“The Minister uses the figure that 18% of the achievement gap is caused by socio-economic background”, says Dr Gordon.
“That figure came from a wrongly calculated OECD report, and is significantly out of kilter with the overwhelming evidence by the OECD itself that social factors are the key determinant of educational outcomes, across nations, across cultures, across schooling systems, public or private, large or small.”
Dr Gordon says that she does not know why the Minister continues to use a discredited figure.
“What does the research say? It says that children from high-education homes with more than 500 books, a bedroom for every child, a computer for learning and a range of other factors start school around two years ahead of those in the poorest, education-poor areas. Not only that, but the kids who are ahead in the race have all their ducks in a row to spring ahead even further.
“By age 15, the average literacy and numeracy gap between the 500- plus book group, and the fewer-than-10 book families, is over three years of learning using the OECD’s own index of learning.
“Those at the lower end have more barriers to learning than those at the top, and this is made worse by harder lives, worse conditions and fewer resources.
“In an NCEA system, where there are multiple routes and a number of pathways to achieving qualifications, the numbers of children from poor families achieving NCEA at levels 1 and 2 has expanded. This is because the changed system allows people with different abilities to turn these into qualifications. It does not mean that the wealth and resource gap has closed”.
“External factors such as high levels of child poverty (nearly every child in each decile 1-3 school, plus others, now lives in a family where there are never enough resources to meet all the family needs) and the flight from low decile schools (making those schools smaller and removing economies of scale) make these gaps worse.
“School resources and programmes, such as health-promoting schools, social workers, PB4L and other schemes work the other way, to close the gap.
QPEC wishes the Minister to accept the evidence for the huge socio-economic barriers to learning and work to design a system that will properly overcome these.