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Is this institutional racism?

(23 Posts)
Fyenwiiw Tue 13-Oct-20 16:55:23

My son's primary school streams children all the way through the school for half the day and I have become aware that there appear to be a higher proportion of black children in the lowest streams and more white children in the highest streams (school is about 50/50 mix). Is this institutional racism? It's a good school and I'm sure they have put the children in streams only according to ability/attainment but research into streaming usually shows that streaming is better for those in the higher streams than the lower ones. I'm not sure whether to raise my concern with the school as a)I don't have the hard data to back up my observations, b) my son is in the more mixed middle stream so I am not personally affected by it and c) I don't want to damage my relationship with the school. What do you think is the best thing to do?

OP’s posts: |
nearertonature Tue 13-Oct-20 16:58:14

Dunno what to do about it but it sounds a bit suspect to me.

HotPenguin Tue 13-Oct-20 17:07:02

Are you in England? It sounds unusual to me, and I agree a very negative message if there's an obviously different racial mix in the streams. Most schools differentiate without separating the class, so for example those who finish first get extension sheets.

Ihatesandwiches Tue 13-Oct-20 17:07:42

School governor here. Please write a polite letter to the Chair of Governors raising your concerns. Keep it factual and concise. If it is a 'good' school they should take your concerns on board and investigate. Don't expect instant results though! The Chair needs to receive the letter, take advice, arrange a meeting and then meet with the appropriate committees and decide a response. Takes an age under normal circumstances and with Covid might take a bit longer. But yes, do bring your concerns to their attention!

Asterion Tue 13-Oct-20 17:08:19

It could well be, in the sense that it may be unconscious bias.

Fyenwiiw Tue 13-Oct-20 17:12:57

Yes, in England. I think it is unusual to actually stream into separate classes in primary school but this school always has.

OP’s posts: |
Fyenwiiw Tue 13-Oct-20 17:22:06

Ihatesandwiches

School governor here. Please write a polite letter to the Chair of Governors raising your concerns. Keep it factual and concise. If it is a 'good' school they should take your concerns on board and investigate. Don't expect instant results though! The Chair needs to receive the letter, take advice, arrange a meeting and then meet with the appropriate committees and decide a response. Takes an age under normal circumstances and with Covid might take a bit longer. But yes, do bring your concerns to their attention!

Thanks, good idea. Do you think it would be better to get a group of parents to put their names to the letter or would that make me look like a ringleader spreading dissent?

OP’s posts: |
Ihatesandwiches Tue 13-Oct-20 17:32:22

Depends. If it something you and others having been talking about and agree is an issue, then yes. If it's a personal issue, just go for it. Shouldn't matter either way. You raise an issue, they need to address it.

Lougle Tue 13-Oct-20 17:46:01

You shouldn't write to the chair of governors. You need to follow the complaints procedure. You need to write to the Head Teacher and give them the opportunity to respond.

prh47bridge Tue 13-Oct-20 18:10:51

Agree with Lougle - raise it with the head before going to the governors.

timeforanewstart Tue 13-Oct-20 18:17:06

My ds primary used to stream for maths and english as my ds would of struggled to keep up with higher class at first eventually they moved up but it wasn't made clear to children about sets

RedskyAtnight Tue 13-Oct-20 19:18:32

I thought streaming was generally considered to be poor practice these days? So really surprised your primary school does it. Even worse if the streaming seems to have an element of unconscious bias.

eleventylevennamechanges Tue 13-Oct-20 19:22:02

Is there any possibility at all that it might be a result of grouping children with English as a second language?
If not, I do think it should be raised with the head.

Useruseruserusee Tue 13-Oct-20 19:24:34

Streaming in primary is seen as poor practice now. I’m also surprised that this is happening. It really puts a ceiling on what those in the lower streams aspire to.

I would ask what the criteria is for streaming - is it a test paper or is it teacher judgement?

MerryMarigold Tue 13-Oct-20 19:32:42

I would write the letter outlining concerns. I would then ask for the overall breakdown of kids of colour / white and the streams. I would also personally ask for the free school meals overall breakdown and how that is broken down in the streams. I would make it my personal agenda to get rid of the streams.

Apple31419 Tue 13-Oct-20 19:46:23

Second @MerryMarigold and make it a freedom of information request.
Schools need to keep data on ethnicity and will be able to provide you with a breakdown.

Fyenwiiw Wed 14-Oct-20 10:44:56

Thanks for the advice. I will start with an email to the head and see what they say.

OP’s posts: |
Fyenwiiw Thu 12-Nov-20 14:11:50

So, on making a complaint to the Head Teacher, he basically told me that he doesn't recognise any ethnic differences across the different streams and they know how to do the best for all the children so I should leave them to get on with their job. I'm mindful that they must be really stressed right now and I don't want to pick a fight with my child's school but It doesn't feel right to leave it be when I'm sure there is an issue. Next step is either a)freedom of information request on ethnicity across the streams (but I have the feeling they will use GDPR as an excuse not to give me the data) or b)letter to Governors (but without any hard evidence I can't make a very strong case).

OP’s posts: |
prh47bridge Thu 12-Nov-20 15:05:14

They shouldn't use GDPR to refuse aggregate data. They can't tell you who is in which stream nor can they give any information that would allow you to identify individuals but aggregate data should be fine.

Porcupineinwaiting Mon 16-Nov-20 19:54:36

It might also be worth asking for a copy of the criteria used to assign children to a stream and whether this is periodically reviewed. That should be freely available (after all, if everything is clear and above board then no reason it shouldn't be shared with parents)

charlieclown Mon 16-Nov-20 19:58:02

I agree you should take this on.

They shouldnt refuse your FOI under GDPR. Be clear in your request that you want the data agregated.

I would approach it with an FOI next and then to the governors. Indeed it should go to the head as a complaint before the governors, but this isnt a complaint is it? It is a question about how the school is lead and managed. and indeed you have now raised it with the head and haven't had a satisfactory response.

SJaneS48 Mon 16-Nov-20 21:16:49

I think the PP who brought up that a percentage of these children might not have English as a first language could be pertinent. Can you give us any insight on this OP?

PresentingPercy Mon 16-Nov-20 22:41:59

If your DC are at the school, how were they assigned a stream? Is there a policy on the web site about how this works? Is there an assessment policy?

You could find there is rigorous assessment and this has informed teaching groups. That certainly happens in y6 as dc approach Sats. As long as the school can demonstrate it’s assessing according to its procedures, it could be that some dc, as you describe, do end up in the lower group but that the decision is reasonable based on assessment data. If they need extra help, maybe it’s the best way of giving it? It’s very lazy though!

Can you demonstrate they are not assessing accurately? Could it be that the children you mention do actually need the extra help they are getting? Bottom sets do provide this but, in my view, it’s not a desirable way to organise teaching.

Do you actually want your dc in this school? Private schools often set, (Scholarship set etc) but not state schools. Far too judgemental for most parents!! If it’s a private school, they will never admit to being wrong!

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