Self Initiated Project – idea

I’m interested in the attainment gap. My interest lies with my own experience of being in education as a student, an educator and being a parent. You could say the attainment gap is the main reason why first stepped into education. My experience of being aware of in many cases how a black British child can go through their whole educational life experience starting well in infant school but then by the time they get to junior school to secondary school things change and the attainment gap widens.

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I had noticed this more with Black and Asian children and predominantly black boys. There have been parent’s evenings where I have been told “Your child is reaching his benchmark.” However further investigation shows that the benchmark was set at a low expectation where the trajectory for his attainment would be no higher than they C or a D GCSE grade. Fortunately for myself being a secondary educator at the time I was able to confront teachers with these figures and how they didn’t correspond with his learning outcomes. Through my own teaching practice within secondary school I was able to address this gap by first educating parents to help them understand the assessment grades through a series of workshops. Parents were therefore aware of the assessment grades that were given at secondary school and what to look out for when there been told at parents evening the child is reaching a benchmark, but which translates to a very low projection that the child had been given at the beginning of the school year.

During my role as an educator within secondary school I had managed to introduce projects where students saw more representation of themselves within the curriculum at the time I believed I was manipulating the art and design curriculum to employ inclusive practice and pedagogy. Many of the project across curriculum and would intersect cultural of religion, race, gender and sexuality and disability.

So why am I using secondary school examples for higher education?

Two reasons like growth mindset started within secondary education to encourage and empower students ‘that they can’. psychologist Carol Dweck’s philosophy this has now been employed within UAL as creative mindset. This is a subtle angle that can be used to address the attainment gap. Lesson plans and observations can be used to assess and address areas for inclusive practice towards attainment. Similarly, there are similar gaps and a link between secondary, further and higher education in terms of transition, retention that are affected by issues surrounding the attainment gap. My approach to addressing the attainment gap is not solely exclusive to black students within the BAME Black Asian minority ethnic category however it is an important starting point I wish to address. My recent attendance to the attainment conference Dr Gurnam Singh in his keynote speech explicitly demonstrated the large gap of attainment amongst black African Caribbean students than all the others within the BAME category. It has been recognised through longitudinal research conducted by Duna Sabri where she provides a series of case studies.

The attainment gap for years has seen to be addressed as if it were a mystery. It had been treated as such since my first experience of being a student within education at UAL 20 years ago. I had fallen into that gap. 20 years later as a designer and now educator at UAL there is still a gap. The attainment gap is a problem not a mystery. Now recognised through collated data and research educators can no longer ignore through complacency to categorise the gap as a mystery to why the such a gap exists.

And only now this mystery has been identified as a problem. Despite recognised now as a problem there are still research with slow attempts to find a solution. I have been fortunate to have the experience of working across all sectors within education. The significant areas occur at each transitional (key stage) of the student’s life. Schools that do well with the attainment gap have a strong representation of their student identity, sense of self being represented in the curriculum and school environment.

I had started my investigation by conducting workshops and conversations with students that were transition for further to higher education.  I wish to run workshops discussions with staff as well as students and a film that documents the student experience. I am also keen to work with first year foundation and first year BA students that embark on their journey to navigate their way around university.


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