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Zoe Williams 'Mad scramble for school places' in Grauniad.

(34 Posts)
Erebus Sun 11-Sep-11 10:19:59


Read this with interest.

Some of it was 'amusing', some of it plain wrong- and some of it- I couldn't decide where she was coming from, pro- or anti- private for instance?!

As she has a 3 year old I recognise that she doesn't 'understand' some stuff, such as that because she doesn't yet know of anyone sending their DCs to 'private primaries', she bloody well will in a year or so's time! She does seem to think it's a given' that only the filthy rich 'go private' and the 'working class don't care' (I must add, it's not her belief, just what she thinks 'society' believes!) AND as for mocking a 'fear of the under 11s of the feral poor' she has much to learn. It as been my experience that the unfortunate kids concerned turn, at about the age of 7, from 'oh, you poor little thing, to 'get that little sh** out of my DC's classroom!' I know that DC is as entitled to an education as my DC but his behavioural problems are now beyond the ability of a main-stream state classroom to accommodate and I don't want him messing up my DS's education with his constant low-level disruption and occasional violent outbursts into the bargain.

Zoe will begin to understand all this in the next couple of years.

midnightexpress Sun 11-Sep-11 10:36:49

Makes me glad to live in Scotland, where there seems to be a bit more sanity about education.

I'm interested in her assumption that having English as a second language is the same as 'not speaking English'.

slartybartfast Sun 11-Sep-11 10:40:40

it will be sooner than she thinks - since they start school at the age of 4.

AlpinePony Sun 11-Sep-11 11:26:46

She states in the very first paragraph that she cannot afford "JAGS". Yet then goes on to whinge and whine about other people's attitudes. She rounds off with the typical socialist "I don't believe in public schools because it's not fair" - when her actual argument is "I'm green with envy but can't afford it".

PollyParanoia Sun 11-Sep-11 11:29:33

I thought she seemed a bit ignorant about what EAL can and tends to mean. It doesn't, in my experience of an inner city primary, mean children who can't speak English, it means those who speak another language in addition to English. If you call them bilingual, it all seems very different. Certainly in my ds's class the miles-by-far cleverest kids are EAL or bilingual (or in fact trilingual in one case)

AlpinePony Sun 11-Sep-11 11:33:23

I suppose it depends on the actual facts of EAL, my son will use his second language at school. However, he has been exposed to this language since he was 7 months old, has local friends and goes to local creche. This (imo) is very different to perhaps new immigrants who are just learning the local language and/or those who've lived a very insular life within their own community.

Gastonladybird Sun 11-Sep-11 11:35:22

Alpine is right- there are a lot of variants on being bilingual.

Thought article was a bit rambling as a load of points were brought up I. Half thought out way.

Erebus Sun 11-Sep-11 12:03:19

Yes, I think I could be accused of being very hypocritical myself if I were to condemn any parent who 'voices concerns' about their DC's ethnic and language status at their school when my DSs go to schools that certainly have a small percentage of EAL pupils but are in a wealthy middle-class area where the parents of said DCs are doctors and surgeons, all of whom have made the area their home because of the school. Like I did. As opposed to finding your DC was, let's say for the sake of argument, the only non-Bangladeshi or Polish DC in the class, and every non immediately school related conversation was inaccessible to your DC. I'd be moving my DC, too, and I wouldn't consider it to be 'racist' to do so.

CrystalChandelier Sun 11-Sep-11 13:22:33

I understood it to mean that she thought her friend's fear was irrational - they lived in Clapham and everyone was white - and she was using the anecdote to illustrate the madness.

I didn't see any evidence that she was envious of the prospective Jags mother - I'm not sure where AlpinePony got that from.

ZW is clearly misinformed on many things, and her style is confusing because it's rambling and she switches voice, so it's an effort to work out which view is hers. But she eventually got to the nub of it right at the end, with:

"...we use them as a beard for our own self-interest, so that every solipsistic impulse we've learned to restrain, every ambition that life has frustrated, every competitive urge that has become muted, all rears up, more focused and stronger than ever, in the promotion of their interests, which are really just our own interests."

TalkinPeace2 Sun 11-Sep-11 13:23:16

If her friends are within range of JAGS then she is in a part of the world that bears NO RELATION to the rest of England in its schooling choices
Hampshire and its comps made me feel very smug reading that article!

PS my friends went to JAGS/Alleyns/Dulwich/Eltham/SHS/BHS/Dustbins etc etc

sue52 Sun 11-Sep-11 14:03:46

It's unfair for her friend to send her to JAGs yet she thinks it's OK to tutor for a selective state school which would further diminish a poorer child's chances. A wee bit hypocritical IMO. Her article was confused, contradictory and should have been much shorter.

sue52 Sun 11-Sep-11 14:04:30

oops, her friends child

yellowsubmarine41 Sun 11-Sep-11 14:17:24

I read this article last night and thought it was incredibly lazy, shoddy journalism.

