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Access to private schools/Can you buy a place?

(67 Posts)
pithy Sat 19-Jan-13 18:35:11

You will pay fees, if not on a bursary. However, it is often suspected that the most academic schools will discretely ignore mediocre entry test scores for those whose parents' face fits in terms of wealth/contacts/influence. Any teachers willing to spill the beans?

Copthallresident Sun 20-Jan-13 16:31:30

horsemadmom She was there with her daughter looking round at the sixth form open evening. I don't doubt she is nice but both Mary and daughter were walking around and interacting with staff as if their presence was a privilege. We weren't the only ones to comment. With 500 applications for 50 places I just wondered if they had ended up there.

Mominatrix Sun 20-Jan-13 16:53:46

Lainiekazan, you do know that money and brains are not mutually exclusive. Those rich Chinese and Russians just might also be very bright. There are many very wealthy boys at my sons's school. Believe it or not, they are also extremely able academically as well as in other things.

interest Sun 20-Jan-13 16:55:03

A couple of boys with very rich parents (one with royal connections) recently tried and failed to get into the top couple of London day schools, plus Eton and Harrow, so I doubt you can "buy" a place at these.

eminemmerdale Sun 20-Jan-13 17:29:42

William and Harry? I may be being facetious, but did they really have to take Eton's entrance test?

pithy Sun 20-Jan-13 18:00:05

I'm interested, from a social justice point of view, in just how scrupulous these institutions really are! Many are charities, with commensurate tax breaks, and thus paint an image of genteel virtuosity. Glossy brochures promote fair play - both on the field and off grin Plus, alumni take up a disproportionate number of RG places.

GinandJag Sun 20-Jan-13 18:08:53

I'm not getting what your problem is, pithy.

stealthsquiggle Sun 20-Jan-13 18:24:31

pithy - it's a private school. Why do they have to be scrupulously fair and transparent? It's a business and if they are oversubscribed then surely they can pick on any basis they damned well like, however arbitrary?

Nickmom Sun 20-Jan-13 18:44:27

Having worked in the admissions office of arguable the most difficult school to get a place at, I can tell you that money for bursaries does not grow on trees. Building expansions and improvements have to be funded. Therefore, all classes are structured to include parents who will help fund this. If it can usually be done without compromising academic standards. Rich people may have smart children and if not they can hire lots of tutors!

Copthallresident Sun 20-Jan-13 19:31:00

Sounds as if, like all businesses, some are more ethical than others. Certainly at DDs the underachievers were not especially the wealthy. In fact only moan I heard was a girl who annoyingly dominated classes asking for repeated explanations that the rest didn't need, but then she was a national team player. DD most put out another GB team member got into Yale, though far from top of class, but then I pointed out she too could have sacrificed the rest of her life to training.

TalkinPeace2 Sun 20-Jan-13 20:13:46

Sorry, but why does it matter?
You are paying a fortune to give your kids isolated schooling that is only available to the richest 10%
so if the richest 1% push in front of you but your kids still get in what is the fuss?

one of DDs friends has moved from the comp to private and describes it as boring and narrow. She says there is no colour and fun and hopes that her parents will let her move back to the comp.
Whichever school she goes to her path is towards a PhD

Copthallresident Sun 20-Jan-13 21:57:08

Talkinpeace2 Would have loved to send my DDs to a comp with colour and fun but the only place locally with places for DDs was definitely not described in those terms by Ofsted, whilst the private options most definitely do have colour and fun and stimulation. I would say around a third of parents at DDs' school were there because there wasn't a state alternative that Ofsted rated even satisfactory, certainly they are not in the richest 10%, a lot have really stretched themselves because they have clever DCs and 10 % are on bursaries anyway. There is also a wide ethnic mix and plenty of DCs from / raised in other cultures. You make your choice of school based on what best suits your DC and your family and for many of us ethics are important, so it does matter.

TalkinPeace2 Sun 20-Jan-13 22:30:51

My ethics are not the issue, my earning potential utterly rules out fee paying school.
And those who feel affronted by the uber rich nicking their good education (I'm afraid) are just getting a teeny dose of what the other 90% feel.
I'd LOVE to have my kids not educated with thick chavs, but its not an option.

Yes, schools look at the size of wallets, as do Universities

Copthallresident Mon 21-Jan-13 00:15:51

I wouldn't have the slightest problem with my DCs being educated with thick chavs/ the rest of the society that they are going to live and work amongst. I actually see that lack of social mix in their school as the gap in their education. Of course we should have an education system where every DC gets a place in a school that is rated good by Ofsted and provides an acceptable level of education, I am angry that our local politicians have failed to provide that and that is why I am an active member of a local pressure group that seeks to highlight their poor planning and strategies, which frankly have fallen short ethically. No part of society should be exempt from acting ethically, especially as private schools do benefit from privileges granted them by the rest of society .

