Faith schools

(37 Posts)
lisson Thu 07-Mar-13 12:47:34

DS got into a faith secondary school last week on the basis that he attends a feeder primary and he goes to church once in a while. Its the best state secondary in town and its results are far better than the other comprehensives.
So, I bumped into a neighbour today whose children will be moving up to secondary in a couple of years, but they don't go to our church (or possibly any church - I am not sure about that). She was complaining about how my DC will go to a better school than hers.
I didn't know what to say. The only thing the school selects on is religion so i have no idea why the results are usually so much better. Its got nothing to do with our religion though. I left feeling guilty, as though my DCs will have an unfair advantage in life. But she wasn't angry that MY Dc are getting that advantage, only that her DC won't and I can see her point there.
What is the justification for faith schools and how do you explain why one school has better results than the next when they take from the same demographic??

exoticfruits Thu 07-Mar-13 14:16:59

In most towns there are schools that are deemed to be better than others and they all have their feeder schools.Most of it is on house price-I can't see that that is any better. Faith schools can get worse results too!

HelpOneAnother Thu 07-Mar-13 14:34:33

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Whydobabiescry Thu 07-Mar-13 14:48:22

In my area the catholic comprehensive outperforms all the other secondary schools, even though its catchment is the whole city! The pupils come from all areas rich, poor in between etc. the only things that it can be put down to IMO are

1. Better teachers - extremely unlikely
2. Better parental support - possibly
3. Stricter and more disciplined environment - quite likely.

lisson Thu 07-Mar-13 15:05:35

@ exoticfruits "Faith schools can get worse results too!"

Exactly! But this morning I was on the back foot having to explain why my DCs are getting to go to the best comp in the area when others cannot.

Its not the first time either. the time before was when my taxi driver said the same thing i.e. its not fair. His son is the same age as my DS and goes to the best primary school in the area, far better than my Dcs primary.

Both times the parents have said that its not fair, faith schools should be abolished so that their DC have a level playing field.

Sometimes, i do (rather timidly) ask why the parents at the other secondaries don't pressure the schools into improving??

lisson Thu 07-Mar-13 15:08:36

In general, is there any truth that faith schools perform better in teaching academic subjects? I can't see why your religious beliefs have any bearing on your ability to do maths or English.
Maybe they don't generally do better and its just the way things worked out in my town??

CecilyP Thu 07-Mar-13 15:21:18

Do they have the same demographics? Are the percentages of children at the different KS2 levels on entry the same? Is the level of FSM the same? It could be a better school, or it could be that more aspirational parents, seeing the faith secondary gets better results, now opt for the faith primary schools which will then guarantee their child a place.

lisson Thu 07-Mar-13 15:46:33

Well they are drawn from the same town. The faith school takes children from the whole town including the million pound + houses and the council estate. It's a catholic school so it gets children from Eastern Europe whose mother tongue isn't English but fewer Muslim children.
Honestly, I can see no reason why the faith school does better except maybe the headteacher is better, but that's just the luck of the draw because I doubt her faith has much to do with her professional achievements.

What are other towns like? If you think of the best secondary in your town, is it a faith school or what do you need to do to get your children into it?

lisson Thu 07-Mar-13 15:51:20

(I just saw my neighbour again and she blanked me!) normally we get on well but she's clearly upset.

CecilyP Thu 07-Mar-13 16:24:16

I am confused now; if there are a few muslim children in the school, why can't your neighbour's child go there?

umiaisha Thu 07-Mar-13 16:34:50

Cecily P - DD goes to a CofE school and got in as her dad is a practising muslim. Faith schools normally take those who are actively participating in another religion before those who do not participate in any.

umiaisha Thu 07-Mar-13 16:35:07

hmmmm, not sure participating was the best word!

Sympathique Thu 07-Mar-13 17:18:55

lisson: "Both times the parents have said that its not fair, faith schools should be abolished so that their DC have a level playing field."

Nonsense. Life is not fair, end of story. They presumably knew that this would be happening - or did they secretly hope that your DC would get turned down? How nice of them if so! I expect they'll get over it, but it's not your fault anyway. Very upsetting for you but try not to take it to heart. Maybe they were in denial about the secondary school.

