The Educational Wealth Fund has highlighted three key problem areas in UK education that need to be addressed if every child is to have access to a fair and high-quality standard of education. These are the retention and recruitment of the right people, mental health, and rising inequality. The short video attachment introduces the Educational Wealth Fund and the mission of the organisation.
In 2020, the EWF appointed Sir Peter Birkett as Chair. Sir Peter has an extensive background in education in the UK and has a strong reputation for delivering educational excellence. The Educational Welfare Fund will focus on the three problem areas identified as it moves forward, working to create empowering, inspirational, and creative learning environments for all children in the UK.
Inequality in education is a key issue in the UK. A study from the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission found that children from poorer socioeconomic backgrounds were significantly more likely to experience poorer educational outcomes than their more affluent peers.
Since 1979, income inequality in the UK has increased drastically. The SMCPC found in 2015 that children whose family income made them eligible for free school meals were only 50% as likely as their peers to achieve at least five GCSEs graded from A* to C. Fewer than one in six pupils on free school meals went on to achieve two or more A levels. Children in receipt of the Pupil Premium were also much less likely to go on to tertiary education.
These poorer educational outcomes result in a vicious circle of poverty, as children from lower-income families are statistically less qualified and therefore less likely to experience significant career progression. At the other end of the scale, a report from the Sutton Trust found that many of the highest-earning professions are dominated by people whose educational background included fee-paying schools.
Tackling Mental Health
National data suggests that as many as one in ten young people in education in the UK are dealing with some form of mental health issue. This equates to an average of around three children in every classroom. National policy for education places great emphasis on attainment, which can leave many children experiencing stress and feelings of low self-worth if they believe their value is related to academic performance.
Today’s children also live in one of the most stimulating periods of history, with technology playing a huge role in life outside of school. However, most learning environments have not yet been adapted to account for the pressures of social media, smartphones, and other technologies on our children.
Recruiting and Retaining People
Research shows that one of the key factors required to help attract good-quality new teachers is raising the profile of the profession. Improving conditions for employment is also essential to draw in talented new teachers and retain the best existing educators.
There is evidence to show that children taught at under-performing schools by good teachers experience better outcomes than those attending better-performing schools with a bad teacher. Recruiting good teachers is therefore essential to improve learning outcomes across the board.
The infographic attachment highlights some key statistics for education in the UK.