Local parents protest against the unfairness of grammar schools in Berkshire and might force them to become non-selective

Francis Gilbert's picture
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Berkshire parents are taking a stand against the chronic unfairness of the grammar school system. Local parents are forcing a ballot in the Reading area of Berkshire -- using legislation set up under the Labour government -- to see whether the local community actually wants grammar schools in their area. Since very few local children go to the schools, it appears that these schools will lose the ballot and be forced to lose their grammar school status. Last night it was confirmed that a group of parents in Berkshire had begun the process of forcing a vote on the future of the Reading School and the town’s other grammar, Kendrick School for girls

Today's Daily Mail presents these parents' arguments in a negative light, but even the Mail's biased reporting can't hide the fact that these parents have a very good point: the two grammar schools in their area, Reading School and Kendrick School, are both highly selective state schools which do not admit many children from the local area. Reading School, a state-boarding school and grammar school, is clearly full of children from more privileged backgrounds, with the latest data on it showing that it admits just 0.5% of pupils on Free School Meals (FSM), compared with the national average of 20% pupils on FSM. Kendrick School admits just 0.4% of pupils on FSM. Have a look at the school's websites and you'll see that they are essentially state-funded "public schools".

One way that the schools could take more control over their destinies would be to become Academies but this could mean that they'll only be able to select 10% of pupils who have a particular aptitude in a subject they specialise in; obviously, not enough selection for these highly selective schools.

Kendrick School clearly have the best "PR", publishing this leaflet urging parents to vote "No" in the vote: it has the highest Google rating on the subject. Meanwhile, the 11+ chatrooms are buzzing with chatter about the subject, which can be found here. I'm finding it difficult to find many details from the protesting parents, but will follow this up in due course.
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Comments

Joanna Chadwick's picture
Sun, 22/05/2011 - 14:27

These schools are already Academies.

Francis Gilbert's picture
Sun, 22/05/2011 - 18:03

Thanks for this. Wikipedia says Reading School is a Foundation school: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reading_School, as does http://teachweb.co.uk/secondary-schools/Berkshire-B36/Reading-School-SC7.... Wikipedia says the same of Kendrick school, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kendrick_School
They are federated together, but not academies as far as I am aware but please I am happy to be corrected with more up-to-date info than Wikipedia...


Harry Gosling's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 07:51

Reading School is an academy- I GO TO THE SCHOOL UNLIKE YOU.

Dan W's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:19

First lesson of journalism, don't use Wikipedia.

Kushal's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 18:03

Sorry but when was wikipedia a good site to get references from. All schools tell students to avoid using wikipedia because it is inaccurate.

Ollusu Muntagi's picture
Fri, 27/05/2011 - 12:17

My son Richard is very clever!

Ryan Meader's picture
Sun, 11/11/2012 - 01:20

Do you have children of your own? And if so what schools are they at?

Fiona Lane's picture
Sun, 22/05/2011 - 15:16

It's not that the protesting parents are necessarily against selection, but the protest is a way of highlighting the woeful lack of secondary school places for Reading children, all of whom in East Reading are being denied access to their traditiona, "outstanding"l school of choice by Wokingham Borough Council while at the same time the majority of places at Reading grammars are being taken by children who live in the Wokingham district.

Many children who attend the grammars come from private schools. So, instead of the grammars providing a "leg up" to more disadvantaged children living in Reading, they are being used as free "private" education by those who are most likely to be able to pay for it.

Reading grammars are not a luxury Reading people can't afford; they are schools Reading people can't even use!

Julie Genney's picture
Sun, 22/05/2011 - 15:37

As academies they are not under LA control, they can please themselves on admissions within the academies rules!

Alan's picture
Sun, 22/05/2011 - 15:52

“It’s not that the protesting parents are necessarily against selection...”