OhDearConfused Thu 07-Mar-13 17:31:35

Any school that selects by a criteria that can be manipulated (eg going to church for a number of years) will tend to have more DCs of the more motivated parents. Seeker (often a poster on threads like this) refers to an example of juggling. Select on a child (or parent's) ability to juggle and you will get motivated / aspirational parents.

Faith schools work like that too.

lisson Thu 07-Mar-13 18:09:03

my neighbour is white british maybe Christian/ maybe not (I've never enquired). The muslim children don't go to the catholic school because they come very low on the entrance criteria i.e. below all the catholic children at the feeder schools and all the other catholic children and then all the the other church going other Christians.

Its not that her children can't go to the better performing school, its just that without being a catholic she'll never get to the top of the (long) waiting list. The school is very over-subscribed.

I know there are a couple of muslim children in the school (out of a school roll of a 1000+) but I don't know how they came to get there. I've never really thought about it TBH.

lisson Thu 07-Mar-13 18:16:04

Discipline is very tight at the secondary. Children are expected to behave and there is zero tolerance to disruptive behaviour and things like term time holidays. Even uniform wearing is strictly enforced because the point is that the rules are not there to be bent or questioned. Children know that they go to the school to learn and there's no room for any other priority.

I guess this is why the results are good. But it doesn't explain why the other local schools cannot do the same thing and get good results too.

Theas18 Thu 07-Mar-13 18:23:17

I think the work ethic is different in a faith school on the whole. It's a " positive choice" school not a default setting and so, on the whole the kids want to be there and will conform to rules that may well be pretty strictly enforced.

I'm sure parental support is greater too, again they've chosen the school because this is the education they want for their child.

muminlondon Thu 07-Mar-13 18:46:22

Good luck with the school. In general (not always) there's evidence to suggest faith schools take fewer pupils on free school meals - there was a Guardian article on this last year. Admission policies will vary but Catholic schools generally prioritise in this sort of way:

1. Baptised looked after Catholics.
2. Practising Catholics.
3. Baptised Catholics.
4. Non-Catholic looked after children.
5. Those practising other faiths.
6. Others.

This is why it can mean in some towns Muslim (or e.g. Eastern Orthodox) chikdren are prioritised over poor white children living on council estates which can cause divisions.

Some schools have a 50% allocation for community places but they are mainly CofE. In practice most families wouldn't be interested in a faith school that was not of their faith, but if there was a shortage of places they might.

Dromedary Thu 07-Mar-13 19:02:18

I think that it is unfair to select on the basis of church attendance etc. These are state funded schools, yet they exclude many of the childen who live near to them, who therefore have to travel out of their area to other, maybe less good schools. I would guess that results tend to be better because it is middle class parents who will do anything they can to get a good education for their child who play the system to get in. Those middle class parents will also supply educational activities, lots of books, help with homework, etc. Only a very small minority of people are regular church attenders, and most churches are dominated by the elderly. I would guess that most church schools have few children in them who are worshipping Christians, although no doubt some. I also don't think that faith schools are a good idea even if populated by the genuinely religious, because of the effects of religious segregation - see Northern Ireland.
So I sympathise with your neighbours. It would be better if the middle class children were more evenly spread around schools. I don't blame the parents for playing the system we are given, though.

CecilyP Thu 07-Mar-13 20:29:50

I guess this is why the results are good.

You don't really have to guess. From 2011, GCSE results have been mapped against children's levels on entry to their secondary school. There haven't been many surprises.

lisson Thu 07-Mar-13 22:02:40

where, CecilyP? Are they one the education.gov performance pages? Will have a look now, compare all the secondaries in town and tell you if there is any particular difference in intake levels of attainment.

tiggytape Thu 07-Mar-13 22:16:51

If you have to go to some effort to get your child into a school, the school itself generally benefits from this.
Someone on MN once said that if one school only accepted children of parents who could juggle and the other school accepted anyone, the school requiring juggling would get better results even if the two schools were nextdoor to each other. The people who saw it as a better school would have juggling lessons and practice to make sure they got a place!

