BBC article: Outstanding schools take too few poor pupils

(163 Posts)
Ginmummy1 Wed 03-Aug-16 13:05:54

I spotted this article today, and wondered what others thought of it.

www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-36926766

I thought the title was misleading. It implies that outstanding schools are deliberately choosing not to take poorer pupils, which I don’t think is accurate.

The report apparently found little overall bias in council-run secondary schools, and also that primary schools appear to be fairly balanced in terms of their intake. I am struggling, therefore, to understand the issue?

It says “the intakes of grammar schools, single-sex secondaries, non-Christian faith schools and schools rated outstanding by Ofsted all fail to reflect the proportion of poorer children in the areas immediately outside their gates“. It also suggests that the figures are likely to be partly “the result of different school choices between social groups”.

So what it appears to be saying is that poorer pupils are choosing not to apply to these types of schools, so this is more about the choices made by these pupils and their families, than about the schools themselves. I can’t see any claims of the schools discriminating against poorer pupils.

It also refers to the attainment gap between rich and poor being wider than the national average in Kent, Buckinghamshire and Surrey. Presumably this is partly due to parental influence (discipline with homework, private tutoring etc) which cannot really be the fault of the schools?

I’d be interested to know what others think.

BertrandRussell Wed 03-Aug-16 13:09:05

Any school which has "hoops" to jump through, whatever those hoops consist of, will have a lower number of children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

And when you say poorer families "choose" not to send their children to these schools, choice is a very complex concept..........

YokoUhOh Wed 03-Aug-16 13:09:41

Kent and Buckinghamshire are grammar school areas. The notion that grammar schools increase social mobility is the opposite of the truth. This is the reason for the huge attainment gap between rich and poor.

SandyPantz Wed 03-Aug-16 13:16:34

So what it appears to be saying is that poorer pupils are choosing not to apply to these types of schools, so this is more about the choices made by these pupils and their families
Rubbish! everyone round her knows that if you want to get your kid into the local grammar you need to heavily tutor, and I don't mean just parental help/encouragement with homework, I mean pay for someone who specialises in getting them in.
Then once they're in, many struggle to keep up because they were "taught to test" - so it costs more in tutoring to keep them there!

It is NOT a level playing field. Primary schools do not help poorer kids who don't have access to specialist tutors to strive for Grammar, and Grammar schools do not help kids who don't have extra tutoring to stay there!

The next "best" seconday is a faith school.. so if your parents moved into the catchment of the over subscribed feeder primary (were houses cost way more than out of that catchment) you're okay, if your parents are "active members of the church" (i.e. put £5 in an envelope with their name on it every sunday for years) you're good to go!

If your parents live somewhere affordable and perhaps attend mass but don't pay every week you're stuffed.

Selective schools DO NOT SELECT THE KIDS WITH THE MOST POTENTIAL - they select the kids whose parents can pay!

ToInfinity Wed 03-Aug-16 13:20:36

I live on the edge of a deprived area in a city. Our nearest school has a catchment area which is centred 2km from the school, in a much more affluent area, which means that many poorer children who live nearer to the school do not get in.

Seems massively unfair, but I'm sure it contributes positively to their exam results!

Badbadbunny Wed 03-Aug-16 13:23:04

So what it appears to be saying is that poorer pupils are choosing not to apply to these types of schools, so this is more about the choices made by these pupils and their families, than about the schools themselves. I can’t see any claims of the schools discriminating against poorer pupils.

I see a lot of truth in that comment. My nearest town has two comps, both poor. All the local parents who care about their kids' education make sure they go elsewhere. There are at least 10 school buses that actually pass one or other of these schools en-route to an "outstanding" comp just over the county border in a small rural village that has grown enormously over the past few years. Another few school buses to to the next city where there are two huge faith schools. Basically, the only kids who go to the two comps in the town are the ones where the parents can't be bothered to look at alternatives or just want the easy life of an easy to walk to school. Those schools havn't a chance as their intake are not representative of the local population. It's not to do with money, it's to do with parental involvement/aspirations. I was talking to a mother the other week who was sending her daughter to one of them - she never even looked as alternatives and was just sending her there because it was the closest and she went there herself 20 odd years ago and it had "never done me any harm"!