They should be. Academic selection at 10 and 11 is cruel and neglectful.

another reading school boy's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 14:00

Your arguement that many children who attend the school come from private schools is highly innacurate as the majority of students come from local primary schools, for example Alfred Sutton and Caversham primary to name two.
Frankly, the only arguments i have seen against selective schools are:
1) they favour more privileged students
2) the schoolboys are arrogant and ignorant
3) the community has to 'put up' with the schoolboys
all of which are hollow statements and I have seen little evidence to prove any of this, I cannot see any real reason why people would be against this form of education..

Kendrick parent's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 21:35

My daughter goes to Kendrick. She went to a state funded local primary school. Three of her friends from her school year also attended this primary; they too go to Kendrick. I could not have afforded private education, nor could her friends parents. People want their children to go to Kendrick because it is a selective school. If it wasn't selective it wouldn't produce the results that it does.

Reading council closed down Alfred Sutton senior school, which was very short sighted. Wokingham schools have had to take up the slack until they can no longer cope, forcing Maiden Erlegh to change its catchment area. Kendrick should not be the scapegoat for Reading councils inadequacy.

Alan's picture
Sun, 22/05/2011 - 15:59

Depends how you define LA control - grammar school consortia can be indistinguishable from LA in terms of choice of school, setting tests, admissions, etc..

Francis Gilbert's picture
Sun, 22/05/2011 - 18:12

I don't think they are Academies, they are foundation schools which are slightly different; see Fiona's comment on this posting about this.

Luke A's picture
Fri, 27/05/2011 - 10:10

What age does it stop being neglectful? Do universities not select their students by academic ability? If comprehensive schools are so great, why do these people even bother applying for a grammar school?

Fact Checker's picture
Sun, 29/05/2011 - 06:07

I would like to correct the errors in the statement above.

Berkshire County Council, not Reading, closed down Alfred Sutton in the 1980s and allocated the pupils it served to two other Berkshire County Council schools, Bulmershe and Maiden Erlegh. In 1998, the county council was abolished and replaced by unitary authorities; the children who lived in the RBC area found themselves (quite legitimately and through no fault of their own) in WBC schools. WBC has made two attempts (a decade apart) to exclude Reading children from the outstanding school of Maiden Erlegh; the first failed as the attempt breached the Greenwich Ruling, which bans discrimination across LA borders; the second, earlier this year, (a clever attempt to appear "borough-blind", although it was anything but) was successful.

While this saga continued, the two grammars in Reading have continued to serve the areas they were set up to serve (large parts of Berkshire). So -- for example -- in the last three years, more children from Wokingham have joined the grammars in Reading (two of the country's leading state schools) than Reading children have attended the "outstanding" school of Maiden Erlegh. (I am happy to produce the figures). The door remains wide open for Wokingham children to benefit from the best Reading can offer; Wokingham, however, will now effectively require pupils from Reading to attend a school which WBC itself has described as "failing to achieve its full potential in terms of teaching...and learning". The best Wokingham can offer is barred to them.

Reading, as you point out, has been a less than adequate LEA. But Wokingham also has its faults; it has allowed significant disparities in quality and resources to develop between two neighbouring schools (ME and Bulmershe) and failed to rectify the absence of a dedicated (and promised) secondary school in Lower Earley -- at one point, western Europe's largest housing estate. Neither authority can be completely proud of their records; the root of the current problems lies with the abolition of BCC.

Julie Genney's picture
Sun, 22/05/2011 - 18:41

That last point is interesting and is worth checking. I see it is a Foundation rather than Academy, I'm afraid I'm not familiar with this latest evolution what are the foundation rules on admissions?

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 23/05/2011 - 11:42

Existing grammar schools who convert into academies can keep selection:

“No grammar school will lose its right to select pupils by academic ability as a result of converting to become an academy. We [the Government] are committed to ensuring the same rights are accorded to parents and the same protections afforded to grammar schools on conversion as they have enjoyed while the school was a maintained school.”

http://www.education.gov.uk/schools/leadership/typesofschools/academies/...

Luke A's picture
Fri, 27/05/2011 - 10:00

Reading School is an academy

Julie Genney's picture
Sun, 22/05/2011 - 18:49

I see that the recourse on admissions policy is the governors! An broadly unelected and invisible grouping whose interests will no doubt be to maintain the status quo!