Anything that requires a level of engagement, commitment, interest in education or jumping through hoops will appeal to those who place a high value on education - and children from families where education is valued do better.
Of course, children can have very involved parents and not go to a faith school, and parents can have faith and no real educational ambitions for their children but it seems that often the two are associated.

lisson Thu 07-Mar-13 22:24:50

tiggytape - that all makes sense (but I won't try it the next time a local parent complains to me about the unfairness of my child getting into the faith school whilst their's go to one of the other schools!)

rootypig Thu 07-Mar-13 22:29:06

There is no justification for faith schools and the answer to your question about results is covert selection / underlying selection (ie what other posters have said about motivated parents):

www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/9124337/Faith-schools-using-covert-selection-to-reject-the-poor.html

tiggytape Thu 07-Mar-13 22:32:35

I agree lisson - I don't think they'd appreciate the juggling analogy somehow.

There have always been areas where the faith school is the 'best' school and parents know the criteria for getting a place and have to decide whether they want a place enough to go to church or meet the other criteria to get one.

In our area and maybe others though, the disappointment / resentment about the issue is felt more now because school places in general are in short supply so there's no chance to apply to a decent school slightly further away like there once was. When there was a genuine choice of 2 or even 3 comps for everyone to go to, nobody minded so much about the Catholic options that were open to very few children. But now school catchments are so tiny, most children have no real choice of school and so now living near a Catholic school can be a disaster (no chance of a place for a non Catholic child here but not near enough to a non faith school to get in). I think people feel it is unfair now because their own school choices have become much more restricted

lisson Thu 07-Mar-13 22:40:00

so what happens to those children tiggytape? the ones who can't get into the local catholic comp and don't fall into the catchment for the next nearest 2 or 3?

and yes, when I think of it you have hit the nail on the head: the word for what I encountered today is resentment.

The thing that i don't understand is that if parents are unhappy with their child's school, then why don't they get together to pressure to do something about improving the school?

Dromedary Thu 07-Mar-13 22:49:17

I'd guess that most parents don't want to spend years of their lives trying to get their child's school to improve. Maybe they're busy enough, or they find that kind of challenge difficult or intimidating. I have made quite a bit of effort to try to get my child's school to improve - I can tell you that the school does not thank you for it, quite the opposite, and is hugely resistant to parent suggestions. Most people prefer not to stick their necks out and get labelled as a PITA.
So if your child has got into a school that is already good, and you can just happily send your child there, then I'm not surprised that there is some resentment if your child has been selected because they have been to church a bit. The fact is that it isn't fair.
It's also unfair in my view that the quality of a child's education is so hugely affected by where they live. Some live next door to the best grammar in the country, and others end up having to go to a violent sink school. There are far too many postcode lotteries in this country.

Copthallresident Thu 07-Mar-13 22:54:55

lisson I know exactly how your neighbour feels because 15 years ago this week I discovered my DD had not got into any of the state primary schools within half a mile of my house. It came as a complete bolt from the blue because living so close to so many schools I assumed there would be a place somewhere. It turned out our road was in a black hole of school provision and the pressure on places so great that whilst we were first on the waiting list for one the family next door but one were 15th. We were one of 120 families just in our suburb within the borough not to have any school place. There followed a very stressful period of appeals, letters to MPs, and finally the 120 children were offered places in a portacabin at the least popular school in the area, where they had space because so many had left the higher years. We took the hint, I went back to work so my daughter could go to a private school.

Meanwhile our neighbour two doors away was completely exempt from all this angst because she had been taking her children to mass for the last two years to get the necessary priests reference to gain access to the local Catholic School, irony was DH is Catholic, our DD was baptised Catholic but he was totally in agreement with me that we did not want our children to go to a faith school. I did not let it get in the way of my relationship with my neighbour, I try to be a rational human being in my interaction with others but underneath of course the unfairness really pissed me off.

Since then I have watched the primary school that serves our current Parish transformed from one that served a cross section of the community to one that has the lowest percentage FSM in the country, whilst the percentage in the community school next door is ten times that number. Call me cynical but I do not believe there has been a sudden spontaneous shift in the affluence of the congregation. It had everything to do with the fact that the acute shortage of school places means that the selection criteria that were meant to ensure the school served the Catholic community now make hypocrites out of parents and exclude those children whose parents don't have the knowledge, resources or time to fulfil them, and yes, divides neighbourhoods.

