education aren’t as consistent as homogenized milk. Obviously I’ve got a few ideas!
- The classroom. No two students are the same: ability, approach to learning, potential. Nor two classes. Nor two periods of the day or week. The weather. In fact, a myriad of external influences on both the teacher and each individual student: the synergy created by personalities in that moment.
- The school. Their facilities. The expectations. NoR and class sizes. Diet and exercise, and the optimum balance between a task, a change of activity and down-time. The different qualities in the school staff (academic and support): (variety of) age, the experience they bring, their gender and gender mix. And management styles: the atmosphere created.
- The influences on the student. Family and friends as well as community figures. And all the experiences a young person has in the majority of the day that is outside the classroom.
- Comparable local socio-economies. To expect the same outcome from similar students, their starting point must be about the same, and the opportunities afforded to them must be about the same too.
But perhaps above all,
- Aspiration needs to be kindled. If a student can’t see the far horizon: the potential, the possibilities, the goal, then with the best will in the world, they have nothing to aim for.