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Judging a school by the number of children having free school meals

(131 Posts)
speedymama Mon 18-Jun-07 09:13:09

I was speaking to another mother at the music toddler group my 3yo DTS attend and asked her advice about state schools in the area as she has lived in the area all her life. I have already carried out my own preliminary research and have three that I will be listing on my preference form towards the end of the year.

I mentioned them to her and one of them she dismissed because it tends to take a number of children from a more socially deprived area and consequently, a number of them have free school meals.

Her comments left me speechless because the school has very good Ofsted reports, other mothers that I know who send their children there, rate it highly and their SAT results are excellent (high 80%, low 90% region).

The thing that really upset me was her comment about the free school meals. My DB lost is job two years ago, is still struggling to find a well paid job and his 3 DC receive free school meals.

Since when did receiving free school meals equate to being a social pariah and undesirable? I would have thought that the success of the school demonstrated the commitment of the parents to their DC's education, despite their lower social status.

I think the woman is a snob and will avoid her in future.

Saturn74 Mon 18-Jun-07 09:16:03

She is, and you should.
And smug snobs like her leave the path clear for sensible parents like you to be able to get their children into great schools like this.

speedymama Mon 18-Jun-07 09:27:23

One of the other schools is also unpopular and therefore undersubscribed because its SATS results are only 70-80%. However, I have visited the school and I just love the feel of it and the staff are so committed. The school has a number of SN kids as well as free meals so this no doubt is reflected in the results. The PTA is extremely active and they even have an orchestra in the junior year. I wish more parents would see pass the test percentages.

Jennylee Mon 18-Jun-07 09:30:46

AARgh my dh and me both have degrees and ds is going to be getting free school meals if he goes full time as we have not found graduate type jobs yet, she is snob, AVOID

lol just waiting for xenia to come on and say all kids on free school meals should be sent to live on a small island or something

speedymama Mon 18-Jun-07 09:41:48

DH and I both have PhDs and well paid jobs. We both attended schools in poor working class areas and did very well because of our supportive home environments. Can't abide snobbery.

milkchocolateStarryStarryNight Mon 18-Jun-07 09:49:07

I was doing similar research when looking for a school for my oldest. I did not specifically look at free school meals as an indicator, and I guess that some may judge a school from such criteria...

I think the best thing is to visit the school, and go with your gut feeling. I was very keen on my local C&E school until I went to visit. The first thing I saw was a classroom assistant "manhandling" two boys down to see the head for fighting in class, her language and that of the boys were less than desirable. Another friend went to this schools open day for parents, and the amount of swearing amongst the mothers and fathers totally shocked my friend, she even said to one of them "mind the F word in front of my son and the other kids" and got it back at her in multiples... After this, I looked to a different school, and we are very happy with our choice.

It is such a hard decision, isnt it?

elasticbandstand Mon 18-Jun-07 09:56:17

i dont think amount of children receiving free school meals should even be mentioned in the school statistics,, but it is.. a local school i knew mentioned the high amount of travelling families..!

frances5 Mon 18-Jun-07 09:57:14

lol... my son school has loads of kids who have free school dinners. The only problem is that you end up having to pay for school dinners because your child might want to have school dinners to be like their friends.

Personally I think the woman is being silly and I think you are right to avoid her.

Visit the school, listen to parents who send their children there and make up your own mind.

elasticbandstand Mon 18-Jun-07 09:58:31

my ds wanted a "red card" like his friend, at dinner time

FioFio Mon 18-Jun-07 10:00:07

Message withdrawn

milkchocolateStarryStarryNight Mon 18-Jun-07 10:05:19

With regards to this woman, if she is otherwise nice and you get on, I see no particular reason to cut her out of your life over a free school meal comment. It is mentioned in the reports, she may just have wanted to repeat what she read, without thinking whether this is what you wanted to hear or not. Strictly speaking, was she just mentioneing it, or did she rant about it in patronising ways?

colditz Mon 18-Jun-07 10:05:41

Bless her, poor, sheltered woman. Think of all the friends she will never let herself have!

