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That choice in education is an illusion for many

(96 Posts)
Minifingers Sun 16-Feb-14 09:43:54

You often see posts here about the importance of choosing a school which is right for YOUR child. Have spent all morning looking at Dfe data on schools, and their admissions policies I've come to the conclusion that we can rank people according to how much choice they have in relation to this issue, and most of us don't actually have any or much choice.

The ranking goes like this:

Practicing members of Catholic or CofE churches who have clever/musical/sporty children and lots of money. (can choose state or private church school/secular private school/access grammar schools and selective state schools out of catchment/move into catchment of popular schools)

Non-religious people with money and clever/talented children. (can go private/move into catchment area of popular schools/access grammar schools and selective state schools out of catchment)

Church attenders with no money who have clever/talented children (church schools/private school via a bursary/scholarship/selective state schools out of catchment area)

Non-church attenders with clever/talented children (bursary/scholarship for private/selective state schools)

Non-church attenders with no money and children who are only average achievers. (non-selective secular schools that they live in the catchment area of, or unpopular schools that they are out of catchment for).

As a hierarchy of educational privilege (because it IS a privilege to choose your child's school) this is a bit shit isn't it?

I look at books like 'The Good School Guide', and the education boards here where parents debate the pros and cons of different high performing schools, and feel completely non-plussed by it. It's mostly irrelevant to me.

A school may be fantastic, and specialise in the things my children are interested in, but unless we're in its catchment area, forget it.

winterlace Sun 16-Feb-14 11:48:30

Ofsted appear every three years though smile

In any case the point is middle class children - or rather children with parents who hugely value education, who are guaranteed to achieve English and maths at C or above with three other subjects thrown in and offer extra curricular activities are of huge value to a school and enhance it greatly.

IdRatherPlayHereWithAllTheMadM Sun 16-Feb-14 11:50:02

I think your right.

Luckily in our area our house is surrounded by lots of grammer schools. I am hoping the DC are going to be bright enough to have a stab at them...

so much more choice for us...we are surrounded by failing comp. if there was no other choice or dcn not bright enough to try then yes will probably have t omove

IdRatherPlayHereWithAllTheMadM Sun 16-Feb-14 11:51:25

es - *I'd love to force the wealthy to mix with us oiks at the school gate, and for little Harry and Coriander to be rubbing shoulders with the Kai's and the Shavonte's on local school playing fields. It would be a social revolution

but they do. wealthy dc still go to state schools!

winterlace Sun 16-Feb-14 11:53:59

Well, yes and no. I imagine once you surpass a particular income bracket the majority of parents would choose for their child to be educated privately - only exceptions would be those with strong socialist views. That said, many of us find our views leave us when it comes to our own children.

IdRatherPlayHereWithAllTheMadM Sun 16-Feb-14 11:58:28

I think the dire state of our schools has probably muddied the waters, i think lots of people who can afford a private education would rather get it free if schools were up to scracth.

its a bun fight out there because schools are failing!

OwlinaTree Sun 16-Feb-14 12:01:53

What you say is valid winter. But Ofsted is a constant in schools' life, not just every three years (we wish!).

Another aspect of choice is where you live. In more urban areas you've got a lot more choice. Many people have only one choice as they live in rural areas. To go to a grammar from where we live would involve a long car journey, impossible for working parents. So that choice would be out for many.

Having said that, the local hs is Ofsted 'outstanding'. It's also an academy. Mr and DH don't want our child to go to an academy, but realistically we won't have that much choice. (Well we might, child still in womb at mo!)

DarlingGrace Sun 16-Feb-14 12:02:59

You are talking tommyrot OP. I live in a shitty area and its a grammar area. No money here.

OwlinaTree Sun 16-Feb-14 12:04:08

MadM schools are being failed by the government. Schools are not failing all on their own.

Taz1212 Sun 16-Feb-14 12:04:26

If our catchment school had been the same quality of the excellent state school that I attended we definitely wouldn't have gone private! I always think the whole "wealthy mixing with the oiks" is such a bizarre statement- with one child still at a state school for a couple more years and one at private it makes me laugh that there are clearly only 2 groups, the oiks and the wealthy- which one do I slot into? Am I a wealthy oil? grin

Taz1212 Sun 16-Feb-14 12:04:58

Wealthy oik even- stupid auto correct!

