Friday insights round-up (8 Feb)

8 February 2019

Impact Manager, Caitlin, has some interesting policy developments in this week’s Friday insights round-up, including the launch of the government’s five foundations for character strategy, and the education commission’s response to disadvantage in early years.

These are promising developments and – in true Big Change fashion – I’ll also be sharing some constructive feedback from our friends at the Education Policy Institute and the Fair Education Alliance that provide opportunities to learn and grow.

Plus, there’s some new learnings in young people’s mental health, and the ways we may be inadvertently legitimising inequality to help us think deeply about the challenges young people are facing in the UK.

Policy corner

The government has released its 5 Foundations for Character Strategy, which encourages schools to help their students build confidence and resilience through focusing on five areas of learning:

  • Sport
  • Performing
  • Creativity
  • World of work
  • Volunteering

We agree that building resilience and character is a crucial area for bringing about more equitable outcomes for young people, which is why we have proudly backed projects that work to broaden young people’s horizons such as:

  • NCS
  • Head Start
  • City Year
  • Generation Change
  • Reclaim Project

With all new initiatives come opportunities for feedback and learning, so we are glad organisations like our friends at Fair Education Alliance are taking the opportunity to share their expertise to improve the strategy. Sam Butters has rightly pointed out that in order for this strategy to be successful, the financial barriers that prevent all schools from being able to provide the social and emotional learning required to build character must be removed.

This was also a big week for early years in government – the select committee on education released its new report on tackling disadvantage in early years, informed by some great education minds like the Education Policy Institute (who have recently mapped education inequality across the UK using a handy interactive map). The report focuses on two areas that have a big impact on child development – quality early years provision and the home learning environment.

The report recommends a number of specific government actions, including:

  • Encourage recruitment and retention of early years teachers, and remove barriers to their progression – early years is notably absent in the government’s recent recruitment and retention strategy
  • Reconsider its 30 hours childcare entitlement for working parents, as research has found that this puts pressure on nurseries and widens the access gap between advantaged and disadvantaged children
  • Explore promoting family hubs as a method of service provision

We’re proud to be backing pioneers who are improving access to and quality of early years provision such as Voice Bradford and EasyPeasy, and we support the use of evidence and feedback to improve provision.

We hope to see these learnings used to make sure all children receive access to the quality early years care that will set them up to have the best possible chances in life.

Time to talk and young people’s mental health

The #TimeToTalk hashtag has been prominent on Twitter this week, bringing attention to young people’s mental health. There are despairing statistics showing that, due to increased feelings of pressure and inadequacy caused by social media, nearly 1 in 5 young people do not think life is worth living.

More than a quarter of young people also disagree that their life has a sense of purpose. These statistics are worrying for a multitude of reasons, not least of which that the OECD trends in education report has pointed out that young people’s engagement in society and citizenship is crucial in bringing about an education and learning environment that sets all young people up to thrive.

We at Big Change are working to back the interventions that are helping all young people thrive in life – this includes feelings of adequacy and belonging, and believing that their lives have purpose and meaning.

We’re about to kick off our next round of project partner funding to keep contributing to the change we’re hoping to achieve for and with young people.

We look forward to sharing our new cohort of pioneers with you later this year.

‘Following wind’ and misinterpreting privilege as talent

This week’s Guardian long read on the effects of privilege on class pay gaps has us thinking hard about privilege, and the importance of being constantly mindful of the power dynamics it creates. The article points out that privilege can work as a sort of tail wind through one’s career, pushing them onward and upward with a speed and smoothness not afforded to those who are born without it.

But privilege doesn’t just affect job outcomes. As authors Sam Friedman and Daniel Laurison point out: “privilege affects all sorts of life outcomes, in all sorts of ways and all parts of the class structure. And in each of these domains, the key issue is that when the following wind of privilege is misread as merit, the inequalities that result are legitimised.” It’s a reminder about past articles about power dynamics in grant-giving, and making sure we are not replicating the systems that are causing the harm we are looking to address. As we kick off our next round of project funding this will certainly be kept in mind.