Seriously, people like this have simply never come across a family who receives free school meals. Then they engineer their lives so they never will. Her attitude won't change until he circumstances force it, such as having to socialise with people who have free school dinners, and maybe even then, she would rather be lonely.

I feel sorry for her!

FWIW, Ds1 will soon be going to a school at which the SEN level is about 40%, and free school meals is about 60%. He may be one of both groups, depending if we can get his speech a bit better sorted, and on whether I manage to get a job

elasticbandstand Mon 18-Jun-07 10:06:31

she sounds ignorant

speedymama Mon 18-Jun-07 10:12:13

Milkchocolate, she was very patronising and this was not the first time she has made coded remarks about the less fortunate. I have never felt comfortable with her comments and this for me, is the last straw.

milkchocolateStarryStarryNight Mon 18-Jun-07 10:13:39

well in that case, speedymama, it is pretty clear cut. No need to include such people in your life! She sounds unpleasant.

Desiderata Mon 18-Jun-07 10:18:22

Good move, speedymama. Avoid her like the plague.

My father left my mum in the early 70s, and both me and my brother had free school meals throughout the duration of secondary school. What a bloody snob.

Ladymuck Mon 18-Jun-07 10:21:08

Do I think that the number of pupils receiving FSM is an indicator of how good the school is, or how sociable, bright and interesting the pupils are? No, of course not - it is purely a rather broad indicator of the social-economic mix at the school.

Would the information influence my choice of school? Possibly. I'm not sure that I particularly want my child to be the odd one out at school - I think that that is difficult for any child whether the difference is as a result of race, ability etc. And I think that for a child to be isolated at one end of the spectrum or the other in terms of socio-economic "status" can be difficult for them. But like any number of factors when you are choosing a school, it is a factor to consider, not the only one, and possibly rarely the deciding one.

Hallgerda Mon 18-Jun-07 10:31:11

If the school has good results and a high proportion of pupils on free school meals, then the school will have achieved its results on its own merits, not through private tutors. I would therefore regard the high free school meals proportion as positive.

I agree the other mother's a snob. I'm not sure I'd cut her over that - would you react in the same way to other forms of ignorance? You might tell her why you feel the way you do - it might make her think. frances5, if I didn't speak to anyone I thought a bit silly I'd be running out of people to talk to by now - you must be extremely fortunate in your school gate crowd. Anyone can learn and change - some may be forced to.

speedymama Mon 18-Jun-07 10:45:07

I agree with you to a point Hallegarda. However, when you have a gnawing feeling about a person that says avoid, avoid, avoid, there comes a time when you have to acknowledge those feelings.

I have friends who say some really outrageous things but because most of the time they are wonderful, I can overlook those things and where possible, explain my views to provide a counterbalance to their prejudices.

There is something about this woman that I do not trust and tbh, I don't feel comfortable in her company. This remark about school meals, though small, just confirms my suspicions about her and I would rather avoid her.

Hallgerda Mon 18-Jun-07 10:54:17

OK, speedymama, enough said. Avoid her!

FioFio Mon 18-Jun-07 10:57:53

Message withdrawn

speedymama Mon 18-Jun-07 11:03:52

That's exactly it FiFio. So many of my relatives have DC receiving free school meals and live in council accommodation.

Oblomov Mon 18-Jun-07 11:05:31

Whay is she so concerned about the free meals ? Surely the ethnic minority and the fact that they have to take the expelled child, and the child who doesn't speak english as a first language: over any child who doesn't need free meals; hasn't been expelled and does speak english as a first language.

She needs to re-assess her priorities .

colditz Mon 18-Jun-07 11:07:08

Nail on the head there, Fio

nickytwotimes Mon 18-Jun-07 11:07:10

just wanted to add that i had free meals and came 2nd in my year at school.

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