Improving standards is the key to equality in education

Improving standards is the key to equality in education

High house prices and private tutors are said to be driving an education gulf between wealthy and disadvantaged students.

The Sutton Trust – which campaigns for social mobility – has released figures, which says the use of private tutors is rising and is twice as likely to be used by wealthier families.

Combine this with good schools in sought after catchment areas pushing up property prices and it would seem those who are well off, have a distinct advantage in a ‘free’ education system.

The Sutton Trust is now calling on the government to fund private tuition vouchers for poorer children.

Like the Trust I believe passionately in encouraging social mobility but providing state-funded vouchers for private tutors is not the answer.

For me, the solution has to be improving the education offering in all our state schools so that parents do not feel the added service of a tutor is not only desired but essential.

So why are parents turning to tutors?

The spread of information via the Internet has made parents far more aware of what they are receiving – or not – receiving educationally. There is a greater awareness of what’s on offer both from schools in different areas and from tutors.

Many parents who come to my tuition centres are simply not happy with the progressive approaches in maths and English which still pervade the ‎British system – they want their children tutored in the more traditional way in these all-important subjects.

The Sutton Trust survey has also flagged up that the highest take-up for tuition is amongst Asian and non-white families. This is due partly to the higher value these communities place on education and also because many of them have experienced far better teaching in their countries of origin.

So the answer is not to provide all poor white children with a voucher for tuition.

No, the only solution to ensuring equality in education for all is radical reform of the curriculum in primary schools so all children – whether they be rich or poor, black or white – receive the very best start to their education.

We need to return to a more traditional form of education combined with effective and rigorous SATs tests at 11‎.

We need English and Maths specialists teaching in primaries and more effective selection and rigorous training for teachers.

And to recruit these specialists we should be prepared to pay them more to recognise the important role they will be providing.

Too many children are starting secondary school without being able to grasp the basics in literacy and maths – and without the help of tutors, those children will flounder at secondary school.

And when they get to secondary school there needs to be far more choice and centre of excellence in all areas – not just in the leafy suburbs.

Grammar schools should be provided for the academically bright and equally outstanding technical and vocational routes should be opened up for those who have more practical skills.

Entry to these institutions should not stop at 11 but the opportunity to apply at 12 and 13 as well, recognising that children develop at different rates.

Such new schools should be targeted in deprived areas first to breach the gap that’s been created by high property price catchment areas.

Equality of opportunity can only come if this country provides everyone with a first-rate education.