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By Rosemary Sage

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Children are measured against fixed norms, which provide powerful controls. The publishing of test results in league tables has led to the differentiation of student groups. They can become segregated from one another in bands or streams and follow different educational paths and social destinies. This works against equality of opportunity but sits well with the present system of grammar schools, comprehensives, city technology colleges, foundation and independent schools (Lawton, 1999). Gender In recent years, there has been a preoccupation with gender issues as girls now outperform boys at all levels of the UK education system.

Policies of inclusion and more open access to higher education are helping to provide more opportunities for a wider range of the population, but the cost of these will a barrier to many. In spite of attempts to open up opportunities, the instability of modern lives, due to changing family patterns and job insecurity, has produced a sizeable underclass in this country There are an increasing number of lone parents, many of whom find it difficult to get and keep jobs because of their family responsibilities (Beresford, 1995).

Are you able to make a picture of this in your mind? My image was of a clump of snowdrops, in the dark earth, under a sycamore tree outside my kitchen window. What was yours? A lily on black velvet? A daisy on black paper? A rose on the lapel of a dark suit? It was probably different from my representation, which demonstrates the difficulty of communicating ideas! Bell (1991) has spent a career looking at visualizing and verbalizing. Although Bell acknowledges that we might have a preference for representing ideas in words or in pictures, she stresses the importance of being able to visualize from both spoken and written information.

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