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Is it time to scrap demographical information on a school's profile?

(19 Posts)
Blu Wed 21-Nov-12 16:51:34

The DfE website profile of each school now gives quite strong indicators of the strength of education on offere in terms of the level of progress made by students in high, medium and low ability groups. It gives results in terms of exams and tests. The actual outcomes. There is a Value Added score giving the level of a child's progres against baseline levels.

In terms of the demographical info they give, FSM and EAL, surely all that does is give a generalised stereotyped view of how the school 'ought' to be doing? If the children go in with low base scores (which may or may not be to do with demographic background) the relevance of that, and the school's success in addressing it will be demonstrated in the VA scores and progress charts.

I see so many posts on MN where people are concerned about the demographic stats for a school and don't look at the VA or achievement stats, or make assumptions based on stereotypes from the demographic stats. The assumption is that a high FSM ratio will mean a low committment to learning - tell that to the refugee family whose kids are highest performing in their classes, such is the value they put on education. Tell that to the Jamaican grandmother bringing up her 4 grandchildren and supervising their homework with an eye on a future beyond their estate.

It feeds the frenzy to get into a school with a demographic of 'mc people like us'. It feeds a fear of people with less money. It enables people to focus on vague characterisation of 'problem' instead of looking at the actual effectiveness of a school. It's patronising - 'they do SO well, especially with all those FSM children'.

Can you imagine having to tick a box saying whether you are a higher rate tax payer and then the school using that in it's stats? Telling the school that you are no longer eligible for child benefit? And the results published on the website? It would arguably be outrageous, and yet people are asked to declare themselves wrt to EAL or FSM.

If the government want results to be what schools are judged on, then let those results be the key source of information. In the context of a child's ABILITY, not their personal circumstances. If WE want to judge a school, let us do it on the same indicators - progress and results.

HanSolo Wed 21-Nov-12 16:57:09

But FSM aka poverty is the biggest factor affecting children's performance in school!
Yes, some schools do well with their FSM children, many do not. Were I in receipt of FSM, I would want to know my child would be well supported by the school.

Blu Wed 21-Nov-12 17:01:55

Mmm, but the stats don't differentiate children on FSM in showing progress or results - you can't see specifically how poor children do against rich children.

You can however see which cohorts are making the best progress and whether children are doing well against base line expectations.

CecilyP Wed 21-Nov-12 17:30:23

I thought you could, Blu, in the 'closing the gap' part of the stats. Though I do agree that it is more useful to see how children are doing relative to their ability on entry, rather than other factors.

BackforGood Wed 21-Nov-12 17:31:14

What Hans said.

lastSplash Wed 21-Nov-12 17:41:24

I agree with you Blu, also % of ethnic minorities.

Good point re declaring if you're a higher rate tax payer or similar - people wouldn't put up with it.

auntevil Wed 21-Nov-12 18:10:06

I would find the information quite important.
If for example, a school had higher than expected SEN /EAL/FSM than the demographic suggested, as a parent I would be looking as to why.
We are looking at secondary schools at the moment. There are 2 schools that are approx 10 minutes walk from each other. Very similar demographic, very different results.
School A has considerably better academic results. It has comparable % FSM and EAL, but higher than average SEN to the demographic. It only makes average VA to the lower ability groups, but has a lower % of this group initially.
School B has comparable % SEN, EAL and FSM to the demographic.It makes it's VA to the lower ability group - which is higher than average. It makes poor VA on the higher achievers, although they make up an incredibly small % of the cohort
Without knowing the make up of the 2 schools, how could you tell if it were the correct preference for your child -

Blu Wed 21-Nov-12 18:51:04

auntevil - I think, if I have all that right, that the demographic info doesn't tell you anything that the results and VA stats tell you? EXCEPT the SEN %. I think I would continue to include SEN % when I rule the DfE because it is an actual educational category, rather than a social factor, iyswim.