Copthallresident Thu 07-Mar-13 22:58:21

Oh and we did go along to the unpopular school thinking it may be snobbery, and we could change it from inside, the Head denied the problems highlighted by Ofsted, and it turned out the parents leaving from the older years had given up on trying to effect change.

tiggytape Thu 07-Mar-13 23:13:35

so what happens to those children tiggytape? the ones who can't get into the local catholic comp and don't fall into the catchment for the next nearest 2 or 3?

The council finds them a place at the school nearest to their house that has spaces available.
That might not be very near their house at all. It might be in the next county / borough and there might be 10 schools closer to their house that they can't get into. The school they get offered might not be a good school (in fact in some areas only 'poor' schools have spaces unallocated and going spare) and the journey to get there will probably be horrendous. You can see why it is suddenly a big issue for a lot of people.

webwiz Fri 08-Mar-13 08:35:26

In my town the faith school isn't the best so we are allowed to send out children there without resentment from the neighbours.

Blu Fri 08-Mar-13 16:50:38

If a school takes those who regularly attend church, at whatever hour on a Sunday morning, you automatically exclude the chaotic families with catastrophic parenting who can rarely get their childen to school on time, do not feed their kids properley, etc etc. The truly dissaffected parents whose children stand little chance in school.

Any form of selection mitigates in favour of those who put themselves up for selective schools and processes and the ultimate intake.

Quite apart from excluding those who would never get to church, or the banding test, or the 11+ exams, or the sports scholarship assessment day on a weekend morning,( or ever) a bit of a selection process creates a frisson of competition and the competitive and aspirational and pushy immediately latch on.

It is the psychological failing of the appeal of a really good comp. No competition in getting into a comp! wink

I'm not saying all parents whose children go to faith schools are like that, but the effect of a few is self-perpetuating, and it only takes a higher ratio than average to set the stats going in an ascending spiral.

Schmedz Sat 09-Mar-13 00:06:25

As someone who grew up abroad, I do find it strange that state funded schools can be allowed to select on the basis of 'faith'. Families of genuine faith will teach their children their faith regardless of whether their children's school does or not.
And not all families of genuine faith automatically get places for their children at these schools either! My eldest failed to receive an offer at her nearest faith primary school despite the fact that I have been a believer and church attendee throughout my entire life. I feel deeply uncomfortable with using that fact as a criteria for admitting my offspring to a particular school! I would actually rather non believers got in so they had a chance to hear the message, although some of the actual 'faith' that is displayed in some of these schools is somewhat questionable anyway.

prh47bridge Sat 09-Mar-13 08:14:38

Schmedz - The reason we have this situation lies in history. The churches were involved in running schools long before the state got involved. The state's first involvement in education was to provide grants to support these schools. The church still owns the land and buildings for faith schools (usually through a trust or foundation) and VA schools have to find a proportion of any capital costs (currently 10% although it used to be much higher).

MothershipG Sat 09-Mar-13 08:51:03

I am resentful!

As an atheist I pay the same taxes as my (lovely & fab) next door neighbour, yet because of her faith her DC got to choose from about 5 secondaries ranging from one of the top performing in the country to good.

My DC got to choose from the worst performing schools i.e. the ones that had spaces because no one wants to send their children there. In the end we scraped into an ok school in the second round of offers.

So yes I am resentful that you think that it's then my job to pull an under performing school up, of course I will do everything I can to support my children's education and the school they attend, but realistically after the faith schools have creamed off all the motivated, juggling, parents just how much support do you think those of us who are left will get???

So, yes, I am resentful! But can I just add I don't in any way blame you, OP, or my lovely next door neighbour, I blame the system that has put us both in this position.

BoundandRebound Sat 09-Mar-13 09:46:51

MothershipG I agree

I am resentfull against the system not the people benefitting from it

muminlondon Mon 11-Mar-13 16:23:14

phr47bridge: 'The church still owns the land and buildings for faith schools (usually through a trust or foundation'

True perhaps of older buildings, but the buildings for newer secondary schools are often owned by the council and leased to the school at a peppercorn rent. This is true of the new RC school in Richmond upon Thames which was bought by the council at a cost of £8.5 million from the adult education college.

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