Copthallresident Mon 21-Jan-13 00:33:30

The St Hughs case was a postgrad course, and not funded by government. It was unfair but then a lot of postgrad students do drop out because they struggle to pay fees and living costs. I don't personally think that a postgrads financial planning should be subject to scrutiny by the university but at the end of the day it is a private contract between student and university.

Where government funding is involved then universities are held accountable for admissions policies that are fair and for having in place strategies for widening access . I am an academic and we know that where we have taken contextual information into account to allow for deprivation, and other setbacks that students perform or have had effective outreach to encourage applications from candidates who might not otherwise apply that they do outperform other students so there is still a way to go but it is not for want of effort to try and overcome the complex reasons why some parts of our society are underrepresented in our universities. There is certainly no part of the ucas admissions process that would give us any indication of whether a candidate came from a wealthy family.

MsAverage Mon 21-Jan-13 08:28:08

Copthall, in real life people build up relationships based on common interests and general similarities. If you are a programmer, probably, you will have more in common with people in IT department rather than with a flamboyant sales team. If not, it means that CTO and HR officers did not do their job right at the recruiting. If you are working hard, it is unlikely that you will have loads of long-term unemployed friends.

School is a unique institution which gathers people involuntarily on the basis of a very formal and non-personal criteria: age and place of living. I do not see why social mix (which I am avoiding by seeking for friends like me and working for companies I like) should be pleasant and benefiting for my child if it is not pleasant or benefiting for me.

pithy Mon 21-Jan-13 11:14:44

The Oxford case is interesting TalkinPeace. In the US, it is not unusual at Ivy League undergrad level, for the DCs of wealthy donors to be admitted with lower SAT scores. Such DC of the rich are known as "legacy" students.
The above article in the Wall Street Journal, on the prospects of well connected Groton Grads (Groton is an elite, New England school) should alarm us all. It basically says that students with near perfect SATs are being rejected in favour of richer and other minority groups.
The piece is ten years old, so the practise could be more prevalent now. And they say Britain lags popular US customs by around a decade.

Copthallresident Mon 21-Jan-13 13:32:57

MsAverage as an academic who studies other cultures I think empathy and the ability to understand other people's perspectives and see beyond the stereotypes is one of the most valuable qualities we can develop in our children. Those are the qualities that will enable our children to contribute to solving the problems facing society and the world, not to mention put the Daily Mail out of business. My DC s did get fed up with encountering narrow minded attitudes in their peers, that for instance couldn't appreciate that their private school gave them an advantage over their peers in a failing school down the road. Thankfully their school that as an issue too, and had strategies to address it, mentoring schemes, shared activities, training, revision classes etc. DDs both learnt a lot from these activities. I have no idea how you live but if it is in a selfmade bubble I suggest you get out more, you might find the rest of the world are not as unpleasant as you think.

Copthallresident Mon 21-Jan-13 13:58:44

pithy From what I have seen and heard of the undergraduate admissions process, at Oxbridge as well as Russell Group there is simply no room in the strategies for widening access for these sorts of arrangements. What unis are seeking are the students who will do best on their course , so it is actually true that the process is less forgiving for those from a private school background, albeit the playing field is still not entirely level for the disadvantaged. However that is because there is still not enough being done in schools to encourage bright pupils and equip them to apply. That is where the focus is. This exposes the process at Cambridge

This appears to be a debate based on emotion and prejudice rather than any sort of knowledge. It is beyond me how you can extrapolate from a system engrained in the American Ivy League , always subject to the free market, to a system that has a very different social context. Even the current government has not abandoned the university system entirely to the Free Market. Postgrads are a little different as for some time universities have used them as something of a moneymaking opportunity, since very few are studying subjects that will be of benefit to society and therefore get funding , rather than themselves. I speak as someone who has funded herself through two Masters, in the 80s and noughties, you were never under any illusions that you were anything but a cash cow.

lainiekazan Mon 21-Jan-13 14:02:33

People on MN often extoll the virtues of "mixing with other cultures" and learning to get on with all and how ethnically diverse their dc's private school is. What they really mean is that it's ok to rub shoulders with ds of cardiologist who happens to be Indian whilst avoiding chavs in monocultural comprehensive.

marriedinwhite Mon 21-Jan-13 14:07:26

Got it in one *lainiekazan*. Removed dd from top 100 comp after two years because the chavs were so foul and nothing was done about their behaviour. I wouldn't chose to mix with people like that socially and I certainly wouldn't employ them - if I did they would be disciplined and through the revolving doors as quickly as possible. Couldn't see any reason at all why my dd should have to put up with at school.

