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Classroom class divide?

Middlesex conference will examine whether social class has an effect on education.

Students have been disadvantaged by a curriculum based on learning skills rather than knowledge, with those at state schools disproportionately affected, an expert on education from Middlesex claims.

Kevin Morris, of the university's Education Department, will  share the platform with journalist and Free School founder Toby Young and other education experts at a conference on social class and education at Middlesex University this month.

He said:  “Under the old Department of Children, Schools and Families the Every Child Matters Agenda dominated the educational landscape and education became synonymous with social service.  This led to a curriculum that acted as social engineering as it denied students in state schools the same knowledge-based education as some in the private education sector.

“In light of the number of key decision-makers in the Government with a public school background, it is timely to look at whether social class – if it is not too outmoded a concept –  is still an issue in today’s schools and whether it has an impact on state school educated children.”

Toby Young will tell the conference, In a class of our own, on February 19 that the decline of knowledge-based teaching in state schools has seriously damaged the career prospects of working class children compared to their privately educated peers.

He said: “The dumbing down of state education, with the replacement of subject knowledge by "skills", has had a devastating impact on the career prospects of working class children and given privately educated children a free ride when it comes to the competition for top jobs.”

Professor Gary McCulloch, of the Institute of Education (IOE), will also be addressing delegates, speaking about “Hard times and the struggle for education”.  He will be looking at history in education from several angles – how history can inform education policy and reform, the lack of history in teacher education and the current plans to reform the school history curriculum.

Mr Morris added the conference was looking at a range of issues under the banner of class in the classroom and the teaching of educational theorists such as Paul Hirst and Michael Oakeshott to develop trainee teachers’ understanding of social class will also be discussed.  He said: “This comes at a time when teaching is being redefined as a craft skill and the clear emphasis in teacher training is towards apprenticeship-style learning.”

The conference, which is being held on the University’s Trent Park campus in north London, will include speakers from Middlesex University, the IOE and Birmingham University, among other institutions.

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