What are the advantages and disadvantages of making all students study maths until they are 18?
Rishi Sunak wants every student in the U.K. to study maths up until the age of 18 (1)
In his first speech of 2023 Sunak stated that he wants people to better equipped with numeracy skills so that they are better equipped to deal with an increasingly data-driven society and to manage their personal finances.
A further argument for making some kind of maths or numeracy lessons compulsory until 18 is that doing so should make British students more competitive internationally: many other countries which are higher up the PISA league tables do so, such as Finland and Canada.
Approximately half of 16-18 year olds currently do maths or science subjects at A-level, but most of these are those who achieved lower than a C grade at GCSE and are forced to resit their GCSE.
Only a minority of students who get C and above in maths go on to do a maths related subject at A-level, there are currently at least 400 000 16-18 year olds in Further Education institutions who are qualified to maths or science subjects but aren’t doing them, having opted for humanities subjects instead (20)
The speech was thin on details but the government has ruled out making A-level maths compulsory at 16-18 and has suggested that developing some innovate approaches to teaching numeracy post-16 will probably be required.
Increasing Maths Teaching: Supply and Demand Challenges…
On the supply side, the government is currently 5000 maths teachers short of its recruitment target.
A brief look at the statistics illustrates this: there were only 35 771 Maths teachers in state secondary schools in 2021, compared to 39 000 English teachers, with one in eight maths lessons being taught routinely by a non-specialist.
It seems unlikely that the government is going to be able to recruit more maths teachers given the 24% real terms pay cut teachers have been subjected to since 2010 and the current below inflation 5% pay increase being offered by the government for 2023.
And jobs in teaching are going to be especially unattractive for maths and science graduates, given that maths and science degrees tend to be gateways to higher paying careers.
A related supply problem is that sixth form colleges have seen drastic real terms funding cuts compared to other sixth form providers in recent years, being 20% underfunded in comparison, so these probably don’t have the funds to boost 16-18 math provision effectively.
On the demand side there is the problem that most students simply do not want to do maths related subjects beyond the age 16, and forcing all students to spend an hour or two a week studying a subject they don’t want to is a waste of resources, and so increasing maths provision could come at the expense of teaching students a broader range of subjects that they think will actually be of use to them.
There are a whole load of other subjects students could be usefully taught besides maths, such as critical thinking, political issues and debating contemporary news items civilly, for example.
And besides this A-level maths is actually the most popular subject already, with entries having increased from 83 000 in 2018-19 to almost 89 000 in 2020/ 2021. (3)
Finally, forcing 16-18 year olds to do maths won’t help the 8 million adults in the UK who only have primary levels of numeracy.
students from independent schools did 7.4 hours more schoolwork per week during lockdown compared to students from state comprehensive schools.
Students from higher socio-economic backgrounds had significantly more support from their schools during lockdowns compared to students from lower economic backgrounds.
This is according to the latest findings from a contemporary longitudinal study (1) being carried by the Sutton Trust which is analysing the short and longterm consequences of the disruption suffered by students during the Covid lockdowns.
Social class differences in learning during lockdowns
Better of schools (in terms of FSM provision) were able to adapt much more quickly during Lockdown one to minimise disruption to student learning compared the most deprived schools.
Students attending independent schools (compared to state grammar and state comprehensive) and students attending the least deprived schools by FSM provision were more likely to receive online lessons during lockdowns; more likely to get more frequent online lessons; had more access to teachers outside of lessons; and suffered fewer barriers to learning such as lack of access to laptops at home.
By lockdown three the support offered to students by the more deprived schools had caught up with that of the least deprived schools, but significant differences remained.
For example, by lockdown three:
Students from the least deprived schools were doing 2.9 hours more schoolwork per week than students from the most deprived schools.
71% of students from the least deprived schools reported having 3 or more online lessons per week compared to only 53% of students from the most deprived schools.
Only 6% of pupils from higher managerial backgrounds reported only having a mobile device (rather than a computer) to access learning compared to 14% of pupils from routine/ manual/ non-working backgrounds.
Teacher contact during lockdowns
73% of students from independent schools reported having contact with teachers outside of lessons at least once a week during the first lockdown compared to only 43% of students from comprehensive schools. This gap had narrowed by the third lockdown with 77% of students from Independent schools and 52% of students from comprehensive schools reporting teacher contact.
Students from the most deprived quintile reported more teacher contact than those from the least deprived during the first lockdown and there was almost no reported variation during the third lockdown.
Hours of schoolwork during Lockdowns
Students from independent schools did almost twice as many hours schoolwork per week during the first lockdown compared to students from state comprehensive schools. The gap was narrower during the third lockdown with independent school students reporting 23.7 hours per week compared to 16.3 hours per week for comprehensive school children.
Pupils from the least deprived quintile did 3.2 hours more schoolwork per week during the first lockdown than pupils from the most deprived quintile and 2.9 hours more during the third lockdown.
Provision of online lessons during lockdowns
During the first lockdown 94% of independent schools provided online lessons compared to only 64% of state comprehensive schools. By the third lockdown state comprehensives had caught of a lot but there was still a large difference with 96% of independent schools providing online lessons compared to 87% of comprehensive schools.
By the third lockdown 95% of the least deprived schools (by FSM provision) were providing online learning compared to only 80% of the most deprived schools.
The above differences are significant but if we look at the amount of online learning which took place (immediately below) we find that independent schools and the least deprived schools were much more likely to provide MORE online classes…
How many online classes during lockdowns?
