I had a student start school, an athletic Portuguese boy, who plays football. The boy said he was a good player, his mum said he was a good player and he has the typical swagger of a football player. And so there I sit, picturing him receiving the Ballon d’Or saying that he owes it all to his year 7 PE teacher. This dream is abruptly halted as it dawns on us all how shocking a player he truly is…
I made the mistake of assessing him based on a few insignificant factors – his swagger included. Sadly, it would seem that I am not the only one to jump to such conclusions. A recent report shows that students from Britain’s most disadvantaged areas are not being allowed to sit more ‘difficult’ GCSEs.
Numerous studies have shown that students from poorer areas perform worse than their better off peers. 1 in 3 disadvantaged students get 5 ‘good’ GCSEs, whereas wealthier students perform twice as well. When schools consider these statistics it makes sense to not allow disadvantaged students to attempt ‘harder’ subjects and to focus on those they might find ‘easier’; studying double rather than triple Science, for example. Parents and students accept this form of stereotyping because it will improve their chances of getting into college or a sixth form to continue their studies; and schools accept this because it prevents them from falling in the league tables. But how can we, as a forward-thinking society, accept this? How can we tell a student from humble beginnings that they shouldn’t bother attempting to aim higher, to compete with their more advantaged peers, and to better themselves? It’s a good job no one imposed such restrictions on the likes of Oprah or Barack Obama!
Of course, not every child is of an academic mind, able to study difficult comprehension and evaluate complicated subject matter, but for schools to suggest that no one in the entire school cohort can master more advanced skills is nothing more than discriminatory.
So now I am told that this new student is actually a talented basketball player. I will make sure to assess him properly before asking him to sign my shoes for my retirement investment.