A friend pointed me in the direction of Luke Bozier’s blog http://lukebozier.co.uk/2010/07/schools-situation-follow-up/ . Here are my thoughts now I have read it. And calmed down enough to respond.
I don’t know if the primary school admissions system is different in London but here in Brighton, if you apply for ‘five or six’ schools and they are all ‘oversubscribed’, your child won’t get in to any of them. You have to compromise and put down schools on your preference form which your friends might have decided are appalling. You have to remember you have the capacity for independent thought and try and be a little open-minded. You have to go and look around different schools. They may not be as bad as the rumour mill would have you believe.
I have three children, all of whom have attended (and in the case of the youngest, is still attending) schools with higher than average numbers of:
- children leaving or joining the school mid-year
- children with Special Educational Needs
- children with English as an Additional Language.
These can present challenges for the teachers and other school staff. This does not mean that children will suffer or not do well at school. Other schools with different demographics present different challenges to teachers. I taught for five years in a primary school then judged as ‘excellent’ by OFSTED. Pupils’ behaviour was often appalling. This was because too many parents felt they knew more than they actually did about education and encouraged their children to ‘stand up for their rights’ rather than respect their teachers. Teaching there was extremely stressful and it was often difficult for teachers to spend time teaching rather than on crowd control. This was an oversubscribed school in a middle class area with lower than average SEN, free school meals, EAL and families living in poverty.
I am not white. My children are mixed race. I think children benefit greatly from attending socially and ethnically mixed schools. They learn the social skills necessary to help them thrive in our diverse society. Believe it or not, I know white families who agree with me. We think it is a good thing if our children attend a local school. We do not get hysterical about large percentages of ethnic minority/poor/EAL children. And our children do well at school because they are well supported by us. We support the school. We work in partnership with the school. We share expertise and enthusiasm and ‘talk up’ the school.
League tables, no thanks to new labour, perpetuate snobbery about schools. Middle class, affluent, well educated people who would be well placed to support schools, especially struggling ones, look at league tables. Then they withdraw their children (or don’t send them in the first place) thus withdrawing their actual or potential support.
The school Luke was offered for his daughter received this report from Ofsted in 2008 (its most recent report)
The report says that Ofsted graded the school 2 which means ‘good’ and says that it has some ‘outstanding’ features. Here is an extract:
“Wilberforce is a good school. It is highly inclusive and has several exemplary features. Prime amongst these are the excellent support, guidance and care received by pupils who often face very significant challenges. The school is the conduit and facilitator for much outstanding multi-agency work which underpins the emotional well-being and academic achievement of a significant proportion of pupils. This support enables pupils to benefit from good teaching; they revel in many lessons, and the vast majority of the many groups represented at this school make good progress. Occasionally, however, teaching allows one or two pupils (sometimes, but not invariably, White British and/or high ability pupils) to drift at the edge of whole class teaching and learning. At such times, the progress made by these pupils, although satisfactory, is not as strong as others.”
If I had read that report about a school I had been allocated for my child, I would not be despairing. I would be happy about the many positive features. I would go and look around and think about what I could do to support the school once he started there.
Please read Fiona Millar’s article and if you have young children, take her advice and support their school: