Thursday, February 12, 2009

British fee-paying schools beat the recession: Record applications as parents give up luxuries

This tells you how bad British government schools are

Record numbers of parents are registering their children for private schools despite the recession, a survey shows today. Parents are curbing spending on designer clothes, new cars and eating out to enable them to afford the fees, head teachers said. A survey of 90 schools in the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference, representing 250 leading day and boarding schools, found that advance registrations and entrance exam attempts for places for 11-year-olds were up 1.7 per cent on last year. For 13-year-olds, they were up 7.5 per cent and for sixth-form places, they rose 8.2 per cent. Meanwhile only 0.2 per cent of pupils have had to be withdrawn from their schools so far this academic year 'for purely financial reasons', which extrapolated across HMC's 190,000 pupils gives just 380.

The survey found that nine out of ten heads believe their schools are in a strong position to withstand the recession. Richard Cairns, of Brighton College, said he would 'eat my hat' if numbers at his school were lower in September than now. 'What we are seeing are families re-evaluating what really matters,' he said. 'Designer clothes, the latest car and meals at expensive restaurants matter not a jot when set against a child's education. 'We saw record numbers attending our open morning on Saturday and we have never had so many applications.'

He added that figures showing increasing demand at schools in the survey may reflect a 'flight to quality' as parents shun lesser-known schools perceived to be financially precarious. 'With all the talk of school closures, parents are avoiding the smaller schools,' he said. 'Many of these were struggling before the recession, a consequence in large part of the mounting cost of Government red tape. 'The recession may well be the final blow that puts them out of their misery. 'One consequence of this will be a severe dislocation in the private school sector as parents send their children in greater numbers to those schools at the top end of the market but shun the smaller, less secure options.'

Michael Punt, head master of Chigwell School in Essex, said applications for both seven and 11-year-olds were up between 5 and 10 per cent. 'Parents are saying to us they are still very keen,' he added. 'We realise life is going to be hard, and get harder. 'A lot of our parents work in the financial sector or have their own businesses. 'They are making sacrifices anyway and are prepared to continue to make sacrifices. Education is one of the last things to go. 'We have had a lot of very good applications from primary school children, if anything slightly more than last year; it is not just those at local prep schools.'

Bernard Trafford, HMC chairman, said: 'Parents remain convinced of the value of a good independent education, with its high academic standards and a full all-round experience, and they will continue to invest in it for their children. 'We all recognise that conditions will probably get worse for some parents and the situation in January is, of course, only a provisional indication of what will happen later.'

A survey of councils before Christmas found that one in ten had been contacted by fee-paying parents asking for places at state schools and one in five said they expected increased demand in the near future. Most areas with large numbers of state grammar [selective] schools have seen an upturn in the number of pupils sitting the 11-plus. Town halls are braced for an influx of 11,000 children to state primary and secondary schools over the next 18 months.


Anger as some British selective schools become more selective

Admissions to the remaining government-funded selective schools are much sought after but the rules for accessing them are in flux.

Two leading girls' grammar schools are cutting back on places reserved for local children. Wallington High School and Nonsuch High School, both in Sutton, southwest London, and among the top in the country, will no longer offer 80 per cent of places to children living in the catchment area. This has infuriated parents, some of whom moved closer to the schools to gain entry. But the schools have defended the plans, saying they will ensure access to all bright children.

The move highlights the confusion surrounding the Government's revised schools admissions code. Schools must ensure admissions arrangements abide by the code in time for school entry in September 2010. But different schools are interpreting the rules differently.

Last week two grammar schools in Dorset were accused of discriminating against the middle classes after The Times revealed they give state school pupils priority in admissions over private sector pupils. In a separate move, the Schools Adjudicator ordered grammar schools in Warwickshire to stop recruiting children from outside their area. The Sutton case contradicts this ruling because the schools are deliberately increasing recruitment from outside their areas.

Under proposals for entry into Nonsuch in 2010, all places would be allocated on the basis of test scores to pupils, wherever they live. At Wallington the number of places for local children would be halved to about 60. Barbara Greatorex, headmistress of Wallington Girls, said her aim was to attract bright girls, including children of families that can't afford to buy a home near the school. “We wanted to be as fair as possible. My philosophy is that I'm open for clever girls, regardless of their background,” she said.


Thousands of South Australian teachers are opting out

If you had to stand up day after day in front of an undisciplined rabble, you might too

MORE than twice as many teachers pulled out of the education system this year compared to last year, latest figures show. Data provided exclusively to The Advertiser by the Teachers Registration Board shows 3530 teachers let their registration lapse at the start of this school year, compared to 1328 last year. While 1235 new people joined the register this year - including more than 800 graduate teachers - there was still an overall drop of 1950 teachers. Last year, 1214 new teachers entered the system.

Public preschool, school and TAFE teachers on Monday were awarded a 3.75 per cent interim pay rise by the Industrial Relations Commission. The Teachers Registration Board, which covers all school sectors, predicted there would be a "significant decrease" in the number of teachers renewing their registrations because of the "age profile" of the workforce.

SA College of Educators president Wendy Teasdale-Smith said a recent 50 per cent rise in registration fees - from $180 to $270 - and a "significant increase in bureaucracy" also could be factors. "When it was easier (to stay registered), people kept their registration going just in case they wanted to teach, but if it gets too expensive and too hard, then they may think, `I can't be bothered'," she said.

Education Minister Jane Lomax-Smith said workforce projections showed there were "sufficient overall numbers of teachers to fill jobs" in public schools for at least the next five years and there were recruitment schemes in place. Arbitration over the dispute between teachers and the State Government will still be heard in the Commission from May, and this increase will be part of the final wage rise. The Australian Education Union (SA) lodged a claim for a 7 per cent interim pay rise last October.


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