Wednesday, October 29, 2008

[drayton manor] test case on admissions criteria

About the Drayton Manor High School thing and the principal, the fabulously named Sir Pritpal Singh ...

This is a test case, in a way, as it highlights the right of schools to determine their own admissions policy. In simple-speak, it means that the school will seek to minimize intake of "dead-loss students", thereby maintaining quality of education and classroom ambience, thereby boosting its rankings in the league tables.

Before the egalitarian, mediocratic procrusteans leap onto this, let me put in a word for the independent schools [no one inside calls them "private"]. If you call yourself a libertarian, i.e. the freedom to choose the education you want for your child and the freedom to set up a school which will deliver it, you can't therefore knock a school which aims for excellence.

You can't have it both ways. Either ALL schools work to a mediocratic median point and are open to ALL pupils regardless or else you allow choice and then there is ... well ... choice, such as Drayton Manor has made.

Anyone inside the system, as I once was, knows that the majority of independent schools are small and they struggle to gain good pupils. There are ethical limits to advertising and soliciting and you are only as good as:

1. your courses of study, professionalism of staff and care for the children;
2. your academic results.

Where the argument becomes shaky is that Drayton is a comprehensive in Ealing and some might say that, by using taxpayers' money, then it should, by definition be egalitarian, no matter what.

I'd humbly disagree.

In a semi-ideal system, parents would have the choice of two or three schools in the area and while not all three schools could apply the same criteria, as it would mean exclusion for the incapable, [an LEA matter], there is no reason why enhanced Key Stage test scores [SATs in the U.S.] could not be a criterion for entry or the schools own admissions test.

Back in the private system, now Ofsted controlled in the UK, we had an academic admissions test and it was up to the parents as to whether they could afford the fees, which were quite affordable, it being a small school.

There were international students and many from black, sub-continental and Asian background - the only criterion was the pass score and whether we felt we were able to assist the learning impaired [we had special needs facility]. Now the thing which came through loud and clear at PFA meetings was that it was the non-white parents who were most vehement that "dead-end" ASBOs not be admitted.

They had chosen to place their children in the school and this was their directive - to maintain the high standards and be ruthless with behavioural distractions. I've said that we had one criterion but of course that was combined with the interview process and whether both felt the school was of benefit to that child.

I would defend to the end the right of parents to determine that they wish their children to be in a "good school" and the way to achieve that is with an admissions policy set by the school itself.

1 comment:


I think conduct requirements of children would not go amiss in any school.