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Overcoming the excuses that get in the way of educating young people

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How often do you find a pirate ship in the middle of the high street? When social enterprise and education "think-and-action" tank LKMco were looking for new offices, they chose to eschew the Westminster village and instead have based themselves within Hackney Pirates, a building designed to look like a ship. If I were a Hackney child who was falling behind, I would certainly find this building an inspirational place to come to.

LKMco's founder Loic was keen to be based somewhere where volunteers work with children to develop their literacy, confidence and perseverance. As part of their "shipwarming", LKMco had assembled a guest panel to lead a discussion around the question: "What excuses get in the way of supporting and educating young people properly and how can we overcome them?".

L-R: Becky Allen, Dominy Roe, Tim Leunig, Laura McInerney, Loic Menzies

And what a panel they were: Dr Becky Allen of the IoE, the DfE's chief analyst Tim Leunig, Laura McInerney of Academies Week and Dominy Roe, the head of KS4 at City Gateway, an alternative education provider. Each had very clear ideas about the barriers and excuses that exist in their areas. But they also had some good solutions.

Academia - Dr Becky Allen

  • Academics choose not to communicate and collaborate sufficiently with education practitioners. Imagine a world where education researchers could teach in school themselves, where they could get academic recognition for communicating through blogs and where research papers aren't hidden behind a journal paywall

Government - Tim Leunig

  • The primacy of primary: currently attainment at KS2 is a large influence on a child's GCSE results. The broadening of accountability, from 5 to 8 subjects, will make it more difficult for headteachers to tolerate a weak department and will help improve standards of teaching. The shift of emphasis to progress will also mean it is no longer an option to park bad teachers with the bottom set

Teaching - Laura McInerney

  • Simply saying "no excuses” should get in the way of teaching is not enough. Imagine a world where we instead say “What will it take?” Also, some of the most effective initiatives might not be the sexiest. For example, timetabling can make a huge difference to the impact a teacher can have

Alternative education - Dominy Roe

  • Learners arriving at alternative education provision frequently feel they have already failed. Imagine a world where we acknowledge that mainstream education is not suitable for everyone and alternative education is respected more; where learning is made more relevant and accessible; where the focus on real-life practical skills and approaches does not come at the expense of academic rigour

There was also an interesting discussion on the benefits of “soft” skills versus academic achievement. Why do we call these skills soft? The panel stressed that so-called soft skills contribute to academic attainment. They are also exactly what employers need.

With so many people from the education spectrum present, the debate continued long after the panel had wrapped up. You can follow what was being said on Twitter about the event here. All that remains to say is good luck to the crew of LKMco, and all who sail with her!

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