That there are strong practical and moral arguments for addressing gaps in educational attainment is easy to accept. In ‘The Light is Worth the Candle’ Professor Denis Mongon writes that closing these gaps “is a contribution to three distinct though overlapping ambitions that any society should expect of its education service:
- private returns, the personal benefits to individuals, often expressed in terms of income, occupation, wellbeing and health
- social returns, often expressed as improvements in general health, social participation and social cohesion
- economic returns, generally thought of as increases in employment and labour productivity (Blundell, Dearden & Sianesi, 2001, quoted in Owens, 2004)”
“Closing the gap is about identifying those groups of students who are least successful in a school or network of schools, reflecting on the causes and taking action to raise the students’ outcomes closer to the averages in that context and therefore closer to or, in high-attaining contexts, even further beyond, national averages.” (Leadership for closing the gap and reducing variation in outcomes: developing a framework for action Mongon, D. & Chapman, C. National College for School Leadership, 2011)
Closing the gaps is not sufficient however. Getting closer to the average is short sighted. What is required is a paradigm shift not a series of incremental improvements. In my opinion this could be achieved by shifting our attention to the front of the curve rather than focusing on the middle or tail.