84% of pupils at Independent schools reported having more than three online lessons per day during the first lockdown, compared to only 33% of students from state comprehensive schools. The figures were 93% compared to 59% respectively during the third lockdown.
71% of students from the least deprived quintile reported having access to three or more online lessons a day during lockdown three compared to only 53% of students from the most deprived quintile.
NB this basically means that students attending the more deprived schools were more likely to get very little in the way of online learning, just one or two lessons a day, while students attending the better off schools were more likely to get three or more lessons, closer to a regular school day.
Barriers to learning during lockdowns by social class
Students faced several barriers to learning during lockdowns including:
Minimal provision of online lessons or, in some cases, no online lessons.
Internet connectivity problems.
Inability to access teachers during the lockdown periods.
Lack of access to desktop or laptop computers and having to rely on mobile devices.
Having to share a device with siblings.
A small percentage of students didn’t have any devices to access online learning
Lack of a quiet study space.
Parents who lacked the confidence to help students with learning during lockdowns
Students from lower social class backgrounds were more likely to suffer barriers to learning during lockdowns compared to students from higher social backgrounds.
For example 34% of students from higher and professional managerial backgrounds reported infrequent teacher contact during lockdowns compared to 39% of students from routine/ manual/ never worked backgrounds. The figures for having to share a device were 9% and 15% respectively for these two social classes.
Pupils without a device during lockdowns
Only 2% of pupils from independent schools reported not having access to a suitable device by lockdown three compared to 11% of pupils from state comprehensives.
5% of pupils from the least deprived backgrounds reported no access to a suitable device during lockdown three compared to 19% from the least deprived quintile.
Conclusions and policy implications…
15-18 year olds doing GCSEs and A-levels suffered just as much learning loss as younger students, and students from lower socio-economic backgrounds suffered proportionately more learning loss. Thus the pupil premium should be extended and paid out for 16-19 year olds for a couple of years. ATM Pupil Premium ends with year 11 students.
By lockdown three 30% of all year 11s who needed a laptop had received one, which was significant. However, HALF of all students who lacked a laptop or didn’t have access to one during the pandemic still haven’t received one.
Cullinane, C., Anders, J., De Gennaro, A., Early, E., Holt-White, E., Montacute, R., Shao, X., & Yarde, J. (2022). Wave 1 Initial Findings – Lockdown Learning. COVID Social Mobility & Opportunities (COSMO) study Briefing No. 1. London: UCL Centre for Education Policy and Equalising Opportunities & Sutton Trust. Available at: https://cosmostudy.uk/publications/lockdown-learning
comparative education studies are useful to policy makers because they allow the ‘adaptation’ of best educational practice, but there are problems because what works in one culture may not be so successful in another!
Comparative education studies involve comparing aspects of one nation’s education system with another and analysing the reasons for similarities and differences within those systems.
Typical motives for doing a cross national comparative studies of education systems would be to find out why some countries get better overall outcomes (in terms of qualifications) for their pupils, or why some countries have better outcomes for disadvantaged students, and thus better equality of educational opportunity.
Comparative education studies have become increasingly popular in recent years and are one response to the increasing interest in education globally, as evidenced by the PISA testing regime which publishes comparisons of student performance in standardised international tests.
Why compare education systems…?
Comparative education studies are themselves part of the globalisation of education and there are different reasons why actors may wish to compare education systems.
Probably the most obvious is the pragmatic aim to improve education policy – this is where policy makers in one country will employ researchers to study aspects of education systems in another country to see what works well with the intention of adapting or even just copying those aspects for use in their home country.
Such studies may be done by policy makers in post-industrial countries hoping to maintain their competitiveness in a fast changing global economy, or by developing countries hoping to use education to modernise quickly.
One specific phenomena which has led to recent increase in this kind of practical study is ‘PISA shock’ – where countries have found their positions in the PISA league tables to be lower than expected, which can spur them on to conduct research into the education systems of countries higher up the league tables looking for ways to improve their own systems.
Besides pragmatic reasons for comparative education studies some researchers also do purely academic studies, just to develop a deeper understanding of how education systems interact with other institutions within a society – purely focused on theory building and with no intention of applying findings at a policy level.
Bartram (2018) notes that international comparisons of education are increasingly motivated by economic and political reasons rather than purely theoretical motives.
Problems with comparing national education systems
Educational practices need to be considered in the context of the local culture.
It may not be possible to simply lift aspects of one education system and apply it to another and get improved results, because educational practices which ‘fit’ the culture in one country might not fit the national or local cultures of another.
For example, in Western countries educators have introduced more collaborative learning in recent decades (such as more group work) and this has led to improved performance for most students, but this may not work as well in some Asian cultures which are more sensitive to ‘public image’, and in such cultures more individualised ‘sit down and be quiet learning may get better outcomes for students.
You also have to think about WHO is doing the comparisons and applying the (potential) policy changes. Often such research studies are dominated by western experts who may well regard western models of education as superior to traditional indigenous, community based models which may be regarded as inferior.
There is actually a long history of this, stretching back to colonial times when Western powers used their education systems a means of subjugating indigenous people in their colonies, but even after independence new states were coerced into accepting Western education systems as a condition to receive international development aid (Nguyen-Phuong Mai, 2019).
It is simply not the case that Western practices can be transplanted and fitted into local indigenous cultures with easy success, and in many cases countries and local cultures simply don’t want this kind of education, as is the case in many Islamic countries for example.
