The Forgotten Third
Published by John Catt Educational – 17th June 2020
Introduction by Roy Blatchford
I am the editor of ‘The Forgotten Third’, a book of 18 new and provocative essays published this week by John Catt Educational.
The book’s contributors are: Caroline Barlow, Geoff Barton, Rebecca Boomer-Clark, Peter Collins, Tim Coulson, Kiran Gill, Miranda Green, Peter Hyman, David Laws, Rachel Macfarlane, Rupert Moreton, Harmer Parr, Marc Rowland, Catherine Sezen, Richard Sheriff, Nicholas Taylor-Mullings and Iain Veitch.
The book has its roots in the National Commission I chaired last year for ASCL, the Association of School and College Leaders.
The Commission gathered detailed evidence about the third of sixteen year olds who every year in England fail to achieve a standard grade 4 pass in GCSE English and maths.
Last year that was about 190,000 students who, after 12 years of schooling, failed to secure the pass grade. And it’s the same every year. And will be again in 2020.
The ASCL Commission asked the fundamental question: ‘Do a third of students have to fail for two thirds to pass?’ Important recommendations were made and you can read those in the report published on the ASCL website. The Education Policy Institute provided the underpinning research analysis.
This new book ‘The Forgotten Third’ takes up the story where the Commission left off. In the words of contributor David Laws: does this scale of national failure have to be locked in? The essays in our book say a resounding ‘no’. Our education system does not have to be this way.
Estelle Morris in her trenchant Foreword writes:
The impact of this failure goes far beyond what happens in our classrooms. The Forgotten Third tend to come from the same groups in society – their communities become the Left Behind. This issue can’t be just an interesting academic debate. It is one of the biggest challenges for this generation of educationists. The time has come to resolve it.Estelle Morris – Baroness Morris of Yardley
And the 18 contributors put forward an alternative and fresh prospectus – a prospectus which is of course so timely given – at an unimaginable swoop – this year there will be no written GCSEs, no league tables, no SATs, no Ofsted.
The American economist Milton Friedman said that when a crisis hits, it’s the ideas that are lying around that get picked up.
The leading thinkers who have contributed to this book hope that policy makers and education leaders will pick up and implement some of the radical and practical solutions that are presented here so compellingly.
I write in my introduction that the famous 1944 Education Act was drafted during the Blitz and the Normandy landings. Rab Butler, Minister at the time, worked with Winston Churchill to deliver landmark changes to education immediately after the Second World War.
Let us not waste this Covid-19 crisis.
‘The Forgotten Third’ essays – rooted in hard evidence and extensive national experience – centre on five pointers for the future:
- First, tilting the education system’s focus towards those who don’t go to university.
- Second, giving a relevant vocational education to the many young people who are crying out for one.
- Third, establishing an examination system which does not ‘lock in’ failure for a third of 16 year-olds and puts an end to the wasteful GCSE resit industry.
- Fourth, devising examinations which value the fundamental communication skills employers want and which put teacher assessment at the heart of GCSE grading – as by default is happening this summer.
- Fifth, securing better resources and teaching for students who every year comprise ‘the left-behind’ – this starts in the early years, and continues through primary and secondary schools, and on to further education colleges.
The Potential for a Levelled-Up Society
We cannot as a nation continue to fail a third of our young people at 16. This is for them a matter of dignity and self-esteem, and ultimately about their life chances. We must put an end to our forgotten third as the foundation stone for a ‘levelled up’ society.
And Covid-19 might come to be seen as a decisive pivot in our nation’s education story. Just maybe, the landmark Education Act of 2021 can turn the forgotten third into a finally remembered third.
And if you get a chance to read the book, we hope you are inspired by what we have to say and join this movement for long overdue change.