Francis Gilbert's picture
Sun, 22/05/2011 - 19:01

A "foundation" school is still within the "remit" of the LA: please see Fiona's note below about the differences between foundation and Academies.

Francis Gilbert's picture
Sun, 22/05/2011 - 19:09

I've sent this email to the headteachers of both schools. Let's see if they reply!
Dear headteacher,

At the Local Schools Network, we feel you would serve the local community much better by becoming non-selective. Can you explain to us why you insist upon pursuing academic selection when we know it favours children from wealthy families? Are you aware your school only has less than 1 percent of children on Free School Meals, when the national average is 20%?

Feel free to comment on our blog about the subject:
http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2011/05/local-parents-protest-agai...



Yours

Francis Gilbert

Fiona Millar's picture
Sun, 22/05/2011 - 19:49

A foundation school is autonomous in that it owns its land, employs the staff and can set its own admissions criteria ( within the Code of Practice). However it is a maintained school, funded via the local authority rather than directly from government and covered by the body of law that covers all maintained schools. Academies/free schools are independent schools and only governed by what is in their funding agreements with the Secretary of State, one reason why the failure to publish them is so shocking. Under the Coalition, grammar schools can become academies and retain their right to selection, but only schools that were selecting by ability pre-1998 can continue to do so. The Code allows existing selection but for forbids any new extension of the 11 plus ( that is in primary legislation I believe).

Most funding agreements ( if we are allowed to see them) appear to require compliance with the Code of Practice and the new Education Bill will strengthen the powers of the Schools Adjudicator in relation to academies. The worry is that compliance on admissions and a range of other issues like SEN can only be enforced by the Secretary of State (as co signatory of the funding agreement). Local authorities have no powers so in practice schools will be able to get away with quite a lot, under the DFE radar, if parents don't complain to the adjudicator. This is why it is very important that parents are allowed to scrutinise the funding agreements of academies and free schools coming to their local areas.

Julie Genney's picture
Sun, 22/05/2011 - 16:08

Yes but an academy has final say on admissions not the LA so the LA cannot change the admissions to such schools. It's one reason why they become academies, lack of LA interference, along with the money!

Fiona Lane's picture
Sun, 22/05/2011 - 16:55

This is why parents have been forced to take such an action with a petition to highlight the plight of Reading children.

sam's picture
Sun, 20/05/2012 - 19:31

if you find the selective system is so unfair and unwelcome, it would be better if you could also suggest the government to get rid of all the private schools in the country, i mean all of them.

Julie Genney's picture
Sun, 22/05/2011 - 17:01

But sadly a petition won't change anything!

Ben Taylor's picture
Sun, 22/05/2011 - 19:16

How about a petition for grammar schools where there are none too? If people want them then ok, and if not also ok. Strange to propose scrapping a grammar school where it can't meet demand, why not expand it or put grammar schools in other places which are exporting children in to a grammar? Or how about permitting schools to offer grammar type curriculum with no selection - like WLFS - why is this not OK?

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 23/05/2011 - 11:44

A grammar school curriculum which has been described by the headteacher as being unsuitable for all is exactly what it says - NOT suitable for all. It is covert selection.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 23/05/2011 - 12:02

The PM has ruled out any new grammar schools. Perhaps he (unlike his Secretary of State) has really been reading evidence from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) based on its years of testing school pupils in both OECD and non-OECD countries. This is what OECD says about selection:

"The data from PISA shows that creating homogeneous schools [ie grammar schools] and/or classrooms through selection is unrelated to the average performance of education systems, but clearly associated with LARGER VARIATION is student achievement and a SIGNIFICANTLY LARGER IMPACT of socio-economic background on learning outcomes. In particular, the earlier in the student's career the selection occurs, the greater the impact of socio-economic background on learning outcomes."

http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/33/8/46624007.pdf (Section 54, page 13)

This is where the "if the people want something then let them have it" argument falls down. If evidence collected by a respected international body reveals that one thing works better than an alternative, do "the people" have the right to force the alternative, even if it is not the option that works? It's an interesting philosophical question which doesn't just touch on education.