There is also a problem with comparing results obtained from international tests such as the PISA tests: for those countries appearing near the bottom of the international league tables it is easy to blame their education systems for their poor performance, but this simply may not be the case – it could be a range of other factors such as the prevailing wider economic problems in those countries.
In fact, there is some research (Pasl Sahlberg, 2015) that shows that neoliberal marketised education systems which preference parental choice do not yield better educational performance, even though this has been the dominant educational ideology of the last 40 years.
Signposting and Relevance to A-Level Sociology
The material above is most relevant to the sociology of education module, developing the theme of the relationship between globalisation and education.
Barlett and Burton (2021): Introduction to Education Studies, fifth edition
Andrew Tate is the poster boy for toxic masculinity – why did he get so popular in 2022 and why was he arrested?
Andrew Tate, the self-styled King of Toxic Masculinity was arrested in Romania on 29th December 2022 and is currently in being held in jail pending possible charges for human trafficking, rape and forcing women into pornography against their will.
Tate subscribes to an incredibly toxic brand of masculinity which holds that men are superior to women, and the main markers of successful masculinity are how much wealth a man has and how successful men are with women. He also believes that ‘strength rules’ – the only valid arguments are those that can be won with violence, and he has no time for weaker or poorer men – he doesn’t believe that depression is real and regards anyone who is poorer than him as not worth knowing.
He has a stated preference for sleeping with teenagers because ‘he can leave more of a mark on them’, despite the fact that he his very critical of women who are sexually promiscuous.
He has a penchant for radical freedom and conspicuous consumption and it was the later that triggered his recent arrest.
He took it upon himself to troll Greta Thunberg on Twitter…. goading her about how many gas-guzzling cars he owned.
Great’s response was one of the most popular tweets in 2022 and promoted a video response from the egoist Tate in which he had Pizza delivered and asked that ‘they not be recycled’.
The only problem with that was the Romanian authorities managed to figure out where Tate was staying because of the brands on those Pizza boxes and within just a few hours his house was raided and he is now under arrest, along with his brother and two Romanian nationals for allegedly sex-trafficking women to Romania.
A hideous individual, finally brought down by his own arrogant ego, hopefully!
Who is Andrew Tate?
Andrew Tate was a relatively little known figure until August 2022 when he managed to gain huge visibility on social media thanks to an army of followers who edited and re-posted his content using his name as a hashtag, successfully gaming especially TikTok’s content-ranking algorithm.
He was born on an estate in Luton, so he is British, and is an ex kickboxer who won international titles, he is also a chess-master. He gained some notoriety in 2016 when he was booted out of Big Brother after video footage emerged of him beating a woman with the buckle of a belt – he claims it was consensual but we don’t know this for certain.
He earns his money mainly through online pornography. He ’employs’ mainly Eastern European women to do cam shows and he takes a cut, claiming that at its hight his ’empire’ consisted of 75 women in five locations brining in $500 000 a month.
He moved to Romania a few years ago claiming that 40% of the reason for this was that it was easier for him to evade rape charges in that country.
Andrew Tate’s Toxic Masculinity
Andrew Tate is an anti-feminist who consciously defines himself as a misogynist. He has previously stated in online content that women are men’s property, that women should be controlled by men and that women’s best defence against rape is to not put themselves in risky situations. He believes that women who go out and get drunk are themselves responsible for being raped.
He regards women as inferior to men in every respect, having stated that all they want to do is post pictures of themselves on instagram to gain attention, and has questioned why women are allowed to drive.
He thinks contemporary masculinity is threatened by women’s equality and the feminist movement and runs a web site called ‘Hustlers University’ which claims to help men be more successful in life, ‘helping’ them to earn more money and be more successful with beautiful women.
A lot of this so-called help involves encouraging men to themselves adopt his own brand of toxic-masculinity which means not accepting women’s equality with men and has men firmly in control of women, and he has even suggested than male violence against women is acceptable to keep them under male control.
Andrew Tate – Why is he so popular?
Tate has been peddling his toxic messages for several years and has been banned from Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.
However, despite being cancelled he has become one of the most well-known social media influencers, with his popularity peaking in August 2022 when his name was searched more times than Kim Kardashian or Donald Trump.
There have been more than 12 billion views under his hashtag, TikTok being the platform guilty of giving him the most airtime.
Andrew Tate is popular because of at least three factors:
He has encouraged his followers to edit and repost his videos using his name as a hashtag – effectively he created a trend storm which successfully gamified social media algorithms, especially on TikTok
His content is presented in an entertaining way and it is shocking – so people tend to watch to the end, something which social media sites reward with higher rankings.
Unlike with Pick up artist culture he has a broader appeal – he is talking al ALL men, whether they have jobs or are in relationships, not just the single unemployed ‘losers.
He has become a kind of poster-boy for cancel-culture – despite being cancelled he has been invited onto chat shows and been the subject of newspaper articles, which has all helped to raise his profile, perversely.
The problem with Andrew Tate’s Toxic Masculinity
Tate talks about violence against women in such a flippant way that there’s a danger he’s helping to normalise violence against women.
And he’s not just anti-women – he is well networked with alt right – Alex Jones, Nigel Farage, Tommy Robinson, so his views align with their’s to an extent, and he’s a massive anti-environmentalist.
He basically has no social conscience at all.
