Equality in schools(17 Posts)
My child is coming to the end of her time in school but since year 7 ds has worked so hard with so much effort. In year 7 and 8 ds worked so hard and obtained 100 percent in many subjects at exam times. Ds has also represented the school at many times in the last 5/6 years. Ds has also been a part of the school choir. In Ds year there are only 5 of them from Ds year that attends. The annual prize giving is held every year and last year Ds was asked to sing in the choir during the prize evening. 4 of Ds friends gets a prize in on the evening but Ds is left to watch them receiving their prizes, The same thing is about to happen again where the same 4 have been chosen to receive a prize but Ds has not. I don't understand how they choose who receives prizes or not. The same people have received prizes since year 7. My Ds has done exactly the same as them and better at exams. It really brings a lump to my throat to think that my Ds has to sit there watching them receive their prizes. Should I sit quietly and say nothing or should it be brought to their attention how much they are hurting children. I don't believe this is equality.
I assume this is an independent school. I have experience of prize giving at two independent schools and as far as I could tell, merit is not necessarily a criteria.
I have a cynical view I'm afraid but some of the prize winners were not worthy and, worse, the girls knew they were not. Therefore it is a 'beauty parade' of favourite children and, worst of all, is a reward for parental generosity and status. This could be the only reason for a girl winning 7 prizes one year. No reason for this whatsoever as far as anyone could tell and certainly not an academic genius. Other connections counted for more apparently.
What to do about it? I let them know of our disquiet. Not a British thing to do of course. Last prize day so nothing to lose! I know others complained too. Decisions like this caused rifts in the 6th form. Most young people hate obvious unfairness and plain favouritism. My DD won a choral scholarship at an Oxford College, the only one ever obtained by a pupil of the school, and still didn't get a music prize of any type (and they had quite a lot to give). If you have the stomach for it, ask questions. If you have more years to go, then think twice. I am sure posters will say you should suck it up and don't go to a school that gives prizes. Both of those are options of course!
At our school the prizes are for effort and improvement, not for absolute achievement. If they were then the only kids who got prizes would be the same small group of Scholars.
I know that it hurts at the time but, really, in the grand scheme of things, does it matter? In twenty years' time who will care who won the William Sutherland Cup for Woodwind.
Tell your DC that, in the grown-up world, hard work and aptitude get rewarded, as long as they stand up for themselves and don't get taken advantage of.
I don't think schools can win though. Our school has this ridiculous idea that every child leaving year 6 has to have a prize to keep parents happy, and so it completely devalues any award. If I was allowed to give prizes to the best and maybe most improved/effort it would be lovely. Inevitably some children would end up with several awards - but because they actually deserved them.
The same kids get the prizes at my daughter's school every year. It might seem harsh but I believe that a prize should be given to the child who best meets the criteria for that prize. At my school there's one for academic achievement and one for outstanding effort. The cleverest kid in terms of exam results gets the academic one and the child who has extra learning support and works incredibly hard gets the other. Sucks for the second cleverest child but why should the one who wins it be penalised simply in the interests of "fairness"?
It sounds as though your DS is performing well but you really don't know how well the others are doing. They too may be getting 100% in all their exams and perhaps perform better on coursework or class participation.
The last year of DS2's prep school life at the annual prize giving the same two pupils won all the prizes (16) bar 1 and that was only because it was a sport neither did, many had beaten both of them in various subject which prizes were being awarded at CE or other entrance exams. By the end all the other parents/grand parents/children etc had stopped clapping, quite a few were tutting and some were making comments quite loudly about how it was a fiddle , a couple actually quietly booed!
But this has been the same throughout DS2's career, 1 year one won a prize for a sport he'd only done once badly and then given up beating a county champion! It had become a standing joke amongst all the other parents in DSs year. The last year quite a few parents didn't even attend as they knew how it would pan out. It has been the same the year before for the year above DS2, 1 sensible nice father who'd put four through the school and who's youngest DS had boarded for 8 years as he went at 6 was very upset, he felt that could have made up some sort of prize for his DS even if it was a "thoroughly good egg" prize.