SandyPantz Wed 03-Aug-16 13:27:07

It's not to do with money, it's to do with parental involvement/aspirations.

But "parent involvement" usually means money!

Moving to catchment
School busses aren't always free
Attending church (for faith schools) isn't always enough, the way to get your name registered as a regular church goer here is to donate money weekly in a named envelope
Encouragement, in practice, often translates as tutoring, just helping with homework is not enough when they're up againsts kids who are tutored specifically in getting in, not just generally helped with the subjects.

BertrandRussell Wed 03-Aug-16 13:29:36

Yeah, because if you are poorly educated yourself, poor, living in crap housing and struggling to get by day to day you have huge amounts of energy, resources and knowledge to devote to getting your kids to a "better" school than the one down the road they can walk to................

Ifailed Wed 03-Aug-16 13:30:09

It's not to do with money, it's to do with parental involvement/aspirations
I'm inclined to agree with you - but wonder why children should receive a lesser education than others because their parent's "want the easy life"? Shouldn't all children receive the best possible education, regardless of their family budget, location or parental engagement?

BertrandRussell Wed 03-Aug-16 13:31:05

School buses are never free unless you live more than 3 miles from the nearest suitable school.

And suitable does not mean "does Latin".......

SandyPantz Wed 03-Aug-16 13:31:33

my kids have naff all chance of getting into the faith school:
I'ld have to move
I'ld have to sit in mass every week and pay (I'm an atheist)

I don't know if getting my kids into the grammar is the right thing to do: if they're not tutored for test then they would be at a disadvantage because most others locally who try for it are. But if you tutor for test they are then expected to keep up that level once there: so more tutoring!

Local comp it is then! sad and it's basically a dumping ground for those of us who haven't paid our way into the grammar or faith school

BertrandRussell Wed 03-Aug-16 13:33:13

"Shouldn't all children receive the best possible education, regardless of their family budget, location or parental engagement?"

Yes, they should. Unfortunately, the supporters of grammar schools, faith schools and other schools that practice more covert means of selection do not agree.

Ifailed Wed 03-Aug-16 13:37:47

Unfortunately, the supporters of grammar schools, faith schools and other schools that practice more covert means of selection do not agree

I expect these are the same people who measure their own success by taking pleasure in other people's shortfalls.

BitOutOfPractice Wed 03-Aug-16 13:40:36

It's not exactly breaking news is it? That kids from poorer backgrounds have fewer and poorer educational choices.

It's like when the story came out about all these rich people having off-shore businesses and tax-dodging schemes. I thought "No shit Sherlock!" and I feel the same about this

'Twas ever thus and, depressingly, it seems to not be changing. IN fact, if anything, it seems to be getting worse

MsMarple Wed 03-Aug-16 13:56:17

Sandypantz that is awful about the faith schools near you! I feel pretty lucky now that all my kids had to do to qualify was be at church on Sunday fairly regularly as we really couldn't afford big financial contributions. There is a big emphasis on Christian values and daily prayers at the school though, which is fine for us, but I am not sure how I would feel about my kids going there if I was an atheist or of another faith. I can see it would be a problem if the only choice locally to you was a faith school for a faith you didn't belong to, even if your child did get a place there.

teacherwith2kids Wed 03-Aug-16 14:00:31

There is a circularity in this, though, that also needs to be recognised:

Schools with lower percentages of children on FSM / PP are much more likely to be Outstanding - so to say that Outstanding schools have lower proportions of children from poorer backgrounds doesn't tell you a huge amount, because 'Outstanding Ofsted' and 'Low % FSM / PP' are not independent variables - having low FSM / PP makes it more likely that schools will be graded Outstanding.

If Outstandingness for Ofsted was genuinely a measure of a very good school which did brilliantly with whatever intake it had, then the story would be more meaningful. Otherwise it's a bit 'Fires have too few cold bits'....

Iamnotloobrushphobic Wed 03-Aug-16 14:06:31

Selective schools DO NOT SELECT THE KIDS WITH THE MOST POTENTIAL - they select the kids whose parents can pay!