Ben Taylor's picture
Mon, 23/05/2011 - 11:53

Brilliant this is just dumbing down

Neal Skipper's picture
Sun, 22/05/2011 - 21:06

Francis, I think it is a bit premature to say that local parents are forcing a ballot - I don't think will happen unless they can get 20% of eligible parents to sign their petition.

Francis Gilbert's picture
Mon, 23/05/2011 - 11:31

I said they are "beginning the process of forcing a vote".

Francis Gilbert's picture
Mon, 23/05/2011 - 13:22

I received this Press Release in reply to the email I sent the headteachers of both schools.

Press Release: Reading School and Kendrick School
Support Choice in Secondary Education
Reading and Kendrick Schools have been notified that a group of local people have started a campaign to reduce educational choice in Reading by forcing them to stop selecting children on the basis of academic ability.
Reading and Kendrick Schools are both recognised as Outstanding by OFSTED and regularly appear at the very top of the national league tables. Both Schools have featured as The Times ‘State School of the Year’ – Reading School currently holds the accolade for 2010. The removal of selective status would fundamentally change the nature and curriculum of the schools to such an extent that any previous evaluations by OFSTED and others would cease to be relevant, the schools would lose their unique character.
Every child in the Reading area has the opportunity to apply to come to the Schools which send significant numbers of pupils to Oxford and Cambridge every year. The vast majority of pupils come from the greater Reading area and from Berkshire, although as Reading School also accepts boarders there is obviously a percentage which comes from much further afield.
The Schools offer local parents a choice of secondary provision. If the Schools ceased to be selective that choice would be removed from the majority of parents in the area and the Schools would only accept pupils from a very small local catchment.
Any over-subscribed school has to select its intake on some basis – it could be argued that selecting on ability is just as valid as selecting on post code. It is a known fact that parents who can afford it move to the catchment areas of popular schools, whereas Reading and Kendrick Schools’ feeder primaries include schools in East Reading, Coley Park, Tilehurst and Caversham as well as a number of schools in Earley and Woodley the Schools have on roll children from all wards within Reading. As the Sutton Trust has pointed out, community schools selecting on postcode are often more socially exclusive than those selecting on ability. A change to a catchment based in-take would be to the advantage of few and the detriment of many.
A change to admission procedures will have a substantial knock-on effect on every other local school - many of which are already oversubscribed, as pupils who may have come to Reading and Kendrick apply to take up places at Highdown, Prospect, Little Heath, Theale Green, Denefield, Bulmershe and Maiden Erlegh.
Reading and Kendrick Schools pride themselves on their contribution to the local community providing support to other schools both primary and secondary. Indeed Kendrick has formed a soft federation with Reading Girls’ School and in Reading School’s OFSTED inspection report 2010 the community contribution was recognised as outstanding. Through work with the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust both Reading and Kendrick support a close family of local schools taking a lead in providing specialist Science and Maths teaching throughout Reading Authority. Furthermore Reading School has worked extensively with local primary schools providing literacy and numeracy support and creating a Gifted and Talented Academy for schools in East Reading. This work has involved close partnerships with The Royal Berks, London Irish Rugby Club, the Whitley Excellence Cluster and the Education Support Centre at Reading FC. Further evidence of the commitment to educational excellence in the local community can be seen through support for the University Technical College which in itself will further expand (rather than narrow) educational choice in the town.
The formation of the unitary authorities meant that the catchment areas of most of the local secondary schools included more than one authority. Reading children are educated in schools sited in other local authorities and likewise some children from West Berkshire and Wokingham are educated in Reading. It appears from comments in the local press and elsewhere that this campaign is being led by a small number of parents upset by changes to the Maiden Erlegh catchment. It is disappointing that an issue affecting Wokingham schools could have a detrimental impact on the educational options for all parents in the greater Reading area.
Any decision rests with local parents in feeder schools. Reading and Kendrick Schools are doing all that they can to encourage as many parents as possible to join the electoral lists so that the ballot process can be as inclusive and fair as possible. They believe that many parents will wish to keep open the option of education at Reading and Kendrick Schools for their children.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 23/05/2011 - 14:59

Shouldn't "Every child in the Reading area has the opportunity to apply to come to the schools" read "Every child in the Reading area has the opportunity to be rejected".