Pretty much anyone under the age of 30 has heard of Andre-Tate, and he is very popular with young men, with teachers reporting increasing numbers of young boys mimicking him.
How to deal with Andrew Tate?
It’s impossible to ignore this guy as he is so visible on social media, but it’s also difficult to know how to deal with him.
A starting point would be to have more discussions around masculinity with young men, especially offline, because otherwise we are just leaving it to this guy and others like him to fill that void.
It’s also a wake up call about how little social media companies care about the content they display – yes he was cancelled, at least formally, but this didn’t stop him being able to game the search algorithms to remain one of the most visible and toxic personalities of 2022.
Relevance to A-level sociology
This material is most relevant to Feminism as part of A-level sociology – it reminds us that Feminism still has a lot to guard against.
It is also relevant to the sociology of the media, in terms of the power of spamming to keep even cancelled content visible.
Personalised learning means listening to student’s needs and tailoring teaching and learning to meet those needs.
Personalised learning involves putting individual students at the centre of the learning experience, listening to their voices, understanding their individual strengths and limitations and tailoring teaching and learning strategies to their individual needs. It also involves working with them to help them realise their full potential and allowing students an element of choice in what they study through flexible learning pathways, which may entail schools working in partnership with institutions outsides of the school.
A useful analogy to help understand the concept of personalised learning is to contrast it to the world of production.
Personalised learning is the equivalent of making bespoke products according to what the individual consumer wants, in contrast to ‘standard education’ which is like mass production – taking a one sized fits all approach by teaching all students the same thing in the same way (like Chalk and Talk).
Personalised Learning in education policy
Personalised Education became a formal part of education policy in 2004 under the the New Labour Government.
At that time the DfES defined personalisation of learning as “a highly structured and responsive approach to each child’s and young person’s learning, in order that all are able to progress, achieve and participate. It means strengthening the link between learning and teaching by engaging pupils – and their parents – as partners in learning (1)
While the above definition is a fairly typical example of government speak – in that it doesn’t really say anything the DfES did at least further identify five key components of personalised learning which give some more specific details of what the policy might look like in practice:
Assessment for Learning – teachers knowing the strengths and limitations of individual students.
Teaching and learning strategies that build on the individual needs of students – for example learning being appropriately paced and stretching those students who need it.
Curriculum choice – flexible learning pathways which encourage students to take responsibility of their own learning.
The whole school taking a student centred approach, taking student voices seriously.
Strong partnership beyond the school – involving local communities and institutions.
Personalised learning is a reaction against the kind of standardised education that many associated with the ‘bog standard’ comprehensives of the 1960s – in which students were required to largely sit there and listen to the teacher, taking notes, with very little in the way of creativity or interactivity occurring.
NB this kind of ‘bog standard education’ didn’t necessarily happen in every Comprehensive school, and it may be something of a stereotype, but at least this image serves the function of showing what personalised learning isn’t!
What does personalised learning look like…?
Ideally it will start with teachers finding out as much as they can about the individual and working alongside them to find a suitable learning pathway.
Another aspect is helping students figure out what their end-goals are (usually cast in terms of career aspirations) and helping them study the right subjects to set them up for their future goals.
It also involves finding out how students learn the most effectively and designing tasks for them to work on that are gong to suit their learning style, part of this will involve encouraging them to work in groups or individually, and most likely a mixture of both depending on the subjects.
In reality the capacity for schools to personalise learning is limited (see below) by available staff and the curriculum demands (schools are still required to be exam factories) so the personalisation of learning may well be reduced to:
occasional guided independent study lessons, days or maybe weeks during the year.
students working with teachers to draw up personalised learning plans for independent study which are reviewed only once or twice a term.
Some lessons maybe more ‘personalised’ with the the teacher acting as a ‘facilitator’ most of the time and students largely getting on with their own project work. You are most likely to see this in post-16 education and in creative subjects such as art and music technology.
Limitations to personalised learning
Firstly there is the fact of the national curriculum and the demand on schools to get students GCSE grades – obviously personalisation isn’t to go as far as to allowing students to simply learn guitar or pain for 6 hours a day 5 days a week, so ‘personalisation’ is limited by the requirement that students have to study English, Maths and the other core subjects.
Secondly there is the limitation of teachers’ time – the higher the ratio of students to teachers the less personalised learning is going to be. Teachers have to get through a certain amount of content and most of the time PowerPoints and group work where all students are focused on the same topic are quicker than allowing students to spend time exploring their own ‘learning pathways’.
Thirdly, schools are required to encourage students to work together, and so while a students might personally prefer to just work entirely on their own, if they are in school, this probably won’t be allowed to happen most of the time – they are going to be in a classroom working with other students.
A 2016 article from Education Week points out that the available research on personalised learning initiatives isn’t robust enough to prove that personalised learning is effective.
The Digital Counter-Revolution blog criticises the concept of personalised learning as being focused on individual academic achievement. In practice a lot of personalised learning has turned into a helping students how to maximise their grades.
in this sense all personalised learning is doing is making individual students compete more with each other, it isn’t about helping them think more critically or about being more creative or just about being better people – it is just a response to the pressures of marketisation and a competitive Higher Education and labour market.
Has Learning in the U.K. become more personalised?
Mainstream education as a whole has become more ‘postmodern’, but the tend has been very slight and mainly on the fringes of the mainstream education.
For the most part our education system remains very ‘modern’ with it being 95% focused on teaching the national curriculum and getting students through standardised exams.