Well some actually do. My son is at an independent selective school on a 100% bursary and around 20% of the schools pupils are on a bursary, selected based on ability and not parents ability to pay.
My son was also offered a 100% bursary at a different selective school and a place at an out of catchment state grammar. Some poor people, like myself, do apply to state grammars and independent schools.
We also didn't formally tutor as we could never have afforded it but I did get my son some books from whsmith to familiarise himself with reasoning prior to his entrance exams. Most people can afford a few practice books.

SandyPantz Wed 03-Aug-16 14:07:06

I expect these are the same people who measure their own success by taking pleasure in other people's shortfalls

yup, like how other parents just don't "care" enough to get their kids into the right school, when they have been totally priced out of the catchment etc!

People love to praise themselves on getting their kids in to these good schools. In practice though, getting them in does not = being caring and encouraging, it means paying one way or another.

SandyPantz Wed 03-Aug-16 14:09:55

Iamnotloobrushphobic I'm well aware that fee paying selective schools go to lenghts to mitigate against interview coaching and teaching to test..

But that's not really relevant to the discussion here as full scholarships are increasingly a thing of the past, they're very very rare, around here you'ld be lucky to get a partial even for an exceedingly bright all rounder!

Iamnotloobrushphobic Wed 03-Aug-16 14:17:51

I appreciate that full bursaries are rare in some areas but some of true older established schools have decent sized bursary funds and are quite generous. 20% of pupils on bursaries at my sons school amounts to around 300 pupils. My son is aware of several children in his class who are on bursaries, some also getting free bus travel and free school meals. The problem is that some very bright children might not be applying (well their parents) for a place at the school. The children who are there on bursaries have parents who despite being poor have been motivated to apply and are interested in their children's education.
The state grammar my son was
Offered a place at is open to applications from all children even those outside of catchment. Around 30% of the places go outside of catchment, albeit you need a higher pass mark to secure an out of catchment place. So for that grammar school not being able to afford a house in catchment is not a complete barrier.
It is harder when you are poor but it isn't impossible.

teacherwith2kids Wed 03-Aug-16 14:24:34

Iamnot,

i think I posted this on another thread - I think it was about the progress of children in receipt of pupil premium - but IME low income by itself is not insurmountable if most other indicators are positive (parental engagement, parental education, housing, substance abuse etc).

Where things do genuinely become much more difficult is when that low income is coupled with poor housing, being a young carer, having adults or older children within the family with substance abuse issues, parents who are illiterate or who do not speak or read English well due to national origin, a community where unemployment or worklesssness is endemic and therefore the norm etc etc.

teacherwith2kids Wed 03-Aug-16 14:28:20

[Note that is by no means an exhaustive list - just a few examples of 'compounding factors']

SandyPantz Wed 03-Aug-16 14:35:54

Even if you manage to get a rare full bursary, that's still selective!

Why should only the most academically gifted get a good or outstanding education?

A kid in the lower sets should be no less entitled to go to a "good" school

Good educations shouldn't only be available for those whose parents "got them out" of the local state school route

Iamnotloobrushphobic Wed 03-Aug-16 16:14:54

I an ideal world sandypantz every single child would have access to the same education and that education would be outstanding. But all schools are not equal and I thought the point of the thread was about poorer children not being able to access the best schools and my post was in response to somebody that wrote that selective schools are only interested in those whose parents have the ability to pay. I fully accept that having money gives a wider choice of options in many cases but there are exceptions to that and 300 of the children in my sons school are an example to those exceptions, likewise the 300 or so that attend the state grammar and don't live in the very expensive catchment (although I imagine that a high level of those do come from well off families).
And as well as being poor we have at least one other of the compounding factors mentioned by teacherwith2kids - my son is a young carer. Oh and we also come from a community with extensive worklessness and even in our wiser family unemployment and a lack of willingness to work are very prevalent factors. Clearly my husband and I don't fit the average family of those faced with similar circumstances to ourselves. I accept that our sons position is not the norm given our backgrounds and current circumstances but let's not treat all poorer people as one homogenous group who don't care about education / are suffering from learned helplessness.

Badbadbunny Wed 03-Aug-16 16:29:39

Good educations shouldn't only be available for those whose parents "got them out" of the local state school route

I agree, so what's your solution for improving the bog-standard comps that are failing?

is it better discipline, better teachers, better management, or what?

The answer is to improve the failing schools, not close down or punish the successful ones!

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