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Surge in school admission lotteries??

(144 Posts)
Tansie Tue 25-Feb-14 16:07:19


Makes me shudder and be grateful that my two are safely in their naice, leafy, MC comp, one that I got them into by buying a house in the catchment.

"The head of one major chain of academies said it was no longer “inherently fair or good for our society” to let parents move into the catchment area of a leading school to get a place."

So, the only DC who will stand any chance of 'getting the good jobs' will be from a private or academically selective school, in other words. Until that glaring inherently unfair loophole is closed, I shall do what I can for my DC. FGS don't take that away, the only thing that us less well-off parents can do to increase our DC's life chances! And no, I have no problem whatsoever with my DC sitting in classes with 'forrin' DC, working class DC or managed SEN DC (DC whose SEN is being properly attended to so the DC can participate in mainsteam education before I get flamed for that)- providing they're all singing from the same hymn sheet in terms of values. As are the DC at my DC's school. What I do have a problem with is that my DC's academic band could condemn them to a school miles away in a grotty area with a disastrous disciplinary record.

All this may do is 'dumb down' all schools since it has been shown that you actually only need a couple of drop-kick DC in a class to wreck the lesson for the rest. Sure, there are potentially such DC at my DC's school but they are utterly in the minority and their behaviour is rigorously managed.

I am glad that one can still effectively buy that. And yes, there are council houses in the catchment, and small 3 br flats. Though yes, I also concede the housing is largely 3-4 br privately owned and most parents in the area are here because of the school.

maillotjaune Wed 26-Feb-14 23:16:14


meditrina Thu 27-Feb-14 06:45:14

Admissions lotteries are on BBC Breakfast now.

maillotjaune Thu 27-Feb-14 07:38:18

And 5Live now

Retropear Thu 27-Feb-14 07:48:59

Surely it wouldn't work in non city areas.The cost of buses and added unnecessary journey time would be huge.

Transition wise a lottery it isn't great.Our primary works in close partnership with it's feeder school so transition is really good.Starts quite early on.Most kids like to know where they're going early on and to go up with their friends.We live in quite a strong mixed community and many parents have gone to the feeder school.

Being part of a strong community has been proved to have huge benefits.

Retropear Thu 27-Feb-14 08:05:49

Also kind of getting fed up with the way only the rich are going to be allowed any choices re decisions and their dc.

Fed up with being dictated to re food choices,holidays,childcare,sahp v wp and now schools.

I am in Hants.

If I could get my kids into Thornden, I'd be happy! It is a well run, well managed school, with most kids seemingly being from homes where the parents care about education.

For me that is a big factor. I don't care about class or background, I want my kids with other kids whose parents value education, so it is the norm to do homework and try your best.

Interestingly, the private primary down the road from Thornden sends half its kids to Thornden for secondary. As Th. Gets better results than the private schools too (apart from KES).

As it stands, my kids will go to Kings or Westgate. Not too bad either.

Yes, we moved here for the good secondaries, it is reflected in the house prices around Winchester. Annoying to be playing the catchment game, don 't know what I'd do if there was a lottery. I guess in that case I'd try hard to get thdm in top sets of whatever school?

Kings, to its credit, has a much more varied catchment than Thornden, and takes lots of kids out of catchment. IMO it is a truly comprehensive, as in mixed ability intake. Still gets decent results.

tiggytape Thu 27-Feb-14 08:55:20

Surely it wouldn't work in non city areas.The cost of buses and added unnecessary journey time would be huge.

That is probably true but it doesn't tend to be rural areas that have these problems in the first place. By the nature of their geography, children in rural areas go to their nearest school and therefore each school gets a genuinely mixed intake.
In urban areas with secondary schools only 1 or 2 miles from each other, you can end up with desirable and less desirable schools. In theory they should all be drawing from the same pool of children but in practice, the "better" one acquires a tiny, tiny catchment area whereas the other one (the less popular one) ends up with people from much further afield who haven't managed to position themselves to get into the better school.

What 'school tests'? Can't be comps as I know them. Our comp cannot discriminate in any way.

In fair banding, all children wishing to go to a comp take a test.
This isn't to exclude lower ability children. It is to make sure that each comp ends up with equal proportions lof high ability and less able kids.
In other words, it is to stop one comp ending up with more challenging intakes.
So every child takes a test and is placed in the top, middle or bottom "hat" and then equal numbers of names are drawn out of each hat and that's how the places are allocated. It stops people buying houses for good schools because address doesn't matter. It makes intakes to all schools more even because they all get a fair share of very able and less able pupils.