I think the same thing is true for personalisation which is part of the very gradual and slight/ fringe move towards postmodernity, given that individualism, diversity and relativism are a key ideas within postmodernism.
So YES mainstream education in the U.K. has become more personalised, but personally I’d say most schools pay lip-service to this personalisation, with students having little real choice over what they study until post-GCSEs (they are not allowed to ditch English and Maths for example and have to resit it post-16 if they fail it at GCSE level).
This material is mainly relevant to the education topic within A-level Sociology.
Education policy to combat racism has gone from ignorance, through assimilation, integration, multiculturalism to aggressive majoritarianism in 2022.
Gilborn (2008) divided policy approaches to combatting racism into eight phases:
Ignorance and neglect (1945 to late 1950s)
Assimilation (late 1950s to mid 1960s)
Integration (mid 1960s to late 1970s)
Cultural pluralism and multiculturalism (late 1970s to late 1980s)
Thatcherism: the new racism and colour-blind policy (mid 1980s to 1997)
New Labour: Naive multiculturalism (1997 to 2001)
Cynical multiculturalism: from 9/11 to 7/7 (2001 to 2005)
Aggressive majoritarianism (2005 to present day).
Ignorance, assimilation and integration
The government’s response to immigration from 1945 to the late 1950s was that of ignorance and neglect. The government largely ignored the issue of immigration from mainly the Caribbean, India and Pakistan and put no educational policies in place to do anything about the children of immigrants.
This was in line with the racist colonial mentality that people from Africa and the Indian subcontinent would do primarily menial, unskilled manual jobs which required little in the way of educational input to prepare them for.
From the late 1950s to the mid 1960s the government’s official response to immigration was to expect immigrants to assimilate to the British way of life, meaning that they were expected to adapt and become just like the majority white British population.
This was very much a one-way expectation, with ‘them’ being expected to become ‘like us’. Any racial tensions in schools during this period were interpreted as a migrant problem – some immigrants were just not trying hard enough to assimilate.
Integration and education policy
By the late 1960s policy makers had begun to realise that the assimilationist approach was impractical – Indian and Black-Caribbean cultures were not simply going to disappear after a period of time and there was a move towards policies being more accepting of cultural diversity.
This period saw the introduction of the Race Relations Act in 1976 which made it illegal to discriminate on the basis of ‘race’.
Education became more multicultural from the late 1970s to the late 1980s.
The late 1970s were a period of large spread social unrest due to the failures of Capitalism leading to mass unemployment and poverty, which were disproportionately felt by black and asian minorities.
This was a period in which ethnic minorities were protesting more about the high levels of marginalisation, poverty, unemployment and racial discrimination they were experiencing which resulted in a number of widely publicised riots such as the Brixton Riots of 1981.
Part of this resistance by young ethnic minorities manifested itself in more disruption in school and higher truancy rates.
The Swann Report was published in 1985 as a response to such unrest and this represented something of a landmark change in thinking about how policy should combat racism:
It recognised that cultural diversity was a positive force for social change and that a society with a plurality of cultures was richer than a more homogenous white culture.
It recognised that ethnic minorities in the U.K. faced higher levels of unemployment, poverty and racial discrimination.
It explicitly identified institutional racism as a problem which it defined as ‘where the official institutions in society, such as the education system… operate in a way that automatically discriminates against and disadvantages certain groups.
It also recognised that racism was not just a problem that ethnic minorities had to deal with but that it was also a white problem, and that white people needed to be educated about racism, especially in white-majority areas.
The Swann report caused division in central government and was largely ignored there, but many Local Education Authorities acted on its findings and introduced changes to make education more multicultural.
Multicultural education involved understanding and celebrating difference in education
Two examples of multicultural education included:
having classes which specifically educated students about the languages, religions and diets of different minority ethnic groups.
Changing text books so that they had broader representation of ethnic minorities.
However early multicultural education has been criticised for being condescending and ignoring institutional racism, seen by many as tokenistic and doing little to really foster a mutual understanding and respect between cultures.
Anti-Racist education believed that racist attitudes needed to be explicitly opposed within schools and that active measures needed to be taken to ensure equality of opportunity for all ethnic groups. Anti racist policies were primarily adopted by some of the more left-wing Local Education Authorities, to whom the New Right Tory government was opposed in the early 1980s.
Colour Blind Education Policy
The New Right Conservative government under Margaret Thatcher and John Major adopted what David Gilborn (2001) has described as a ‘colour blind’ education policy because it ignored ethnic diversity altogether.
This was convenient for the Tories in the early 1980s against the backdrop of the Falklands’ war and increasing popular concern about the amount of immigration to the U.K. and a rising fervour over (white) national identity.
Two ways in which the New Right’s education policies were colour blind include:
Leaving everything to market forces and individual choice which took no account of ethnic diversity.
The National Curriculum which was introduced in 1988 was also highly ethnocentric if we examine some of the core subjects such as languages, literature and history. The only languages which were options for students were white European languages and there was almost no recognition of black and Asian minority cultures in history or english during the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Gliborn (2001) characterises New Labour’s education policies as being a form of naive multiculturalism. He suggests that while New Labour acknowledged that significant ethnic inequalities existed and that something had to be done about this, they in fact introduced no significant policies to actually to do so.
Rather, in education, they assumed that issues such as racial discrimination would be tackled adequately through the introduction of Citizenship into the curriculum.