SpanishLady Sun 16-Feb-14 12:07:00

This is a very interesting thread for me. We have a 3 year old and are about to apply for a pre- school place for him at our local Catholic nursery/primary school. We have as a result begun to focus on school years generally not only for our eldest but younger 2 now they have arrived.

I'm a catholic and have been attending the church the school is affiliated to for over 20 years. I made some of my sacraments there, got married there and my kids were christened there too. I myself went to state funded catholic schools (which the church also contributes funds too) the whole of my education. The admissions criteria for this primary school is: special needs/ in care children, siblings of kids already at the school, catholic kids in the catchment area, catholic kids outside the catchment area, non-Catholics in catchment area.

Currently our 3 year old attends the nursery attached to a private school - even with the government grant we still pay just over £300 a month. I never thought I'd be too bothered about my kids needing to go private - as long as we were in a good area for state schools but I'm beginning to feel that the gap between private and state can be quite wide even at primary level. In an ideal world I would keep him at his private school but his going full time is just beyond our financial grasp (esp now we have 2 more kids)

I am also looking ahead to high school and the local state schools aren't great so we have decided to move. Where we are looking to go to has grammar school options but I've discovered that effectively these are selective and generally the kids they choose are from families who otherwise would send them private.

I'm actually in conflict with myself as am realising having lofty socialist ideals about educational equality for all goes out the window when it comes to your kids - I don't think it's fair these amazing grammar schools are full of the kids of wealthy families but are govt funded esp when the local comp is nowhere as good (from resources perspective) but given the chance I will want my kids to go to the grammar school.

I'm not 100% comfortable with this realisation.

winterlace Sun 16-Feb-14 12:09:07

Owl - I didn't mean to imply ofsted was a casual event every three years! Sorry!

What I mean is m/c parents are another way standards are raised.

OwlinaTree Sun 16-Feb-14 12:11:57

Spanish I think you are being very honest, every parent had to make the decision that is right for their child even if that goes against your social ideology.

Mintyy Sun 16-Feb-14 12:12:26

Agree. I have a choice of two secondary schools for each of my dc (all single sex). It is a complete waste of effort filling in the other 4 places on the application form. For state primary school, the people who live in my postcode have an absolute maximum of 3 choices (if they live in a particular tiny area), most have the choice of 1, many are in a complete black hole and don't get any.

Minifingers Sun 16-Feb-14 12:15:03

Most state schools are not failing. And areas with good state schools have more, not fewer private schools.

SpanishLady Sun 16-Feb-14 12:16:27

True owl - I know it's unfair but even knowing that, we are prepared to move and pay for extra tuition and out of school activities to give our kids the best shot at the grammar schools or even private (if they can get a bursary) just have to smother that voice in my head calling me a hypocrite

OwlinaTree Sun 16-Feb-14 12:16:47

I agree with you winter. Educating a child is a partnership between school and parents. Both parties should be working in the interest of the child. So your eg of skiing trip, yes parents provide the cash, but teachers give up the time, organise it, risk assess it, manage the behaviour etc so children can have this fab experience due to both parties working together.

The more support from both sides, the better the outcome for children.

So challenge for schools, how do we involve parents more in their child's education?

Starballbunny Sun 16-Feb-14 12:21:25

In a rural area like this many parents have Hobson's choice of schools.

You go to the school the council runs the bus to!

Yes some families run two cars and have SAHM, part time working parents who do school runs to alternative schools and parents who choose not to put 5y on long poorly supervised bus routes, but this is not an option for the poorest parents.

By secondary the vast majority of parents want/need to be free of the school run and council bus routes dictate choice almost completely.

For a few lucky people there are buses contract and public buses to non catchment and grammar schools, but they are £900 a year and very dependent on where you live.

tiredbutstillsmiling Sun 16-Feb-14 12:21:35

I agree and I'm a teacher!