Miggsie Mon 21-Jan-13 14:08:36

I know someone who spoke of "influence" who couldn't get his child into their school of choice.
I know someone whose child passed the very high entrance test but said cild was later asked to leave as they didn't like the child's attitude - even though they were the cleverest in the school by a long way.
I know a headmaster who selects primarily on interview - the academic tests do not guarantee a place even if you achieve the nominal pass mark
I have been told that my DD will have "no trouble" getting into a certain 6th form - we were not discussing the academic side here.
I know a school where the head is obsessed with scholarships - only the brightest are wanted there - any child who might have a personality of their own has no chance to shine.

I also know my brother has pulled strings to get his friends children and his own into certain universities - as he knows the lecturers in charge of the departments. I think it may be worse at uni because if you get 200 students all predicted A* and forms all filled in pretty much the same and only a short interview to decide then probably a personal recommendation that X will work hard and is motivated will make the university's life easier in the long run.

pithy Mon 21-Jan-13 14:52:27

Where is the prejudice in wishing society to be more meritocratic? I am simply trying to ascertain whether access to elite educational establishments, is fair and without prejudice! Please give examples of affect and prejudice in any of the above.
Our current government has appointed an access tzar to our top universities, so feels the subject is worthy of scrutiny. Acres of newsprint is devoted to the topic. A transparent and accessible education system is central to the democratic process, and of interest to many people, don't you think?

loveyouradvice Mon 21-Jan-13 15:38:28

I think there is a "fudge" line here... they have discretion to admit who they want ... if highly academic, they know someone unacademic would not flourish there and dont take them... but we all know that there are a fair number just above and below the line (which is a mix of exam/interview/head's ref/general feel/siblings/etc)... and I have know a couple of instances where someone just below the line was nudged above it because of influence.... to a highly selective London girls school.

That said, I believe they should be accountable as they are run as "charities" and are therefore subsidised by taxpayers money ... so are not a law unto their own...

And do remember they all say they are looking for those with most "promise/ability" and pride themselves on weeding out overtutored kids... which gives them masses of wiggle room!

Copthallresident Mon 21-Jan-13 15:44:54

marriedinwhite I could repeat your paragraph almost word for word except my DD2 left for other sixth forms with 25% of her year and it was a private school that often features in the top 10 and they weren't chavs. Being at a private school doesn't necessarily mean all DCs have benefited from good parenting or not had traumatic lives. And bullying and bad behaviour by amoral attention seeking clever girls with terrible issues of their own to deal with is very hard to deal with. I could also quote DD1 after a week away with her cousins who live on a Council estate and attend a school in the bottom 100, possibly the bottom 10 (as one cousin said "I were reet good at Maths, I got a C") "I would much rather have spent a week with nice funny down to earth people like that than have to put up with some of the stuck up bitches at school who would look down on them" (and she was in a nice year). The issue of poor behaviour not being dealt with can be an issue in all schools. I don't doubt we bought privilege for our DDs in terms of a school focused on equipping them to do well in exams but that doesn't necessarily equate to an ideal education, or immunity from DCs with serious problems.

pithy I thought I had made it clear I do want a meritocratic system and an education system that doesn't tolerate huge differences in the quality of education on offer. The admissions Tsar is stepping in to a process that has been going on for years. Short of quotas unis are employing every strategy they can think of and pouring money into outreach etc. in order to level the playing field. I work with a mentoring charity that helps bright black west indian children to be provided with positive role models. All the universities are falling over themselves to help, not least because with the right support these DCs get firsts. However in London it can only scratch the surface of all the bright DCs in schools who are not given the right support, channelled into making the wrong exam choices, discouraged from applying to elite universities etc. Sadly acres of newsprint are given up to reinforcing prejudice and stereotypes and cashing in on the chips on people's shoulders, whether that is because they feel that private school pupils are being discriminated against or Universities are bastions of influence and priviledge. Did you read the link I posted, that is what is a fair picture of what goes on at Cambridge. How would you do that differently?

marriedinwhite Mon 21-Jan-13 15:48:55

If you are in London*Copthall* I can imagine the schools you are talking about and agree with you. We moved dd somewhere more holistic. She wouldn't have got into a top 10 indy anyway which is why we took a chance on the top 100 comp.

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