Every year we were told that excellence was the only criteria for,winning a prize.
The weird thing it had nothing to do status or parental genoristy, a friends DH had donated a huge amount to the schools bursary fund and was very high status her DS won nothing. Both were nice kids, typical wealthy boarding prep parents, pretty able but not geniuses, they were quite simply favourites of the school staff what my DH would call the "A" team and could not put a foot wrong.
If it makes you feel better one went onto a big name and the mum openly voiced her disappointment that he was not winning endless prizes there.
The problem is that fairness matters at the time. Young people are very black and white regarding what they consider to be fair and schools risk alienating parents and children alike if the prizes are perceived as unfairly distributed. Generally the children know the 100% pupils even if the parents don't! Schools can spread prizes around and the schools my DDs attended had lots of different prizes for all sorts of subjects and attributes. The schools don't even think that one child winning 7 prizes is wrong! They could challenge that outcome if they wanted to and spread the prizes around a bit. It does work against harmony if prizes are not fairly awarded and it is very obvious if there are lots of prizes
going to a small number of pupils for spurious achievements.
I actually dont think my Ds should have a prize and certainly not some of the others that do. I do know that in a recent exam two of them had an E in maths, but ovcourse they are children of wealthy parents or whos parents have highly ranked jobs etc. I know a child in the school that was in the bottom sets when arrived but by today has moved up several sets and doing fantastically -our school dont merit these type of children which is a pitty. I do like a comment above though that in 20 yrs time who is going to remember who was awarded in the annual prize giving!!
They will remember the injustice. My DD will not forget that someone had 7 prizes in a hurry! Or that one child had a prize every single year but never an adacemic one. Occasionally a mertit one but mostly a music, boarder's prize, or an "unspecified as to how you get it" one - every year! She was not the best at anything.(Truthfully - the prize was for the parents!). The pupils lose respect for the school. Lots of schools have merit prizes and this is a good idea but I have found these distributed to the A Team as well. (I totally agree with happygardening's DH on that!).
There are so many rules and regulations regarding treating people fairlyvI dont know how schools get away with this one! The sixth formers have prizes on who got the highest grade/points at A level-I totally agree with this. Its the individual prizes I can't work out!
I agree bojorojo young people dislike unfairness, they know perfectly well if someone deserves a prizes or not, most IME are happy to celebrate the success of justifiable winners of prizes. Blatant unfairness and favouritism is I suspect very common especially at prep schools and prep school age children in particular find it very difficult to comprehend.
One of the things DS2 admired about his HM at Winchester was that he treated everyone boys and parents the same, he had no favourites or if he did have them he didn't let anyone see.
We had favouritism all the way through senior school. From HMs too. Just blatantly liked some pupils and disliked others. The same with the parents! It is good to know at least one HM was fair, happy! We never had one that was unbiased. One odd thing, it has motivated DD to do well in her career. Don't get mad, get even! They want her to go to careers events now! Her picture and achievements displayed on the Old Girls' website. They'll be tapping her up for money next - no hope there!
At dd's primary she said it got to the stage where as a prize was due to be announced (" and the winner is..." ) some of the pupils would mumble the name of the child who always won.
Funny .. but not funny too
At her secondary each subject gives 2 prizes .1 for effort/ improvement and 1 for achievement. It is a better system I think.
If there are bottom sets (plural) then it must be quite a big school.
And getting 100% regularly for exams is distinctly unusual (even for clever children in selective schools) so I tend to agree that it must be a private school with a mildly eccentric marking system for internal exams.
If lots of boys are getting high marks, then you seem to be relying on choir (what size is it?) as being a clincher? (As you don't specify what else he represented the school for).
So it is quite possible that many pupils have that sort of level of achievement.
What does your DS think of the other winners? Were the 4 from his class given awards for music?
I think it's worse this day and age too with social media etc. They send messages to each other asking if they've had a prize! One girl has been bragging about it today and asking everybody if they've had a prize for effort. I don't know whether this girls deserves it not, but there we go - she's had a prize every year since year 7 and mum works at school. I think it's a prize for mum more than anything!
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