Sunday, 18 May 2008

Expecting the most

I was listening to Diane Abbot's Desert Island Discs earlier today. One incident from her past struck me. She talked about how she had spoken to a teacher about attempting to get into Oxbridge and had effectively been told she wasn't up to it. She replied that she thought she was up to it.... and wasn't that the point?

She's obviously someone who carried on despite some low expectations. But I wonder how many other youngsters achieve a lot less than they could because of the low expectations of teachers, parents or others.

It strikes me that poverty of aspiration is almost worse than material poverty.

Obviously it would be wrong to give young people the impression they could achieve things that are always going to be way beyond them. But surely we need to make sure they can aim realistically high.

There are schools in which high attainment is seen as employment in the local catering or retail sectors. And there is nothing wrong with working in either of those fields. But youngsters will probably never think they can be doctors, or company directors etc if they are constantly given the impression - by their school and adults around them - that they are destined to work in a hotel.

I guess its all down to role models - to children and young people seeing that "people like me"can achieve all sorts of things.


Anonymous said...

I'm getting worried Paula. I may be on the opposite side but I agree that "poverty of aspiration" (a phrase I use too often for my own liking) and poverty of hope is a big problem.

Robin Croxteth said...

There's definitely something about expectations, not necessarily from schools or teachers either - if parents don't value education, kids won't either and in some places it shows through... one of the Croxteth Primaries had an Ofsted a few years ago that highlighted authorised absence levels - in some cases the reason for absence being that they didn't want to take the kids to school in the rain!

One of the problems IMO is also the message sent about higher education from government. Grants to go to University are no more, then there are tuition fees, loans etc - if you're from a scrimp and save background, having five figure debts before you even start work proper is a big turn off and so we're heading back to a more elitist era. Or at least I think so. Take away that option, and there's a knock on effect on sixth forms etc. who will see fewer students.

Paula said...

I work at a University and although the students I teach are coping - many are doing so by working unreasonably long hours in paid employment. This is squeezing out their independent study time and is actually harming their progress. The other thing is is squeezing out is all those other activities that are part of education but not nec part of the curriculum. I remember being really active in lots of socities like history and philosophy.. but there seems no real time now

Paula said...

Dear anonymous

Now you are making me spend time trying to guess who you are!!

May be I should just wait till I hear someone use that phrase.

PM Swimmer said...

Whilst aspiration is certainly a good thing and a lack of it both in parents and children something to guard against I think the traditional view we have that if we can ensure our kids do well in school and get to Uni they'll be assured a shot at a better, more affluent life is frankly outdated nonesense.

It completely ignores the blindingly obvious facts that -
1- most of the UKs wealth and capital is held by the baby boom generation who are intent on keeping hold of it and ensuring they have a lifestyle that will never be seen again by such a large number of people, whilst handing the rest of us the environmental and social bill. A selfish generation that will sancitmoniously lecture their kids on how lucky they've been to go to uni, have a good career, become hugely indebted in order to own a plywood shoe box, etc whilst shopping around for their retirement home in cyprus, france, spain,moaning about recycling and complaining about taxes on the kind of pensions which are now rarer than unicorns..... The fact is that you will be worse of as a graduate in a what was once a good management role now than your parents in an unskilled unionised factory job would have been a generation before.

2- that the gap between rich and poor is no so astoundingly great that the only choice for a graduate is to work in the city as no other career path will see you on the right side of the have/have not line. I work in a uni as well and I would council every student to move straight to London and pursue a career in finance at least to begin with as you can always change your mind later and get out but it won't work vice versa.

Oh and paula if you have a list of things you won't publish then at least have the decency to let us know rather than just ignoring posts you don't like.

Paula said...

Hello there

I have said before that I will not publish posts that make derogatory comments about third parties.

You may not like that, but this is my blog and it would take you, or anyone else, fewer than five minutes to set one up.

Anonymous said...

dear pm swimmer

I do hope you don't teach students. If you don't know how to spell counsel and you are teaching undergraduates there is a problem.


Paula said...

Simon, that is a bit unfair. It's easy to make a spelling mistake and then not have time to proof-read. There are quite a few jobs at University that don't involve teaching - research posts for example.

PM Swimmer said...

Just to let you know. I don't generally teach students.
That said I also rarely bother with spending a lot of time proof reading and spell checking comments on blogs. I also rarely get overly hung up on these things in emails.

I'm of the belief that electronic communications such as blogs, IMs etc give us a chance to deformalise some of our interactions with each other and particularly with those in power or elected office, who shouldn't be able to hide behind formality, presentation etc to avoid serving the people who they represent.

I'd also like to point out that Einstein could spell for toffee.