In life, we all start more or less the same – strange-looking, miniature people. The world doesn’t mean much to us yet, but as our eyes open and our minds absorb information, we head off down our own individual path into personhood.
By the time we sit cross-legged on the carpet on our first day at school, complex factors beyond our control already have the potential to influence our development. Attainment statistics reveal that this affects some groups of pupils more than others.
And that statistical difference is not insignificant. Last month, we learned that by the time disadvantaged pupils take their GCSEs, their attainment is more than 18 months behind their more advantaged peers. This gap had been decreasing until 2018, when it increased by one week. While small, this increase could represent a turning point, after which the gap starts to widen again, undoing the progress that has been made.
So how do we combat this worrying change? ‘Disadvantaged children’ are not some uniform block of people with identical needs – they are individuals like any other, each with their own backgrounds, and we should not patronise them by assuming they all need extra help simply because of their family circumstances. But what we do know is that every child deserves to be given the resources and support to fulfil their potential at school. We cannot afford what could happen to society if we continue to fail to support all children.
The National Education Union found that two in five teachers do not think they will be working in education by 2024, with rising workloads commonly cited. Bright, newly-qualified teachers are leaving the profession in droves and improving education for those who may require more support can only be made harder when you are haemorrhaging talent.
Freeing up teachers’ time to teach has numerous solutions and we should focus on what works. In sectors from healthcare to leisure and now to education, technology is playing a vital role in reducing workload, freeing professionals to get on with their jobs. For teachers, technology can streamline many tasks, such as most forms of marking, lesson planning, data reporting and feedback, creating more time and energy to support their students.
EdTech is also directly helping teachers to better educate disadvantaged students. At CENTURY Tech, our educational platform extends personalised learning to all children via the use of cutting-edge artificial intelligence.
Our machine learning algorithms respond to how each pupil learns and devise a unique learning path, tailor-made to every student. Gaps in knowledge are identified and remedied through a combination of digital lessons and support from the teacher, who is newly-empowered by the wealth of data available on every student’s performance.
Importantly, these technologies can be equally as effective for disadvantaged students as others. CENTURY was a participant in the first cohort of the EDUCATE programme, and analysis we conducted with their help showed that Pupil Premium pupils scored around the same on CENTURY as their peers.
The gap is complex, but teachers can reverse this worrying trend. They are the friendly figure that stands at the front of the room on the first day of school, with all the inquisitive faces staring back at them. They help children through tough times at home, through challenges in school, through adversity that they may face in society.
If we can support these teachers, and provide them with the tools they need to help all of their students thrive, we might just create a system in which absolutely everyone can achieve their potential.
Originally posted here