Tansie Fri 28-Feb-14 09:30:35

fiscal Q: "If I could get my kids into Thornden, I'd be happy! It is a well run, well managed school, with most kids seemingly being from homes where the parents care about education."

Your alternatives, Kings and Westgate are of course also amazingly good schools. Whilst, Th. pips them (just) in the league tables, that's absolutely not the point, is it! The fact all are well run, managed with a MC-valued intake is actually what makes them very good schools.

I chose Th because unlike what someone else said, its intake isn't grammar school. GS are academically selective, so if you have a less able DC you cannot get them in; whereas I can and did exercise what 'power' I do have in buying into the catchment of a good comp, one where they seem to do well by all the DC. Had DS2 been more academic, I would have taken the risk of buying into the catchments of the Salisbury grammar/s.

I would readily recognise that Th is not a microcosm of all of the UK; but it is representative of the community in which it is situated. The things that the DC have in common, by and large, is coming from committed families and not being dirt poor but they certainly aren't all from 'leafy homes'! And yes, they have the occasional drugs bust.

I think an interesting fact is that despite being 'the best' comp in Hampshire, academically, its value added score is 1028.2, the highest in Hampshire. So though some might claim the school can sit on its laurels because its intake is at worst average, at best considerably above average, it goes on 'adding' to the DC's attainment.

Someone said "But neither do I like the idea of having to buy your way into a school by moving to the right street. The point being that both school fees and some house prices are beyond many parents who would provide the same support to school and child as you do, but who don't have the funds."- but I too don't like having to fork out for the 'right' street- but I'm bloody glad that the possibility exists! I don't quite understand what you mean about 'many parents who would provide the same support as you do...' Would? Why not 'do'? If they do provide that support - it doesn't have to be financial!- what's the problem? Surely their DC will do perfectly well?

There are some very good schools in 'poor' areas and there are some average schools in expensive areas. I am glad that I am still able to select a school that 'fits' for my 2 DC which happens to be a comp in a leafy area and am not forced into 'any old school' for political reasons, especially by a government full of people whose parents chose and selected every step of their DC's way.

tiggytape Fri 28-Feb-14 09:56:16

Tansie - I understand your point of view that, for you personally, this is a good thing. You say that your DS would not have suited grammar so you were able instead to buy a house that granted him access to a good school with an easy intake of children and good results. You are pleased that this option exists because you can make use of it.

But do you not agree that for children in general this is not a good set-up?
To have some schools that have exclusively easy intakes with very few poor students and very few students from more challenging backgrounds means that elsewhere there will be a school that has more than its fair share of these things to tackle?
And for the children sent there because their parents cannot afford to buy in catchment (they may be too poor or they may be in social housing with no choice) this is not a good system?
You say that with parental support they will be fine anyway. If that's the case why were you so keen to avoid this for your own child?

AgaPanthers Fri 28-Feb-14 12:59:00

"I chose Th because unlike what someone else said, its intake isn't grammar school. GS are academically selective, so if you have a less able DC you cannot get them in; whereas I can and did exercise what 'power' I do have in buying into the catchment of a good comp, one where they seem to do well by all the DC. Had DS2 been more academic, I would have taken the risk of buying into the catchments of the Salisbury grammar/s."

The fact is however that there are almost no 'less able DC' at Thornden.

That's the whole point of these schools - people think they are turning shit into sugar, but actually if your children are genuinely less able, which is statistically very unlikely given that 95% of Thornden's intake then they probably will not get 5 good GCSEs at Thornden - 4 out of 14 did last year. It's only by excluding nearly all of the least able that the school looks good.

Now 4 out of 14 (29%) is actually a pretty good result, compared with the national picture, but given the tiny number of less able children at the school the true chance of success is going to have a wide range, because the school's admissions policies excludes most less able children; however if we had more data then it would be a pretty good result if the school actually did become more comprehensive, if that 29% figure is accurate over a larger sample.

Statistically from what you say, your son is probably a 'middle attainer', and not really 'less able' at all, by national standards. Under the grammar school system in Kent, there are lots of 'middle attainers' going to grammar school. Dover Grammar gets 32% middle attainers, Thornden gets 42%.

The grammar schools in Salisbury are super-selective, and a different kettle of fish, but just because Thornden is selecting 'average and above', rather than 'above average', doesn't mean it's not selective. It's selective because its intake does not look anything like the intake of other local schools.