Just churning out stereotypes and povs that have been in the meeja loads, and putting it together with no coherent argument.

AlpinePony Sun 11-Sep-11 14:45:43

crystal as I said before, in her first paragraph she says that the reason she will not use jags is because she cannot afford it, and wishes not to have to spell this out to her friend. She does not say to her friend 'I don't believe'.

Bonsoir Sun 11-Sep-11 14:56:38

"She rounds off with the typical socialist "I don't believe in public schools because it's not fair" - when her actual argument is "I'm green with envy but can't afford it"."


What a ranty article.

CrystalChandelier Sun 11-Sep-11 15:16:12

AlpinePony I don't think she's saying that at all. I think she tries to give the most socially acceptable answer - "I can't afford it" - in the hope the woman will drop the subject. But the woman won't take the hint, so she has to spell it out - she doesn't approve.

slartybartfast Sun 11-Sep-11 15:17:56

i always read zoe williams and then to like what she reads. we left north london and then moved again for a better school.

CrystalChandelier Sun 11-Sep-11 15:32:12

AlpinePony I think one reason we've interpreted it differently is because she's such a rambling writer and not clear at all.

Until recently I had a No Zoe Willilams policy precisely because she was so bloody dappy. I might go back to it. It will go well with the No Laura Barton and No Kira Chochrane policies.

midnightexpress Sun 11-Sep-11 16:25:29

I'm interested though - is the scramble for schools really as mad as she says everywhere in England? I mean, it's not as if private schools are opening up all over the place to accommodate all these children, is it? So presumably the vast majority of children must still be going to fairly bog standard state schools?

TalkinPeace2 Sun 11-Sep-11 16:55:20

I live 4.5 miles from my children's school
they went to a feeder primary
BOTH are in a different LEA

my catchment schools are a failing academy and its feeder
I had a few tense glasses of wine but no more

ANYWHERE where there are not grammars or selectives, the comps are comps and reflect the area (good and bad)
"parental choice" was a crap London Centric idea that does not realise that if you live in the sticks, there in only one school within 40 minutes anyway

notcitrus Sun 11-Sep-11 16:57:09

South London seems to have a greater problem than the rest of England:

Where I live in south Lambeth, every local school has been taking 'bulge' classes of an extra 15 or 30 pupils per year for the last 3 years or more, and are running out of space to put more portacabins, despite a couple new schools opening. Unless house prices crash and more people move out of London for the 'better schools' of the home counties like they used to, the baby boom that will need schools over the next few years is quite simply not going to get school places. These kids need to be educated somewhere.

The result is practically every parent I meet has thought about what school their child might get into. Luckily I live close enough to two decent schools that ds (just 3, so applying year after this) should get in, but like most people I know I've looked up how much private fees are - mainly to reassure myself that I'm not being unreasonable not to consider a private school now!

As ZW tries to explain, there's a huge difference between a school with lots of EAL children from lots of different backgrounds, many of whom do speak some English when they start nursery and have literate parents, and one with a similar % of EAL children, all from one language group, most who don't speak any English when they start school and who aren't familiar with books or reading. Ds's likely schools are the first type, but there's another nearby school just over the borough border I have to admit to being quite relieved he won't have to go to.

LJBrownie Sun 11-Sep-11 20:55:47

It is definitely a v south-london-centric article and reflects what you hear in every playground chitchat round this way. When I was reading it, I wondered how much of the guardian's readership must live round south west london in order for it to be interesting enough to a sufficiently large proportion of readers to actually be printed!!

midnightexpress Mon 12-Sep-11 09:32:52

Interesting. Up here, the only real choice is 'denominational' (ie Catholic) or non-denominational. You can put in a placing request to a non-catchment school, but most people just go to their local school. Obviously there is some house price nonsense in the catchments of really good schools, but that does seem to be the exception rather than the rule in Scotland. It seems a much better way of organising things, and results in a better social mix of pupils, IMO. Apart from the religious/sectarian thing, which is a whole other thread...

mummytime Mon 12-Sep-11 09:54:05

Actually just to add, around here, well in mad scramble land. We have two good comps, within 1/4 mile of each other. Both sets of pupils meet at the local shops after school. One is catholic and one is non-sectarian.
Sitting at the shops waiting for my DD to give her a lift the other day. I watched the pupils, and thought how amazingly well they get on. Compared to my own secondary, where we often had police stationed where my comp and the neighbouring comp's kids would meet, and sometimes resulted in violence.

areyoutheregoditsmemargaret Mon 12-Sep-11 11:01:28

ZW earns around 250k a year

She can easily afford Jags etc, or Wellington should she be that way inclined so that is a totally disingenous argument

Agree, lazy and slapdash. I don't like this reinvented ZW as social commentator, she's too rambling

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