The September 11 2001 attacks on the Twin Towers in New York ushered in what Gilborn (2008) refers to as an era of cynical multiculturalism in social policy. This means that while New Labour maintained a rhetoric of commitment to promoting ethnic diversity and equality of opportunity the policies they introduced were more similar to the assimilation/ integration phases of the 1950s and 1960s.
For example New Labour made it harder for the spouses of recently arrived immigrants to join them in the U.K., they sped up the deportation of illegal immigrants and they put more emphasis on the importance for migrants to learn English.
Gilborn (2008) suggests that since the London Bombings of 2005 the New Labour government adopted a stance of aggressive majoritarianism.
The media discourse at this time was one of Islamophobia and of how integration policies have failed, and there was something of a return to assimilationism.
There was also more open criticism of veiling as a problem rather than an aspect of diversity and acceptance of diversity was more likely to be seen as destabilising rather than something to be celebrated.
The Coalition government carried on the majoritarian agenda, with the then Prime Minister David Cameron saying in 2011 that multiculturalism had failed and that we needed a stronger identity in the UK to prevent extremism.
The Coalition government’s introduction of British Values into the curriculum is another example of a more assimilationist majoritarianism.
British Values are today taught as something passive and peaceful and the policy discourse suggests that greater social harmony can be achieved if everyone accepts ‘Britishness’ as a core identity rather than us celebrating multiculturalism in schools.
We might also interpret the ‘PREVENT’ agenda, introduced in 2011 as an example of this – which highlights the fact that some elements of Islamic culture have failed to integrate and it is the job of schools to identify these failures and intervene to prevent these aspects of Islamic culture from harming the majority.
It also seems to be the case that the government thinks that we are now in a post-racial Britain – that there is no real problem with racial discrimination anymore so education policy need not address this.
Education policy and its relationship to ethnicity and racism is a topic within the AQA’s A-level sociology specification.
By 2066 5 million people in the UK will be aged over 85 and over, or 7% of the population.
11 million people in the UK were aged 65 and over in 2022, which is 19% of the population. In 10 years time, by 2032 this will have increased to 13 million people, or 23% of the population.
Currently 1.5 million people are aged 85 and over, or around 1.5% of the UK population. This older age group is the fastest growing and is set to double to 3.2 million by 2041 and treble by 2066 to 5.1 million when it will represent 7% of the UK population.
Health and ageing
In terms of disability-free life expectancy, the state of ageing in England is getting worse. Life Expectancy has increased, but disability free life expectancy hasn’t kept pace: as people get older they are spending proportionately more time in ill-health.
In 2020, healthy life expectancy was 62.4 years for men and 60.9 years for women.
This means that on average men and women can expect to live 10 disability-free years after the age of 65, with around a further 8 with some kind of disability, on average, based on average life expectancy at birth.
Poverty and ageing
18% of Pensioners lived in relative poverty in 2020/21 a sharp rise up from 16% in 2018/19, which equates to 2 million people.
Housing and ageing
In 2018 78% of households headed by someone aged 65 or over were owned, with only 6% of those having a mortgage.
16% of households headed by someone aged 65 or over socially rent, while 6% privately rent.
If we look at figures for the over 55s we see that the number of 867 000 homes rented privately to people aged 55 and over, which is an all time hight for the decade.
Ageing and Inequality
Taken together there has been a trend towards greater inequality between older people.
The net (non-pension) wealth of the richest 20% of people aged 65 and over group doubled between 2002 and 2018, while that of the poorest 20% fell by 30%.12, and this is largely driven by the increase in house prices.
Work and Ageing
The economic inactivity rate for 50-64 year olds increased sightly during the Pandemic, after several years of declining. In 2021 the economic inactivity rate was 24% for men and 33% for women.
Policy Suggestions for an ageing population
There are several practical policy solutions we can start putting in place now to address the challenges of an ageing population.
One OBVIOUS. and necessary starting point would be more social housing for older people of a decent standard – and if this was developed as community housing this would also solve the problem of many older people being isolated in their own homes, AND such housing could be built in areas with decent health care systems nearby.
A second area would be to tackle age discrimination in work and offer more targeted support for older people wanting to go back to work – many people want to work into their 70s, but not necessarily full-time, so anything the government can do to encourage workplaces to offer more flexible part-time working arrangements would be a help.
The ageing population: Why this Matters!
There are a lot of people aged 45-60 who are going to be retiring in the next 20 years – that large bulge just above the grey line below. And once we get below this line you’ll see a couple of significant dips in the birth rate.
So this means that over the next 20 years there are going to me MORE over 65s and especially more over 85s while at the same time fewer working age people paying tax to support growing number of retirees.
Thus if we don’t start working now to put policies and infrastructure in place to help support those older people who need it, we are going to find this even more challenging in the future as the future is going to be one of more older people and less money to support them!
This material should be useful for anyone studying the families and households option as part of their A-level in Sociology.
Increasing numbers of people are making use of online learning platforms to educate themselves, but getting representative data on online learning is a challenge!
Online education has expanded rapidly with the rise of the internet and in 2022 there are a huge variety of websites and learning platforms that people are making use of to learn about a huge range of topics.
Online learning ranges from the very formal to the very informal, and it is much easier to collect valid statistics on the extent of formal online learning compared to informal online learning, because the former have hard data on the number of student enrolments and degree of engagement for example, data which might not exist for the more informal learning that takes place online.