That it selects on income/house prices isn't really the point - selecting by wealth is incredibly effective, and is across the globe, as pointed out in the recent UN study of educational outcomes globally.

Thornden does appear to be very good, from its results across the spectrum, but it would be much better if it were to take a much larger proportion of less able pupils, and do with them what it appears to do (but we can't be completely sure, statistically) with its current tiny cohort of the less able.

That's far more socially useful (which is the purpose of education, ultimately) than creating a middle class ghetto. A fair banding system would serve the needs of the community as a whole much better than the current system which purely serves the needs of middle class parents.

Tansie Fri 28-Feb-14 14:10:54

Why is there a correlation between 'poor' and academic under-achieving? IS there? And if so, why? Is there one between poverty and poor behaviour? Why do comp in 'grittier' areas not do as well with their cohort than schools like Thornden, by and large? Is it because schools like Th have an intake of DC from families that subscribe to the 3 legged Japanese model of education, that a DC does well when the DC, the teacher and the parents are all 'on-side'? Take the commitment of one away and the whole thing falls over.

I think this is why comps in difficult areas might suddenly show a dramatic increase in academic output but once the huge injection of cash or the Super-Head (and the TV crews) leaves, many gradually fall back to mediocrity. Why is this?

It's all very well to say 'But everyone wants a good education for their DC'. I'd say, Yes, all profess it but how many put themselves out to do anything about it? Many won't leave their present catchment area because the drive to work is easy; mum lives close by; friends will be harder to visit; I've lived here all my life; I don't want to move. All perfectly valid reasons for staying but they don't stack up against how far you'd go to make sure your DCs get the education you want for them. You don't need to be on MN for long to see that a lot of private paying parents profess penury to afford fees, it's that important to them.

As I stated before a good school is a compound of the Governors, the Head, the teachers, the pupils and the parents. Muck about too much with any of those factors and lo and behold, maybe you won't have a good school any more, you may well end up with 2 mediocre ones- with the wealthiest withdrawing all together to the private sector.

As for my DS's academic attainment, I guess that again, it depends what you want. Frankly, I was quite shock at how low the standard in KS2 English SAT was to get a 4 (which is what he got). No doubt there are many DC who are doing far worse but they aren't my day to day concern. I also believe that the '5 good GCSEs' benchmark will increasingly be seen as the basest of base levels, a result only proving someone can walk, talk and chew gum simultaneously <OK, I exaggerate a bit!>. I want my less bale DS to have a crack at 6th Form, and, tbh, whilst I genuinely admire your altruism where you say the purpose of education is for the social good, it's a bit airy-fairy. I see my DSs education as being the vehicle that buys them choice in their futures, the ability to choose what work to do, where to live, who to hang out with, more or less.

We don't have the ability to swing open the gilded doors that a private school education will, so we do the next best thing: choose a good state school for them. Then move house to get into the catchment, a move that was not without pain, I might add but one we were prepared to do.

Tansie Fri 28-Feb-14 14:18:13

And for the record, and here it gets interesting, I'd happily go through an application and interview process (with my DC) to get my DC into a given school. IMO the commitment of a parent to do that improves the likelihood of a good outcome immensely. This why religious schools do well, isn't it? Apart from the concept of a shared social identity imposing a higher level of respect and discipline into DC, there are atheist 'cheats' who have gone to church every week and done the church flowers and coffee mornings once a month during the past 11 years to get a DC into a given school. Their commitment can't be faulted!

A lot of private parents I know would fail that interview as they've effectively farmed their DC's lives out to paid others; private school especially boarding; nannies and au pairs; paid tutors; paid-for after school activities every night, overseen sport all weekend, PGL style holiday clubs for the DC. I'm not condemning them, just saying that in my model, less well off but committed parents would get ahead of the private-wealthy parents in getting DC into a desired school.

Would that be fairer?

AgaPanthers Fri 28-Feb-14 14:40:10

"Why is there a correlation between 'poor' and academic under-achieving? "

Well one reason might well be that the poor are excluded from the best schools.

"IS there? And if so, why? Is there one between poverty and poor behaviour? Why do comp in 'grittier' areas not do as well with their cohort than schools like Thornden, by and large? "

It has been well studied.