The press release make much of the school's contribution to the local community. There is no reason why these links could not continue if selection were ended.

The press release also says that a change in admission procedures would mean other local schools, some of which are already oversubscribed, would have to take the pupils which would have gone to Reading and Kendrick. Surely the numbers would balance themselves with pupils who may have applied to the other schools applying to Reading and Kendrick?

There is no reason why the schools should not maintain their outstanding status if such status is due to the quality of teaching. There is no reason for the outstanding teaching to worsen because there is a comprehensive intake. Indeed, exposure of disadvantaged children to such outstanding teaching would help to lessen the between-school variations in outcomes (highlighted in OECD Economic Surveys: UK 2011) caused by selection.

The heads refer to the Sutton Trust. In the absence of a link I presume they are referring to a 2006 report into the top 200 comprehensive schools. This is what the Sutton Trust said:

"These findings starkly underline the extent of the social divide in our education system. The top fifth of schools - independents, grammars and leading comprehensives - are effectively closed to those from less privileged backgrounds. To access them, parents must pay for fees, pay for coaching or prep school for their children to pass the 11 plus, live in an affluent area or prove a religious commitment combined with strong parental support. For less privileged families these are not realistic options.”

The Trust said that proposals in the then White Paper for choice advisers and extended school transport were to be applauded. However, it concluded that “many of the current inequities in admissions result from the two tier system, under which some schools are responsible for their own admissions and others are not. We believe that LEA schools should be responsible for their own admissions, so as to put all schools on an equal footing, but that admissions should be underpinned by a fair and robust Code of Practice which is rigorously enforced.”

Note: a fair and robust Code of Practice rigorously enforced.

http://www.suttontrust.com/news/news/top-200-comprehensive-schools-socia...

Francis Gilbert's picture
Mon, 23/05/2011 - 17:16

I'm speaking about this case on BBC Radio Berkshire at 7.10am tomorrow morning with the headteacher of one of the grammars.

Neal Skipper's picture
Tue, 24/05/2011 - 14:48

They might also be referring to the Sutton Trust report from March 2010, which was headlined with "Top comprehensive schools more socially selective than grammar schools": http://www.suttontrust.com/news/news/top-comprehensive-schools-more-soci...

Either way I can't see where they got their "As the Sutton Trust has pointed out, community schools selecting on postcode are often more socially exclusive than those selecting on ability", since community schools were found to be the most socially inclusive group.

Emily West Fahey's picture
Mon, 23/05/2011 - 18:11

As a parent supporting the proposed changes I wish you the best of luck!

Julie Genney's picture
Mon, 23/05/2011 - 22:05

I shall be listening with interest

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 24/05/2011 - 15:27

Thanks Neal for the link. It's more up-to-date than the Sutton Trust report I found. The Trust's conclusions about the fairest way to allocate school places were illuminating:

"What should be done to address such stark social segregation in our school system? The researchers remain unconvinced that either the current admissions code, or 'supply-side' reforms to create a new cadre of independently run state schools will provide the solution."

"However, one step that would help to provide more balanced school intakes – and give poorer parents a better chance and give poorer parents a better chance of gaining a coveted place - would be wider introduction of ballots, or random allocation, to decide who gets places in over-subscribed schools when other selection criteria have been met."

"...For ballots to be used widely as a tiebreaker, faith schools would also have to adopt simple binary selection criteria - children judged to be of the faith, or not, rather than using subjective gradations of faith. We also believe that ballots could work alongside fair banding and ‘pupil centred’ catchment areas - created by allowing every child to apply to up to 6 of the closest schools to their home (rather than ranking children by how close they live to the school gates)."

http://www.suttontrust.com/public/documents/Worlds_apart1.pdf

Ollusu Muntagi's picture
Fri, 27/05/2011 - 12:20

Did you know my son Richard is very clever?????

