Wednesday, February 01, 2006

"Yes, we discriminate"

The Dr is unwell today, and much-miffed to miss some drinkies tonight, upstairs in the Gherkin. Probably just as well, though. They can't have had time to fix the windows.

Her wellness was not helped by yesterday's feature on her old school in the lefty propaganda. The Dr is, of course, a passionate, academic and professional believer in inclusion and access, and not keeping "the wrong sorts" out. She's written in and everything.

I, too, went to a faith school, but one that was open to everyone. Was the only practicing Caff-lick in my year by the end. And did horrendously badly at Religion GCSE 'cos I pretty much assumed I already knew the stuff. Knew, yes; thought about, not really...

A concern with faith schools is that discriminating in favour of particular demographics isn't just about which flavour of God you believe in. The Guardian article makes it quite clear that the religion bracket overlaps with the region's economic and class divisions, and I'd be surprised if there wasn't also a case for it overlapping racial divides, too.

Of course, all this over-subscription and ability to choose stems from perceptions of school success. Which basically means exam results. And note that it's the school choosing the pupils, not the pupils/parents choosing which school best suits them.

The reason schools want to cherry-pick their pupils is it's not the school that is judged in exams, it's the pupils. So you want kids from middle-class backgrounds with pushy parents... and again I'd venture that the faith school's demographic also overlaps there.

Only the other week, I heard an alternative to listing schools by their highest achievers:
"I was engaged in writing a report for the government back in 1993, in which I advocated the argument that schools were there to add value, and that the best measure of performance was value added.

It would be helpful to the parents of kids who do not look like doing well if their school profiles could declare for, say, children who had not achieved level 1 in key stage 1, how they had improved in performance by the end of key stage 2, and similarly, for a secondary school, for those who have come in with, say, level 2 or less in English and maths, how they had done by the end of key stage 3. Parents could then look not at who is top of the GCSE league, but at which schools are good at caring for and helping kids like theirs."

Lord Dearing, House of Lords, 19 January 2006, Cols. 792-3.

See also the next speaker, Baroness Massey of Darwen, discussing a school's responsibilities to its local community - the complete antithesis of the faith school's approach.

My main objection, I think, is that the selection process does not fit the teachings of the faith that the school claims to profess. Imagine a church arguing that its focus was not the parish and community immediately around it (making links with other faiths, helping the homeless and poor, etc.), but attracting those from other parishes more likely to get into Heaven, and prepared to make the commute...

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