Examples of formal online learning include universities putting their courses online, workplaces running online training courses and courses run through online learning platforms such as Coursera.
Informal learning is much more difficult to measure at it involves people hacking together an education using whatever free sources they can fund – by using YouTube videos to learn new skills for example.
Gathering data on the extent of online learning is complicated by the fact that there isn’t a clear boundary between using the internet for education and using it for entertainment, not to say, of course, that education can’t in itself be entertaining.
In this post I gather together some data which gives us an insight into the nature and extent of both formal and informal online learning in the world today, taking a global focus.
My reason for doing this is to demonstrate how significant online learning is in relation to formal education in schools, colleges and universities. I don’t believe a sociology of education should ignore these trends in online learning simply because online learning plays an increasingly significant role in many people’s lives, especially in people’s adult lives.
I also focus on the problems of collecting valid data on the extent of online learning in 2022.
Formal and informal online learning
Ranging from the formal to the informal, four basic types of online learning include….
The rise of virtual schools offering formally recognised national curriculums.
The rise of online digital learning platforms such as Udemy
The increase in independent people offering education and training on YouTube and other channels
The increase in ordinary people sharing their stories, experiences and life-experiments, and the increased interest in people consuming these.
An Overview of Global Online Learning
According to Global Market Insights (1) the value of the global e-learning market was over $315 billion in 2021.
70% of demand for online learning comes from the U.S.A and Europe (3)
Coursera’s statistics (6) show us that America has the most online learners, followed by India, and we can see that online learning is truly a global phenomenon!
80% of employers use online learning platforms…
America leads the way in virtual schools and in 2019-20, 40 there were 477 full-time virtual schools that enrolled 332,379 students, and 306 blended schools that enrolled 152,530 students (2).
NB as I understand it these are schools offering an officially recognised curriculum leading to formal exams, so this is a very formal type of online education.
Online learning platforms
Elearning Industry (8) lists 893 online learning platforms as of December 2022, unfortunately there is no data on how many courses are offered across these platforms or how many people are making use of them.
If you do a Google Search for ‘how many learning platforms are there’ Google returns search results for blogs outlining the ‘best’ platforms, not necessarily those with the most users, for example Thinkific (9) provides 10 of the best which include LinkdIn learning, Coursera and Udemy.
So if you want to find out how many people are making use of online learning platforms, you need to look at the stats from the individual platforms (and there may be overlap, some people enrolled on a Coursera course are also going to be doing a Udemy Courses!).
I don’t have time to trawl through almost 900 online learning platforms to collect the data but to look two of the biggest:
In 2021 Coursera had 92 million registered learners and 189 million enrolments (4)
In 2022 Udemy had 52 million learners and 213 000 courses (5)
So two of the largest platforms have 150 million people currently enrolled on their courses, so it’s not unreasonable to assume that across all learning platforms it’s likely that there are several hundred million people globally doing some kind of formally structured course on such platforms.
Learning Management Systems
Learner Management Systems are back end solutions for managing learners’ data while Online Learning Platforms are front-end packages.
I’m not analysing use of online Learner Management Systems (LMSs) here because pretty much every school, college and university will make use of an LMS to manage their learners’ data.
Educational blogs and vlogs
Many blogs and vlogs are educational, it is very difficult to get statistics on how many exist because many accounts include content which is both educational and purely for entertainment.
There must be well over a million ‘high quality’ educational videos on YouTube alone, produced by institutions such as the BBC and TED, the latest data i could find from 2015 put the figure at 700 000 videos on YouTubeEdu (10), so today there must be many more.
Educational content can range from the academic to videos designed to help people figure out ‘how to present themselves online’ as in the picture below…
TBH I’m not sure how I’d even go about designing a methodology to quantify the number of educational blogs and vlogs online, let alone the number of people consuming them.
TED (Technology Education and Design) is worth a special mention as many of the talks are relevant to sociology. The TED channel hosts thousands of videos, its YouTube channel has over 22 million subscribers and the most popular talk by Ken Robinson: Do Schools Kill Creativity has 22 million views.
The problem with global statistics on elearning!
Even formal online learning is difficult to measure as there is no body monitoring the total number of online learners (as far as I am aware), and manually trawling through almost 1000 online learning platforms would take a long time.
Most of the available global statistics come from private companies who themselves offer online learning services. The first problem with this is that there can be a barrier in the form of a significant pay wall (7), another possible problem is with the validity of the data because these companies may use methods of data collection which deliberately exaggerate the extent of online learning: doing so makes it seem like institutions should invest more in online learning to keep up with an inevitable trend.
As to informal learning it is very difficult to measure how many educational blogs and vlogs there are simply because there is so much educational content out there!
Hence what we know about the nature and extent of online learning in 2023 is based on samples of those companies that do publish data, and there is no way this is representative of all online learning!
25% of people say they can’t afford the Christmas they want in 2022, double the number from 2021.
The cost of Christmas is up by around 20% in 2022, and almost 40% say the cost of Christmas makes the event too stressful, but despite these woes, 70% say that ‘cancelling Christmas is not an option’.
These are some findings from a recent YouGov survey and in this post I consider how all of this might be relevant to sociology!
How much does the average person spend on Christmas…?
The average person in Britain plans to spend £642 on Christmas in 2022, which is down only slightly on 2021 when the average person spent £670. (These are Mean, not median averages).
