Monday, May 05, 2008

School Choice: Dr Huq's School of Hard Knocks

Dr Huq has been selling her body of knowledge over at Harry's Place. Essentially reflecting parental anxiety over school places, sink school, free school dinners, and statemented kids.

What a media tart she is getting to be! Here's my comment:

Having met some of the Ealing massive and their rising 4s I understand the problem described here by school governor and former PPC "Rubina" Huq.

It just struck me as I listened to their plaints that getting together and piling into the so-called "sink" schools you were allocated under a transparently fair and fully advanced system would "turn them round" or at least raise their statistical performance.

When I asked whether these anxious parents had looked at the Ofsted reports for the allocated schools I found that they had not done so.

When I asked whether these anxious parents had checked the applicable distances last year for their target schools and chosen accordingly I found that they had not.

When I asked these anxious parents whether they had even used all three of their choices, never mind wisely, I found that some of them had not even done that. OMG! FGS!

When I asked these anxious parents whether they had chosen their addresses very carefully I found that some had moved very recently but ended up 200 metres too far away - 500 instead of 300 metres. Which is missing by a mile if you're that serious about such things.

And while some of the parents had actively sought work-rounds e.g. nan's addresses they were willing to start a campaign of outing parents who had found rellies willing to play along, or temporary rented accommodation or whatever it was.

We were right to oppose SATs - particularly when young kids are coached to within an inch of their young lives to keep the school economy healthy.

We should also make sure parents understand the purpose of value-added measurements and their superiority to absolutes for measuring schools.

And also the sheer stupidity of using the numbers of free school meals or statemented kids as measures of school genius levels.

In Finland they don't even go to "big school" until they are about 7 years old and they stay in the same school to 16 and they do very very well indeed.

No faith schools AFAIK, mixed education, no publically announced intermediate exam grades, every school a good school.

Parental choice IS a bit of a sham really. Other means of allocation need to be used unless they are LOADS of school places perceived as good enough for little dears and there have to be loads of surplus spaces or infinitely flexible intakes for this counsel of perfection to become reality.

This is ridiculous! This is unnecessary anxiety to the point of suicide! Kids are very durable and find their own level almost wherever they go to school.

There are some appalling instances of mistakes at my kids' schools but by and large they are winning more than they're losing and will do just fine. One of mine was put in completely the wrong science set for example and may miss doing two extra GCSEs as a result. One child was just moved UP into the A or A* set, having got an E, to make room for some B kids to move down.

The head of science should be taken to one side and taught Newton's laws. What goes up must come down being perhaps the best one for her particular case.

But I digress.

My kids are also I think more likely to make the subject choices they want in the NEAREST STATE SCHOOLS that they have always gone to than they would have done under some brain grading centre of excellence, independent, or vestigial state selective with less vocational options. Nonetheless they will have enough and good enough academics to change tack if they wish to.

First appeared as a comment at Harry's


Red Maria said...

You take issue with the content or merely where it first appeared?

Anonymous said...

Well Chris we'll have to agree to disagree on this one. Dinb't they call it "blog rage" or "blog envy" or summat when the length of the original post is overtaken by the response. Talking of which
doh! Just playing up to the blogtart stereotype

Chris Paul said...

Red Maria - no argument with where it first appeared at all. Why do you ask that? Are you trying to pick a fight here?

But I don't quite know why Rupa is sticking stuff on other people's blogs when she has her own.

And I do find this argument infuriating. There is not enough slack or flexibility for every parent to get the school they think they want. And to my eyes a large degree of the perception of quality of local schools is based on gut not mind.

Locally in Manchester I have seen some appalling choices been made for children and bridges being burnt (e.g. by parents slagging off all the schools their child isn't going to go to, "over my dead body" and then finding them going to one of them. What a disaster for the child.

I was staggered that these parents knew about free school dinners and statemented kids but not about Ofsted reports or value-added. And even, though perhaps less surprisingly, that the physical fabric of the school was used as a surrogate for the quality of what occurs within.

Again all this played out in front of the kids.

As Rupa said we'll have to agree to disagree on this one ... Very best of luck to the parents and children of Ealing.

Chris Paul said...

Have changed the post title as it's working on many levels complexity seemed to have been a worry for some.

Have also checked the Ofsted for St Johns. The value-added was deemed just under 99% in 2006. I suspect that most schools in Ealing South will be in the 97-102 range on this - showing essentially how similar the education each provides is.

It is true however that the overall achievement of leavers is lower than the average for Ealing, London, the UK. However the VA figure shows it is more or less in line with the expected results for the children who entered.

2005 and 2006 had particularly weak results overall and this is exactly what we might expect as in the late 90s when this school was in special measures is when those cohorts entered and middle calss flight would have been at extreme levels at that point I guess.

Having said all that there are some pupils gaining Level 5 SATs in all three core subjects which I think shows that the school is capable of supporting bright kids as well as dealing with very high numbers of multipley deprived, special needs and ESL households.

Anonymous said...

Who is the Ealing massive you say you have spoken to?! Most of us did make informed choices. Most of us do not have a problem with the school we have been allocated on an academic level (we have read the ofsted reports), but for those of us who were not offered our local school we damn well have a problem with our very small children being shipped off to all parts of the borough simply because other schools have the space available. Don't pretend we have a choice when we don't.
Like you say, in some countries, children do not even start school until 7 so if we are going to start our children here at 4 then let's damn well ensure they can start their academic life close to home.

Chris Paul said...

I'm not sure what you're saying anon. I would like everyone to go to the nearest school with places and all of those schools to be good schools where VA is between 99 and 101 say. Achievement as good as can be expected for the particular entrant.

If an LEA allocates places on siblings then yardage and you have no siblings and are beyond the yardage for the school you would like then you will not get that school unless others pull out and the yardage increases.

You seem to expect that schools all swell and contract at will according to demand. This is what will happen in the medium to long term. But this cannot possibly be instantaneous. And schools expand by step changes of one class entry.

If the perceived good schools take over extra places at other sites this doesn't get us round the journey issue either. And every "fix" brings some potential sibling priority in future. Which we hate if it's them and love if it is us.

I don't think parental choice is particularly real. It is illusory. But how could it be any different? At least how could it be constantly changing as suburbs and parental desires change.

My belief is that most kids achieve their potential in most schools. That most schools actually have similar VA. That we parents tend to be too fearful. That our fears can be self fulfilling to an extent as we move in mobs to prove them.

I could go on. But I don't want to be annoying.

Anonymous said...

Oi Chris,
If you liked the Harry's place post you'll love this one:

Chris Paul said...

Oi Roops, I'll take a look you media tart you.

Here's your link again:

And yesterday's is:

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