BBC: The Big School Lottery
Well, after my quick comment on this last week, I thought I’d better watch it. If you didn’t you can catch up on iPlayer.
Although not about faith schools they did appear prominently. In fact, I found the whole thing quite depressing. The UK’s schools admissions systems is not only distorted by faith schools but there are also catchment areas and, in some places, grammar schools to consider. (Let’s not even get into private education.)
Each of these has it’s own insidious effect I would imagine. Grammar schools – all very well if your child passes the 11+ but what if she doesn’t? What if (as I believe happens) one of your children passes and the other doesn’t? Catchment areas? The best schools are in the more affluent areas due to the intake, so more parents want to move there, so house prices rise, and so on.
The programme was (in the first episode at least) just a presentation of what actually happens. Although this gives the lie to the Government’s “parental choice” mantra it doesn’t go anywhere towards looking at what can be done to improve the system. It did not address this question at all with respect to faith schools or grammar schools. There was an attempt to ask about the fairness of catchment areas when they questioned the woman who was in charge of admissions in Birmingham1 if she sympathised with parents giving false addresses to get the schools they wanted.
I hope that the subsequent programmes in this series look at this – or it will be a glaring omission. It seems to me that the inequalities created by faith schools are the least justified and the most easily addressed. Opponents of grammar schools may feel the same way, but I haven’t looked into this. Catchment areas are probably the hardest problem to address.
It’s worth contrasting with the recent Dawkins film where just one problem with the admissions system was looked at and – crucially – the questions of fairness, the impact on teaching some subjects, and social cohesion were examined.
1 This was the funniest moment in the film. When she was going about spying on houses to see if the child really did live where the parents said they did, she said something like “we do this to help parents identify where they live”. No you don’t. The parents know damn well where they live: you’re doing it to identify parents who are lying on their application form!