Teach First Teaching

Educational Inequality: Not Just a London Problem

If we are to create a movement of change, how much physical movement must we be willing to accept?

A new career is always a daunting venture, especially when it involves moving away from somewhere, or someone, you love. I have worked in a number of jobs that I would have happily turned down in a heartbeat if it was revealed that I would have to relocate.

But what if your career has the ability to change lives?

I am all too aware of the appeal of London, especially to those who have never lived in the capital. It’s a fast-paced, high intensity, and diverse city. It may not be the city that never sleeps but it certainly gives it a good shot. Wages are higher, social activities are easier to access, and the transport links mean that the city, and its mysteries, are merely a stone throw away. It sounds amazing, doesn’t it? So why, after being born in London and moving back here in 2011, would I actively make the decision to leave London on my Teach First journey? It’s simple really. The children.

If I think about all of the things I love about London, how many of them are actually accessible to the young people whose lives we are meant to be changing. I cannot express the joy I feel walking along the Southbank in the Winter, sipping on spiced mulled wine: the freedom that night busses and tubes bestow upon those “Last orders” nights out, and the exquisite history that we all too ignorantly walk passed every day. But in reality, are these simple pleasures enough for me to risk damaging a social movement dedicated to ending educational inequality?

In simple terms, no.

It would be naïve for me to assume that I alone can end educational inequality, so why should I care? Because it is not I that will end this injustice, but it is the contagious belief that my decision will change nothing that can ultimately destroy a social movement. When that movement has a direct impact on the lives of our young people it is best to not take that chance.

Teach First as an organisation started by focussing entirely on schools in our capital where young people were being failed by a fractured education system; The misconceptions that plagued the schools’ infrastructure all too often was equally a guilty accomplice in the failure to identify key moments in young person’s emotional and intellectual development which could have been the key to unlocking their potential. But it didn’t take long before Teach First started to highlight and address the wider issue. Not just its causes, but its location. Essentially, educational inequality doesn’t care where you live, it punishes without a second thought. It is swift, silent, and deadly; but it leaves a breadcrumb trail. One which we must follow to its core, and destroy from the inside.

Recently, the government is taking steps to finally acknowledge this issue. Justine Greening, Secretary of State for Education, has pledged to tackle educational inequality in 12 “cold spots” that she sees as having lower levels of social movement. These areas, coined as the 12 “Opportunity Areas” are intentionally located outside of the capital; and include Bradford, Doncaster, Fenland and East Cambridgeshire, Hastings, Ipswich, and Stoke-on-Trent.

Teach First have promised to make an active contribution to tackling this issue by pledging an increased number of participants in the top six of the opportunity areas: Blackpool, Derby, Norwich, Oldham, Scarborough, and West Somerset.

Why is this important? Because it reminds us that educational inequality can no longer be looked at as a “London problem”, but a national pandemic. The young people who live outside of major cities are not only let down by rash governmental decisions, like the withdrawal of promised funding to schools through the academy scheme, but also by individuals who would pass up the opportunity to be placed in a school that would be a perfect match for you as a person, and the young people who need you, because we prioritise access to the West End over the needs of the young people we have promised to fight for.

Never the less, this blog has not been written with the intention of assuming that those who wish to stay in the capital do so for materialistic reasons, and I cannot stress enough the importance of parents and carers who selflessly join our movement. By highlighting the extent to which schools that fall outside of London are often forgotten by policy makers does not imply that the education crisis in London has been resolved. This blog has been written with the intention of reminding us of the importance of our movement, and the extent to which the young people of Great Britain rely on us. Regardless of their social-economic background, and regardless of where they live.

A new career is always a daunting venture, especially when it involves moving away from somewhere, or someone, you love. I have worked in a number of jobs that I would have happily turned down in a heartbeat if it was revealed that I would have to relocate.

But what if your career has the ability to change lives?

I am all too aware of the appeal of London, especially to those who have never lived in the capital. It’s a fast-paced, high intensity, and diverse city. It may not be the city that never sleeps but it certainly gives it a good shot. Wages are higher, social activities are easier to access, and the transport links mean that the city, and its mysteries, are merely a stone throw away. It sounds amazing, doesn’t it? So why, after being born in London and moving back here in 2011, would I actively make the decision to leave London on my Teach First journey? It’s simple really. The children.

If I think about all of the things I love about London, how many of them are actually accessible to the young people whose lives we are meant to be changing. I cannot express the joy I feel walking along the Southbank in the Winter, sipping on spiced mulled wine: the freedom that night busses and tubes bestow upon those “Last orders” nights out, and the exquisite history that we all too ignorantly walk passed every day. But in reality, are these simple pleasures enough for me to risk damaging a social movement dedicated to ending educational inequality?

In simple terms, no.

It would be naive for me to assume that I alone can end educational inequality, so why should I care? Because it is not I that will end this injustice, but it is the contagious belief that my decision will change nothing that can ultimately destroy a social movement. When that movement has a direct impact on the lives of our young people it is best to not take that chance.

Teach First as an organisation started by focussing entirely on schools in our capital where young people were being failed by a fractured education system; The misconceptions that plagued the schools’ infrastructure all too often was equally a guilty accomplice in the failure to identify key moments in young person’s emotional and intellectual development which could have been the key to unlocking their potential. But it didn’t take long before Teach First started to highlight and address the wider issue. Not just its causes, but its location. Essentially, educational inequality doesn’t care where you live, it punishes without a second thought. It is swift, silent, and deadly; but it leaves a breadcrumb trail. One which we must follow to its core, and destroy from the inside.

Recently, the government is taking steps to finally acknowledge this issue. Justine Greening, Secretary of State for Education, has pledged to tackle educational inequality in 12 “cold spots” that she sees as having lower levels of social movement. These areas, coined as the 12 “Opportunity Areas” are intentionally located outside of the capital; and include Bradford, Doncaster, Fenland and East Cambridgeshire, Hastings, Ipswich, and Stoke-on-Trent.

s300_justine_greening_in_a_school
Justine Greening on a visit to Derby Moor Community Sports College

 

Teach First have promised to make an active contribution to tackling this issue by pledging an increased number of participants in the top six of the opportunity areas: Blackpool, Derby, Norwich, Oldham, Scarborough, and West Somerset.

Why is this important? Because it reminds us that educational inequality can no longer be looked at as a “London problem”, but a national pandemic. The young people who live outside of major cities are not only let down by rash governmental decisions, like the withdrawal of promised funding to schools through the academy scheme, but also by individuals who would pass up the opportunity to be placed in a school that would be a perfect match for you as a person, and the young people who need you, because we prioritise access to the West End over the needs of the young people we have promised to fight for.

Never the less, this blog has not been written with the intention of assuming that those who wish to stay in the capital do so for materialistic reasons, and I cannot stress enough the importance of parents and carers who selflessly join our movement. By highlighting the extent to which schools that fall outside of London are often forgotten by policy makers does not imply that the education crisis in London has been resolved. This blog has been written with the intention of reminding us of the importance of our movement, and the extent to which the young people of Great Britain rely on us. Regardless of their social-economic background, and regardless of where they live.

 

1 comment on “Educational Inequality: Not Just a London Problem

  1. Hi Thomas, Thank you for sharing. Great that you are blogging about it and not just living it that others may learn about the challenges out there and consider how they too can contribute in their own ways.

    Liked by 1 person

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