"Contextual factors, in particular a school's socio-economic composition, account for significantly more variation in student performance" than the school itself "underlining the importance for educational policy makers to devote adequate attention to those features of education systems that relate to the socio-economic composition of schools."
"In the OECD countries around 50 per cent of the between-school variance in reading literacy is explained by student background, just under 20 per cent by the school context (in particular, average socio-economic status), and around 5 per cent by the school climate, school policies and school resources." Around 30% is unexplained.

In other words, 50% of a child's relative performance (above or below the national average) is determined by how rich (or otherwise) his family is and 20% by how rich (or otherwise) the average child at his school is.

The fact that you regard your child's Level 4 as abysmal rather proves that point. It isn't, a Level 4 means that he is on track to get a C in English at GCSE, which is all he needs in life, unless he wants to be a journalist or something (it's no barrier to going to Oxbridge to study Maths, say). Level 4 is the expected level of attainment nationally, and if you are in a school where many people are in poverty perhaps due to poor English skills, etc., then that's another planet from the one you are living on.

Your child is likely to succeed, and not because Thornden is magical fairyland, but because of you. You don't need any guff about three-pointed tripods to see that.

maillotjaune Fri 28-Feb-14 14:55:19

If you are in social housing it is rather more difficult to up sticks and move into a particular catchment area. And although you appear to be dismissive of the reasons of other parents for not moving, imagine the combination of, say, close enough to work AND the grandparents who provide childcare because your job doesn't have the predictable hours / shifts that fit best with school or regular childcare.

As it happens none of the above applies to me but I am able to see how it complicates things for some parents.

Parental interviews are still unlikely to favour the children who are most disadvantaged. A fairer split of children from different backgrounds and ability bands could.

oh yes, the level 4 thing.

DS is set to get level 4 English, which is a massive achievement as he is dyslexic and could not write a sentence, any sentence, until he was 9.

The shocking thing though, is that even though he is now supposedly average, his writing (spelling, grammar) is really quite poor. He is 11 yet writes "fore" instead of "for" and "hav" instead of have. yet he is average, which leads me to think the average level of English must be quite low.

Which means I would quite like my kids to be significantly above average for me to feel secure about their attainment.

He is set to get to level 5 for maths, but whilst he is o.k. at maths, he is not much better than average IMO (he is bottom set in his year). He is o.k., but works slowly.

So I just think average levels must be really low. Which means somewhere education, on the whole, is failing.

Which leads me to feeling anxious about schools, as I feel "average" is not good enough, terrible as that sounds.

Or am I wrong?

derektheladyhamster Fri 28-Feb-14 15:15:11

I agree about the 'expected levels' My ds is currently working at a 5c in writing, but despite having nearly completed the apples and pears book, his spelling, while improved, (he was a 2a 2 years ago) is still very poor. Metal spelt melte for example.

my son would write "mettle" or "metle", but as it makes sense from a phonetic point of view, it is not classed as a "serious" error, the Ed Psych said.

But yes, I remember being able to spell around age 11-12. Can't remember having to ever learn spelling, or writing words incorrectly, in secondary school.

That was "average" in the 80s.

Tansie Fri 28-Feb-14 19:30:33

"Why is there a correlation between 'poor' and academic under-achieving?Well one reason might well be that the poor are excluded from the best schools." No they're not actually 'excluded'; but due to financial and social factors, some might be. It depends on how far the parent/s are prepared to go in order to facilitate entry to a 'good' school.

I guess, when push comes to shove, it depends on whether you regard DC as being the whole responsibility of their parents good and bad, or whether you pick'n'choose what the parents should do and provide, and what shortfalls The State must pick up. One is intrinsically linked to the other. It actually pisses me off a lot the idea that if you're rich, it's absolutely OK in every available way to advantage your DC, 'them's the breaks'; whereas if you're very much not rich, the factors that drove you there are irrelevant, your DC must not, in any way, be linked to your financial and social status. This is where the 'my kid's gotta go to a good school' thing comes in, 'though I've done and will do nothing to facilitate that'.

To my mind, a serious reason a lot of 'poor' DC fail at school is because the society they grow up doesn't value education. The parents failed at school (but got jobs anyway), their DC aren't expected to do any better. The parent/s doesn't care, they assume their DC won't do well- but the glaring difference is that there are no jobs for the unqualified anymore. And back to the OP- guess what? I will do whatever it takes to avoid my less able DC sitting in the same class as these DC.

