How state and private school comparisons mislead and do North no favours

From: Fiona Spellman, CEO, Shine, Leeds.

How can school standards be driven up across the North?

READING the comment piece by Mark Casci (The Yorkshire Post, May 18), I was struck by how 
hard life is for our teachers in the most disadvantaged schools right now, and of how important it is to champion the amazing work that is really going on in these places.

The current school closures have shone a harsh spotlight on the glaring inequities between children’s experiences beyond the school gates, and we are all deeply concerned at the impact this crisis will have in exacerbating these divides. However, it is a mistake to equate the current crisis with a debate around school effectiveness.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The article states “the region is home to some of the worst-performing schools in the country in terms of attainment levels. And all too often they tend to be situated in areas of economic deprivation”.

There are fears that disadvantaged students in the North will pay a price for the Covid-19 lockdown.

But it is wrong to suggest that this is down to the standard of teaching. The evidence overwhelmingly shows that schools in areas of economic deprivation tend to be labelled the worst-performing, just by nature of their intake.

Analysis last year by the Northern Powerhouse Partnership found that more than half (51 per cent) of secondary schools across England currently judged to be ‘underperforming’ would no longer fall into this category if their socioeconomic context were taken into account.

In fact, once you adjust properly for the context of students outside school, the best school in the country is in Bradford.

At Shine, we work with many schools ithat are doing amazing work in these challenging circumstances, feeding children, and helping keep them safe, in ways that schools in more affluent areas simply don’t need to consider to the same extent.

So next time you see a statistic suggesting that schools in affluent areas are doing better, remember this doesn’t tell the whole story. Private schools are not a relevant comparator. They don’t have the same job.

From: Matthew Smith, Sheffield Libraries SOS, Pond Close, Sheffield.

SHEFFIELD Theatres are launching an online programme, but theatres are not the only service providing virtual alternatives. The library poetry and writing group, which has taken place via Zoom and email under lockdown, has been excellent, and could have the potential to reach many who are unable to get to the library when the group meets in person under normal circumstances.

Editor’s note: first and foremost - and rarely have I written down these words with more sincerity - I hope this finds you well.

Almost certainly you are here because you value the quality and the integrity of the journalism produced by The Yorkshire Post’s journalists - almost all of which live alongside you in Yorkshire, spending the wages they earn with Yorkshire businesses - who last year took this title to the industry watchdog’s Most Trusted Newspaper in Britain accolade.

And that is why I must make an urgent request of you: as advertising revenue declines, your support becomes evermore crucial to the maintenance of the journalistic standards expected of The Yorkshire Post. If you can, safely, please buy a paper or take up a subscription. We want to continue to make you proud of Yorkshire’s National Newspaper but we are going to need your help.

Postal subscription copies can be ordered by calling 0330 4030066 or by emailing [email protected] Vouchers, to be exchanged at retail sales outlets - our newsagents need you, too - can be subscribed to by contacting subscriptions on 0330 1235950 or by visiting where you should select The Yorkshire Post from the list of titles available.

If you want to help right now, download our tablet app from the App / Play Stores. Every contribution you make helps to provide this county with the best regional journalism in the country.

Sincerely. Thank you.

James Mitchinson