Are you sure you’re recruiting the best?

Its back to a favourite topic of mine, education. Last week parents up and down the land were waiting to hear which secondary schools their children had got in to. As any parent who has ever been through the process will tell you, it is full of uncertainty, angst and unpredictability.

And unfairness.

The socio-economic bias in the education is already well established at this point and based on your background, your educational outcomes are already being influenced. In a wonderful piece of research carried out last year, the Sutton Trust highlighted that,

“The top performing 500 comprehensive schools in England, based on GCSE attainment, continue to be highly socially selective, taking just 9.4% of pupils eligible for Free School Meals (FSM), just over half the rate of the average comprehensive (17.2%).”

There are a couple of factors at play, a fair amount of this (about half) is down to the catchment areas, with the same report highlighting that, “a typical house in the catchment area of a top 500 school costs £45,700 more than the average house in the same local authority” but the rest of it is simply down to social selection in admissions processes, “85% of schools in the top 500 admit fewer FSM pupils than live in their catchment area, with over a quarter having a gap of five percentage points or more.”

Let’s just take a moment to consider this. In order to get into the top 500 comprehensive schools you need to live within the catchment area, which is likely to mean that your parents are probably going to have to either earn more, or borrow more. And if that doesn’t apply and yet you still manage to live within the catchment area, if you’re eligible for free school meals you’re less likely to get a place, even living in catchment.

The reason behind this is the over indexing of schools which are in control of their own admissions policies, with voluntary converter academies, faith schools and single sex schools all over-represented in the top 500 schools.

“Faith schools are among the most socially selective group of top schools, more than three times as selective as non-faith schools, and make up 33.4% of the list. Converter academies admit the lowest rate of disadvantaged pupils of the main school types, and comprise 63% of the top schools, compared to just 40% of all secondaries.”

What does the mean in terms of educational outcomes? In a separate report the Education Policy Institute found that, “In 2016, disadvantaged pupils were on average 19.3 months behind their peers by the time they took their GCSEs – meaning they are falling behind by around 2 months each year over the course of secondary school.” Put simply, if you are a pupil from the least advantaged backgrounds your educational outcomes are nearly two years behind your peers when you get to take the first publicly recognisable qualifications.

Of course you don’t need me to tell you that this bias continues into A-levels and then to University, with the gap between those from lower socio-economic groups attending university widening even further over recent years.

Which begs the question, when you hire based on qualifications are you really sure you’re recruiting the best? Or just the luckiest?


“It’s not fair”

The Olympics are only a few days away. For some this will induce a sigh of despair, for others a sense of excitement. For the many, many competitors this is their moment to compete on the world’s biggest stage and potentially to shine.  And for those that perform above and beyond anyone else, the ultimate prize, the medal, the media spotlight and the adulation of the watching crowds.

People like to see people win at sport.

People hate to see people win in life.

When we see a sportsman or woman stand on the podium, taking the ultimate prize, we talk about the hours of commitment, the sacrifices, the hard work and the talent. Yet when we see someone doing well in life, we talk about the fact that they must have got there by screwing others, the injustice, the fact that they are a “fat cat”.

I know life isn’t a level playing field. But neither is sport.

I can’t win the 100 meters final at the Olympics, I’m not going to score the winning goal in the FA cup final, and I’m not even going to get around the park in as quick a time as many. Does that make it unfair?

Is it unfair that Usain Bolt can run faster than me and therefore gets a goal medal and millions of dollars worth of endorsements?

Is it unfair that Didier Drogba scored in the final of both the FA Cup and the Champions League and secured a big money move to a club in China?

Is it unfair that you can run around the park quicker than me and therefore get to the pub first?

Next time you’re thinking about the guy with a bigger house, the girl who got the promotion ahead of you, or reading the reports about somebody else’s bonus, remember this: it isn’t unfair, they’re just doing better than you.

Work hard, do your best, fulfil your potential and your talent and stop looking on with envy at others. Whatever rewards that brings, if you’ve done your best that is all that matters. Respect the success of others, be gracious and, for the love of God, stop bleating on.