Also, it might signal that a school has an excellent SEN reputation and provision or maybe a specialist unit, such as a hearing impaired unit.

tricot39 Wed 21-Nov-12 19:13:24

Er sorry to be picky but higher rate tax or child benefit eligibility is irrelevant. DfE collect the SEN, FSM and EASL because it affects budget allocations. The higher the rates the more cash. Which is a bit of a swizz in our area with 75% EASL because often these are second generation immigrants who speak english rather well, but consider it their second language because they speak their parents' or grandparents' native tongue at home. Obviously it is quite another matter about whether or not they should be published...... In our area though it is useful as we can see that the school is coping well with the 30 odd languages or whatever.

auntevil Wed 21-Nov-12 21:18:55

But surely Blu, if I didn't know what the intake was compared to demographic I might be making an unfair comparison. I might look at the figures and think that school B was in an area with considerably more social deprivation - due to its high level of low achievers (yes, I do believe that social deprivation is more likely to coincide with low attainment).
Demographics are another way of comparing similar schools. We have an issue with our LEA in regard to baseline assessments of children entering education. Ours are comparatively low in comparison to others in the LEA. Demographically, we are based in the poorest area of the LEA. % EAL is comparable to most other schools (high), SEN is comparable with a lot of other schools that have a disability base (high), FSM is high - but there are other schools in the LEA with higher than average figures too. They do not have as much social deprivation as a catchment area.
I feel that we need to compare ourselves with other schools nationally that have a similar demographic. Comparing us to leafy suburbs is ridiculous.

Hassled Wed 21-Nov-12 21:23:56

Blu - since the introduction of Pupil Premium (which is an extra amount per FSM pupil that the schools receive), schools do have to show how they are using the PP money. It's hard to show a quantifiable improvement (say the school spend it on an extra TA for catch-up, realistically that TA won't just deal with the FSM chiildren) as a direct result of how the PP is spent, but schools do now have to show what they've spent it on. I think this is a requirement by next April - although most schools are already on the case.

Blu Wed 21-Nov-12 21:33:44

tricot - I agree about the uselessness of the EAL category - especially when you consider that speaking mofre than one language fluenly actually increases the cognitive skills of a child because they understand the 'word as symbol' conept of language much earlier than monolingual chidren.

Good point about collecting the stats that result in an increased budget.

I agree also that it is often meaningless to compare results across very different areas - especially as some very soughht after schools are actually just reflecting an intake! Maybe.

Blu Wed 21-Nov-12 21:44:20

DS went to a school with a v high ratio of FSM pupils, and I thought the provision of TAs and extra staff was fantastic - it really enabled groups of children to be taught at their own pace. Support groups, mentoring, booster classes, and enrichment classes. And I would guess from knowing the families that a representative % of children on FSM were benefitting from the enrichment classes as high achievers.

RustyBear Wed 21-Nov-12 21:59:57

Hassled - that requirement came in this September - all schools now have to show on a website how they spent the pupil premium and the effect it has had on attainment for those pupils.

auntevil Wed 21-Nov-12 22:04:45

Our school had a really low take up of any form of support offered to FSM where it involved any work out with school hours. This included before and after school, breaktime and lunchtime clubs.
It wasn't even seen as 'free childcare' - there was just a 'couldn't be bothered attitude' - such a shame.
The support didn't go to waste though. After FSM were offered support, it filtered down to low achievers generally - and finally open to all. My DS went for extra numeracy lessons.
It will be very interesting to see how schools are using the PP!

Blu Wed 21-Nov-12 22:05:34

I am not familiar with these new requirements or schools.
I can understand them being required to show how they spend the PP.

But what if the specific pupils on FSM happen to be high achieveng pupils with motivated aspirational parents? Or do they just have to demonstrate that no child will be disadvantaged in the school due to economic circumstances?

Blu Wed 21-Nov-12 22:08:48

auntevil - I would imagine that many families would hate to identify themselves or their children by sending them to 'FSM only' opportunities!

DS's school just seemed to spend the money on extra TAs and learning mentors and teachers for in-school-time classroom learning, and everyone benefitted together. Will the rules next year mean that the ££ has to be individually and specifically targetted and used?

auntevil Wed 21-Nov-12 22:19:20

The groups aren't identified as FSM groups - just that they have first choice as to places.
These groups included football training, computer club etc as well as the academics. When these clubs are offered school wide, they are usually over subscribed.
The extra numeracy lessons had 0% take up when offered to FSM. There were a few places taken when the low achievers were asked, then totally filled when open to all levels.
There is no identification of FSM children at school. Bizarrely, given the 'FSM' acronym, many choose to have packed lunch.

Hassled Wed 21-Nov-12 22:54:45

Rusty - thanks - I don't know why I'd thought it was April.

Re FSM takeup - it's a tough one. I know that lots of families who could claim FSM don't, because they feel there's a stigma - and of course with Pupil Premium that low take-up does impact the school's budget. And re the activities themselves - one school I know used a reading age filter for newsletters, flyers etc and found that by tweaking the wording, they reached a whole new group of families (some EAL, some not) who didn't normally participate in the events they were promoting. So there are lots of ways to make these things seem more inclusive.

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