We're currently worrying about this. We want DD to go to a Catholic school but out nearest is in special measures and I know I'm being a snob, but it's in the middle of an estate where the majority of folk aren't Catholic (high immigrants population), has high unemployment etc. we put our house on the market once DD was born - she's nearly 3 and we still haven't sold (another thread entirely!).

Anyway we have registered with an outstanding Catholic school but we don't fall in the parish, just outside the border. We go to the church every week and hopefully the priest will give us backing. We were told at registration that last year only 15 Catholics applied in that year - obviously all got a place. This Sept out of a class of 30 there are 27 Catholics. DD was born in 2011 - a massive baby boom in out area. It'll be just our luck more than 30 Catholics apply and we'll be buggered as we're not in the parish.

Unfortunately although I live in an affluent area, the majority of patents can afford private schooling. This means the local schools are filled with kids from poorer area being bused in to fill the places. I grew up in poverty and the primary school I went to was massively deprived. I want better for DD.

Minifingers Sun 16-Feb-14 12:25:24

"every parent had to make the decision that is right for their child even if that goes against your social ideology."

Actually even in areas where there are well performing state schools, when parents KNOW that with their support their child could do very well in a state school, they will STILL put them in private in they can, because they don't just want their child to do well, they want them to do BETTER than other, similar kids, and shelling out cash is the way to guarantee your child doesn't have to compete on an even playing field. In other words, it's giving your children a leg up that they haven't earned.

The intake at my dd's school is pretty rough - only 33% of children are high achievers at the beginning. They also have many more children on free school meals, and children with special needs than the national average. But their average GCSE grade for high achievers is a B+, and every year they get children into Russell Group uni's. It's also got a vibrant arts culture and is a happy school. But that's not enough for the local middle-class parents. The private girl's school down the road is heaving and heavily over subscribed.

Honestly I think people are hypocrites. I hope that if I had a choice of a decent state school, and the will to help my own child I'd put my beliefs in the importance of community ahead of my urge to give my child a leg up over the shoulders of their peers by paying for them to go private.

Minifingers Sun 16-Feb-14 12:27:45

"I grew up in poverty and the primary school I went to was massively deprived. I want better for DD"

And yet you grew up to be a teacher.

What is the 'better' you want for your dd? Not to be educated alongside poor children?

How very Christ-like of you. hmm

SpanishLady Sun 16-Feb-14 12:29:10

The highest rating primary school in my area has buckets of money and resources thrown at it but that's because this is an affluent area and it's in the only deprived part ( in middle of small council estate) a teacher there told me the problem is they can't get the middle class parents to send their kids as they won't mix their kids with the council estate lot and the kids of recent immigrants - so great resources but still lots of social issues.

All abit depressing and yep I won't send my kid either....

ilovesooty Sun 16-Feb-14 12:34:36

What winterlace says sounds very familiar. At the last school I taught in such parents were identified on a secret list as "signposted" parents and were specifically monitored and their children given priority and preferential treatment.

tiredbutstillsmiling Sun 16-Feb-14 12:37:44

minifingers that's my choice. I don't know how I succeeded in a primary school where there were 20 different languages. I remember being withdrawn in reception to sit and read a book on my own as I could read and the rest of the class couldn't. How was that teaching me or pushing me to achieve? I'm sorry but I don't want that environment for DD.

Plus if you'd bothered to read my post the local Catholic school hasn't got many Catholics because of the high number of immigrants. They don't even have Mass and don't prepare pupils for Communion. We want religion to be part of DD's education. I think THAT is VERY Christian of me!

tethersend Sun 16-Feb-14 12:40:28

"I thought looked after children and children with SEN had priority? That's hardly money based."

No, not money based- but schools can, and frequently do, decline places to students with SEN on the grounds that they 'cannot meet their needs'; I have even had the SENCo of a very well-regarded west London school tell me that they will accept no more than three statemented students per year hmm

In addition to this, religious schools are only obliged to put looked after children of the faith above non-looked after children of the faith. In practice, this can mean that a looked after child who was not baptised within a certain timescale or has not regularly attended a particular church (difficult when you've been moved from placement to placement), will rank as low as 13th down the priority list, effectively denying them a place.

Of course, with most community schools and academies, this is not a problem.

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