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Brighton Schools & The GCSE Achievement Gap


By Steve

It is wonderful to hear how well our school students are doing in Brighton and Hove with regard to examination results.

Although it may appear rather strange to raise this issue on a political post, I would argue this and similar issues are central to the future of our society.

It is not just a matter of “qualifications” it is this period of one’s life that determines inclusion or exclusion in social groups that are the “haves” or the “have nots”, more importantly this period of ‘education’ instills values that determine what we believe is worth we are capable of achieving.

I must express my sincere respect for Tom Bewick, Chairperson of BHCC Children, Young People, and Skills Committee for his recognition of the so called “Achievement Gap”. This is central to show the absurdity of the ‘league tables’ that ignore the social, economic, and cultural background of school students.

The so called “Achievement Gap” is the differential between those that were identified as “bright” when they entered secondary school and those that were identified as “not suitable for an academic future”. 

If you do not have books at home as part of your normal life, if you do not discuss current affairs and history with your parent(s), if you are not encouraged to “do your best” then you tend to be seen as a pupil with an inability to achieve. Teachers do a fantastic job but they do it despite the demands of central government to mark, categorize and evaluate.

GCSEs should not be the only hallmark by which schools are judged. There are far more civilised criteria to judge the success of developing young people and one hopes that the comments by Tom Bewick on 28 August will contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of society’s and individual needs.

We should recognise that Brighton was at the forefront of the struggle for democratization of education in the late 1960s/early 1970s particularly at the University of Sussex and Brighton College of Education.

The first ever work on racism in school textbooks was initiated in Brighton and the School of Education at the University of Sussex was at the forefront of involving students and lecturers in determining the nature of our educational structures.

Let us hope that the report ordered by Councillor Bewick will reflect the courage and radicalism of previous work in our city.

One final comment – If we did not have the GCSEs there would not be an “Achievement Gap” and we could perhaps see self fulfillment as something more than academic achievement.  

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