‘Disadvantaged students not supported enough’ – Gary Handforth

gary-handforth - PhotoBright Futures Educational Trust’s Director of Primary Education, Gary Handforth, has spoken out over the continued lack of support provided to children and parents from disadvantaged backgrounds. In an interview with Teach Primary, Gary said that the current levels of support from schools would only serve to maintain the attainment gap.

“In our very best schools we have the most amazing teachers,” Gary comments. “We have innovation, aspiration and inspiration in abundance; staff who care; and rigorous assessment systems that can track the impact of well-researched intervention programs.

“But to address underachievement, schools also need to work closely with families – focusing on the social deficit into which some children are born and learning habits that may never have been formed or nourished.

“We still haven’t closed the attainment gap. And we won’t until children and parents from disadvantaged backgrounds are given the support they need, right from day one.”

The Bright Futures Educational Trust is part of the Challenge the Gap programme, which supports schools in breaking the link between poverty and poor outcomes. Some of the Trust’s best results have come through a focus on readiness for learning, on behaviours for learning, and on ensuring that its teachers are highly analytical and reflective.

But while these practices are having a positive impact for schools within Bright Futures, Gary believes that a more joined-up approach across the education system is essential to closing the attainment gap.

“School leaders need to be equipped with the skills necessary for understanding how to develop collaborative partnerships and to feel accountable to children outside of their own four walls. Parents would then see schools as the true heart of the community – places that not only support their children’s needs, but theirs too.

“In order to break the cycle of underachievement we need to stitch the picture together to understand what’s causing it. Only then can we focus on the interventions and support needed to ensure each child can flourish.”