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 23/05/2011 - 12:09

Sorry, that OECD quote should have been "clearly associated with larger variation IN student achievement" not IS. The capital letters were mine to emphasise what the evidence revealed. I hate shouting, but sometimes a megaphone is necessary, especially when those in favour of grammar schools try to grab the moral high ground (as Allan as highlighted in his post) by saying that opposition to them is anti-aspiration and anti-excellence.

The evidence suggests otherwise.

Luke Barratt's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 15:36

Janet
It seems self-evident that opposition to grammar schools is both anti-aspiration and anti-excellence. The grammar schools achieve excellence, therefore is it not common sense to state that a removal of grammar schools would be a removal of said excellence?

Francis Gilbert's picture
Mon, 23/05/2011 - 13:20

Thanks for this, Fiona. I've now amended what was clearly an incorrect piece of information about this. Have any grammars become Academies?

Fiona Millar's picture
Mon, 23/05/2011 - 19:30

Yes - many of the early academy conversions were selective schools. This is another break with the Labour model which stated that academies had to be non selective schools.

Francis Gilbert's picture
Mon, 23/05/2011 - 20:33

My attention has been drawn to this statement on FaceBook page which is one of the few instances of a parent publicly talking about what appears to be a highly emotive issue in Reading.

I quote:



"We are not necessarily against selection on principle but feel the two
grammars are a luxury Reading can no longer afford.

Why?

1 They take 75% of pupils from outside the local authority (Reading) -
the highest figure of any grammars in the country (source: Educ dept
report 2008) while they took only 23 pupils (2% of 1,000+) in the past
5 years from the 7 primary schools within a mile of both grammars
(source: the FoI figures); Alfred Sutton not included because it's 1.2
miles from Kendrick. Only one of these 7 - Redlands - actually
qualifies as a “feeder school”.

2 Reading's school places crisis - the guy from Reading council (anyone
get his name? Was it Kevin someone?) in the meeting on Friday estimated
120 places a year shortage; Mark Ralph said 600 places rising to 1,100
in a few years: 3 RBC toasting Wokingham's plan to exclude Park ward
parents from local school of a generation standing, Maiden Erlegh, as a
“victory for dialogue” (Mark Ralph):

This exemplifies the years of failure to tackle the issue of lack of
provision in east Reading by RBC.

4 In the much-touted “age of austerity”’ why waste public money buying
a site then building a University Tech College solution when we've got
two perfectly good schools on our doorstep? Two schools which cater for
the people living within walking distance (a factor state schools are
obliged to consider under the schools admissions code) would be a
simple cheap, fair and progressive solution to the school places crisis
and chime nicely with the all-party drive to create a much more
socially mobile society."

Here's a comment I found on the Maiden Erlegh catchment site


"I've had a chance to take a closer look at the list of the eligible
feeder schools. Of the 33 listed, I think it is fair to say that
parents at only four of them (Redlands, Alfred Sutton, St Mary's and
All Saints and possibly some at Earley St Peters) would stand to
benefit from any decision to remove academic selection from the two
grammars, given the shortage of secondary places in central Reading.
Parents at the following schools might stand to benefit from creating
two new comprehensives because of their central location -- but their
opinions won't be asked (Battle Primary school; Coley Primary School;
Katesgrove; New Christ Church CE; New Town; St John's)



Of the 33 schools where parents are entitled to vote, 10 are in Reading
(6 state; 4 prep); a group of six more are in West Berks, Hampshire;
Oxon, Slough and Bracknell. But the majority (17) are in the Wokingham
LA area (15 state and 2 preps). This tells you a great deal about the
intake into the two grammars and suggests that as far as parent power
is concerned in relation to the two schools, it currently rests with
families in Wokingham."