However given inflation, people will be getting a lot less for their money this year even though the reduction in raw expenditure isn’t that significant!. According to The Guardian the cost of our various Christmas expenditures – mainly presents, food and, for some, travel have risen by more than 20% this year compared to 2021….
This basically means everyone’s going to be having one less slice of turkey, maybe a couple of less potatoes, and, worst of all, fewer pigs in blankets (yes, things really are THAT bad!)
25% of people can’t afford the Christmas they want
Given that the cost of Christmas has risen sharply it’s not surprising that the number of people saying they cannot afford the Christmas they want has doubled to 25%.
This proportion sounds about right based on the poverty stats: about 20% of the UK population are in relative poverty and I imagine most of the people responding positively to that question are going to come from this 20%.
Of course not all of them will, several people on low incomes budget for Christmas by saving all year round, and some of those responses will be more middle-income families having to cut down on their usual more affluent Christmas.
I do find it interesting that 75% are happy enough with their finances to be able to afford the Christmas they want, suggesting that people aren’t that sucked into the consumerist hype – the average figure of £650 seems to be adequate.
Maybe that’s a fail for the Christmas hype-machine, further suggesting that people aren’t as passive as you might think?!?
40% say Christmas is too Stressful
This is depressing – a significant minority of the population find the event too stressful because of the money…
This means that maybe that the veneer of Christmas is something of a lie, while underneath at the micro-level there’s a lot of suffering going on.
Value Consensus around Christmas?
Besides the increasing cost of Christmas and the increasing numbers of people feeling stressed about it and going into debt to fund it, nearly 70% of Britons say that ‘cancelling Christmas is not an option’
And it’s very rare these days that you get that many people to agree on anything, and so celebrating Christmas is maybe one of the few points of value consensus that we have.
Or is this value consensus at the level of society? Christmas is one of the few periods of the year where we all get to retreat from the world of work and society and spend some time with our families, so maybe here Britain is saying ‘we value being able to retreat to our private households’, so one could interpret this as being anti-social.
This is really just a bit of annual Christmas fun with statistics!
Using Winchester College as an example, where the Prime Minister himself was privately educated, Starmer pointed out that with fees per pupil of £45 000 a year, allowing them to no pay 15% VAT amounted to £6 million in lost tax revenue, which could be used to better fund state schools.
Starmer directly asked whether that £6 million would be better spent on the rifle ranges of Winchester rather than providing additional support for the 40% of students in Southampton, Rishi Sunak’s home town, who failed either their English or Maths GCES last year.
The charitable status of Independent Schools allows them to pay no V.A.T on school fees. The Labour Party argue that ending this charitable status of independent schools and thus making them pay VAT on school fees, would lead result in these schools paying an additional £1.7 billion a year in taxes, money which could then be spent to better fund the state education sector.
NB the reason why independent schools have charitable status is because they supposedly partner with state schools, and thus confer some of their educational excellence on to them, but there is little evidence that the state sector gets back £1.7 billion worth of input.
Independent schools are basically businesses, not charities, and every other business providing a service in the UK pays VAT on the services it provides, so ending charitable status for independent schools would be fair and equal compared to all other businesses out there.
The existence of independent schools also reduces the life chances of those from the state sector – only 7% of students attend independent schools but privately educated students take up 30-40% of oxbridge university places, and higher percentages of the most elite jobs such as Doctors and Barristers, and they get these jobs not only because of their exam results but also because of the social and cultural capital that comes with being privately educated.
It would thus make sense to make parents who pay to have their children privately educated pay MORE because of the damage this does to bright children from poor backgrounds and to society as a whole because there is no way the best candidates are being selected for the best jobs because of this distortion.
Arguments against making Independent schools pay tax
The biased Independent Schools Council (ISC) – represents over 1300 private schools and argues that if we forced schools (and thus parents) to pay VAT on fees, there would be an immediate effect of overpricing as parents who are currently struggling to pay the fees would send their children to state schools.
They argue that 90 000 students would switch back to the state sector and that this would mean an additional cost to the treasury of £400 million a year, so assuming Starmer hadn’t factored this in, the net tax gain to the state from charging VAT would only be £1.4 billion per annum. However this 90 000 figure has been questioned and even if it did occur it wouldn’t happen overnight.
The ISC also argues that this would end partnership working, as independent schools axe this aspect of their agendas as it can’t afford it any more, but then again there’s little evidence of state schools benefitting from current partnerships already anyway.
They also argue ending the charitable tax status of private schools would increase polarisation because it would be the higher middle income parents who are only just earning six figure salaries between them and struggling to pay their fees who stop sending their kids to such schools, the super rich wouldn’t be harmed at all.
The Charitable Status of Private Schools: Conclusions
It’s obvious that the existence of private schools benefits the very wealthy at the expense of everyone else, and that there is zero net gain to be had by allowing them to carry on existing.
The fact that the state helps keep this system in place by effectively subsidising this sector of business is more a reflection of bias and power in politics than any sense of what’s best for individuals and society.
After all, the independently schooled are massively over-represented in government and so most of the Tory party (and many in the Labour party) benefitted themselves from independent schooling, and so they’ll probably carry on scratching the backs of the same schools they themselves attended a few decades earlier.
There is a very strong case for abolishing not only their charitable status but also independent schools themselves, in the interests of levelling the playing field and giving bright state school students the opportunity to compete on an equal footing with their currently hot-housed independently schools peers.
This material is mainly relevant to the education topic, usually taught as part of A-level sociology, AQA specification.