"Your child is likely to succeed, and not because Thornden is magical fairyland, but because of you. You don't need any guff about three-pointed tripods to see that"....Objection, Yer Honour. Of course Thornden school is not magical- it just, by virtue of its increasing success, has attracted like-minded families that further improve the standard of its intake (and out-take!). Families that entirely 'get' that 3 entities need to be on-board for educational success: school/child/home. Oh! Guess what? The three-legged-stool 'guff'!

'The fact that you regard your child's Level 4 as abysmal rather proves that point.'- Level 4 is not 'abysmal- but compared to the level privately educated DC of the same age are required to achieve- the DC I expect mine will be up against in the jobs stake- yes, level 4 is a pretty low benchmark of 'success'.

GuinevereOfTheRoyalCourt Sat 01-Mar-14 10:20:38

I am utterly bemused by the idea that somehow "lottery" type admission systems would in any way lead to less socially exclusive schools. In fact they have quite the opposite effect in the long run.

Think about it.

If a heavily oversubscribed school moves to lottery admission, who is going to apply? Well, everyone for whom it is their closest school would apply as they would have done before. Bear in mind that even the most exclusive areas in London usually have at least a small amount of social housing due to council housing policies. Imagine that the school is oversubscribed by a ratio of 2 to 1. A lottery now guarantee that half of those poorer kids won't get in now. Magic. Who are their places going to go to? Well, everyone who applied to the school even though it wasn't their closest one. So the children of people who value their children's education enough to send them on a longer journey. Sure, they don't need to be rich, but they'll certainly need to be aspirational.

Another consideration is how it would affect people like me. I'm not yet 100% decided on state versus private for my own dc at secondary. The main attractions of the local comp for me is that it's on our doorstep and most of the children from the dc's school and the local community will go there. If the school changed their admission policy to a lottery then there is absolutely no chance I'd even consider it as it would cease to have the 'local' appeal.

I think it's called the law of unintended consequences. It's a grand idea, but in practice it achieves nothing positive at all.

I don't even think it is a grand idea to start with.

Think of the impact on prople's lives, to have to travel to a faraway school when there is one on your doorstep. The environment. It's a bad idea to start with.

AgaPanthers Sat 01-Mar-14 10:55:56

Eh what?

The schools you are talking about often have only 1% poor kids anyway. However the surrounding area might be 15%.

The lottery system means that the school represents the wider area not a tiny catchment.

It is nonsense to say that a lottery would exclude the poor, because the whole reason for these schools 'success' is that they currently do exclude the poor.

GuinevereOfTheRoyalCourt Sat 01-Mar-14 11:15:45

I've no idea what area you are in, but I live in one of the most socially exclusive LEAs in the country. Even here the oversubscribed schools have about 8% FSM at secondary level. I'm surprised that there would be any secondaries having as low 1% FSM anywhere in the capital. I'd be interested in examples.

Catchments are indeed wider where there are lotteries, but it is a fallacy to suggest that they don't continue to exclude the poor. That's why they usually remain successful. The only difference is that the goalposts have moved.

tiggytape Sat 01-Mar-14 12:00:22

I think you are ignoring the fact that it isn't a totally random allocation.

It isn't names out of a hat. It is names out of 3 hats. And those hats are "fixed" to make sure one contains all the higher ability children, one the mid ability set and one the lower ability pupils. Therefore it is guaranteed that the final intake of the school will represent fairly all abilities of children. The consequence of this being schools are not dominated by one ability group and are not dominated by just wealthy or just poorer students either.

You are right though - it means primary school classes won't all be kept together but then many secondary schools break up class groups deliberately anyway.

As for travel, exclusive or desirable comps cause this anyway. A comp will generally admit all siblings and a popular comp will then have half of their places available based on distance. This means even those for whom it is their closest school cannot get a place because they live 1.1 miles away and all the places are full after 0.7 miles. The rejected children are too far away from their 2nd or 3rd closest school to qualify there either so end up being sent miles from home. That is a very common occurence where one or two desirable schools exist in an area.

lottysmum Sat 01-Mar-14 12:12:54

Not only are they increasing Lottery Admissions but they are also now going to help children in primary schools prepare for the 11 plus ...which is fantastic ...a little step to take "money" out of the state education system....

tiggytape Sat 01-Mar-14 12:18:21

Yes and they can also choose to give admissions priority to children who qualify for free school meals (or have qualified for them in the last 6 years) no matter what distance they live from the school. Not all schools will choose to do this but it does at least show an effort to move things on from the current problems some areas face.

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