Ben Taylor's picture
Mon, 23/05/2011 - 17:03

Janet

The Pisa report continues after, "....socio-economic background on learning outcomes.”;

"That suggests that selection tends to reinforce inequalities as students from disadvantaged backgrounds tend to be exposed to lower quality learning opportunities when compared to their peers from more advantaged socio-economic backgrounds."

Well I am arguing that what needs fixing is the provision of education to the poor just as Toby Young and Kate Birbalsingh amongst others are trying to achieve, when local schools including comps don't seem to be doing the business. If local schools including comprehensives work that's fine by me. In some areas thought grammars and high schools are doing well between them for all children in their areas.

I would expect to see increased variation through selection because it increases performance of the most able. It depends on whether this also means that the tail of the least able stays at the same level but is relatively outperformed or whether it drops absolutely. Do you know which PISA shows?

This is what I don't understand if you argue that essentially a bell shaped distribution of performance needs to be narrowed just to make things seem fairer, when you really reduce the best people's performance. In many selective areas the performance of both grammars and high schools is above average. Maybe the variation is wider but the whole average for all is shifted relative to non selective areas.

I admit this creates a problem for reporting reliable standards for further education and employment. It means as I think you have discussed before making sense of grades and what they show, and having trust in the processes that produce them.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 24/05/2011 - 06:44

“That suggests that selection tends to reinforce inequalities as students from disadvantaged backgrounds tend to be exposed to lower quality learning opportunities when compared to their peers from more advantaged socio-economic backgrounds"

I was not trying to deceive by missing off this quote just keeping it short. I have quoted it elsewhere in full on this site.

OECD has said this inequity needs to be addressed. This is what it says in "Reforming education in England"*:

"The government is increasing user choice by expanding the academies programme and introducing Free Schools" . This reads as if the OECD approve of this strategy. However, there are important caveats:

1 The Government "needs to closely follow effects on fair access for disadvantaged children".

2 "The impact of increasing user choice on educational outcomes is uncertain"

3 "UK students from better socio-economic backgrounds tend to be taught in smaller clases and have access to better quality teaching resources. The previous government tried to improve teacher quality for students from disadvantaged backgrounds by offering golden handcuffs [I'm sure OECD mean golden hand shakes!] for young teachers with high grades if they took up positions in disadvantaged areas. This policy has been abolished by the current government."

So, this government abolishes a scheme to get high quality teachers to work with disadvantaged pupils. It decides that the way to improve education for the disadvantaged by changing school structure (ie convert to academies) or by allowing a tiny number of free schools. How the provision of the latter is supposed to address the nationwide underachievement of disadvantaged pupils is unclear. OECD recognise this and say "the current proposals for academies and Free Schools may actually increase the correlation between socio-economic background and the quality of school resources". It also warns that Free Schools "are likely to cater to better off parents' needs, given the expected role to be played by parents in their creation."

OECD concludes "Pursuing a strategy where sufficient resources, high-quality staffing and efficient institutional arrangements are in place, especially for the most disadvantaged students, should be a priority."


*OECD Economic Surveys: United Kingdom OECD 2011 Chapter 3

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 24/05/2011 - 06:57

"Well I am arguing that what needs fixing is the provision of education to the poor just as Toby Young and Kate Birbalsingh amongst others are trying to achieve, when local schools including comps don’t seem to be doing the business"

I know nothing about the area in which these free schools will operate. Perhaps someone with better knowledge of the area could name the neighbouring schools so that we can read OFSTED reports to see if they aren't "doing the business".

And what do we actually mean by "doing the business". Sorry to mention OECD again, but I prefer to look at evidence rather than rely on the perception of a few, or hysterical articles of the "Travesty of our failing schools" type. OECD is concerned about the extensive focus on grades in the UK schools system and is worried that "teaching to tests" is crowding out non-cognitive skills. OECD warn that "this deficit may affect disadvantaged students disproportionately as their social networks may be less able to compensate this lack of support in the school environment."

If schools are judged only on examination scores or how many Oxbridge students are produced, then this is a narrow view of education. Schools exist to help pupils reach their full potential, and this may not be measured easily by raw exam results.

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