Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Lotteries used to break middle-class hold on British school places

More destructive Leftist thinking.  A school is only "good" if  its pupils are.  The best buildings and the best teachers will do little if large numbers of dumb and  unruly pupils are introduced to the school.  Random admissions simply ensure that NO school is good

Tens of thousands of children face losing the automatic right to a place at their local secondary school amid a surge in the number of comprehensives using lottery-style admissions policies.

Figures show that around one-in-12 schools employ rules designed to engineer a more balanced student body and break the middle-class stranglehold on places.

Research by the Telegraph reveals that the number of highly oversubscribed secondary schools employing lotteries or “fair banding” systems rises close to 100 per cent in parts of London.

Across England, half of councils confirmed at least one school used them.

The shift is being driven by an increase in the number of academies and free schools that control their own admissions policies – independent of local council control.

The head of one major academies chain told the Telegraph that it was no longer “inherently fair or good for our society” to allow parents to move into the catchment area of a top school to secure a place.

Just a week before almost 600,000 children across England are allocated secondary schools for September, Sir Daniel Moynihan, chief executive of the Harris Federation, said it was wrong for an academy in an affluent area to “take its entire intake from right next door because it would be socially exclusive”.

A report to be published this week by the Sutton Trust will also reinforce the case for dismantling traditional catchment areas, saying access to the most popular comprehensives should “not be limited to those who can afford to pay a premium on their mortgages or rents”.

But the disclosure will provoke an outcry among parents who fear children’s futures are being dictated by the “roll of a dice”, with pupils often being turned away from a nearby school in favour of one several miles away.

Janette Wallis, senior editor of The Good Schools Guide, said: “Lotteries for school places are unpopular with parents. It makes school allocation feel excessively random and you end up with the awful cases of children who live on a school's doorstep being given a school across town.

“Most parents we talk to prefer the devil they know to the devil they don't.

The Department for Education said admissions were run by individual schools or councils but insisted places “should be allocated in a fair and transparent way”.

Parents will find out which state secondary school their children have been allocated as part of National Offer Day on Monday, March 3.

Most schools have traditionally allocated places based on distance between a pupil’s home and the school gates. It has allowed wealthier parents to buy property close to the best schools to secure places, with research suggesting that living in the catchment area of a highly sought-after institution can add an average £31,500 “premium” on to house prices.

But admissions guidance first introduced by Labour allows institutions to employ a series of measures designed to break the stranglehold.

Lotteries – or “random allocation” – involve some or all applicants having their names drawn from a ballot, giving pupils living several miles away the same chance of a place as those next door.

The “fair banding” system sees all applicants sit an aptitude test, with a set number of bright, average and low-ability pupils being admitted. Schools usually use distance or a lottery to decide who gets a place within each ability band.

Mrs Wallis said many parents "find fair banding complicated", but insisted it was preferable to straight lotteries because "its goals are clearer".

Last week, the Telegraph obtained data on the admissions policies of more than 1,400 schools – 43 per cent of those nationally.

Half of local authorities surveyed said at least one school in their area used lotteries, fair banding or both.

In total, eight per cent – one-in-12 – of the schools identified employed these admissions policies. Twice as many used fair banding as lotteries.

Extrapolated nationally, it would result in more than 260 schools using them.

Controversially, Brighton Council introduced rules in 2007 requiring all local oversubscribed schools to allocate places using random allocation.

The Coalition has since banned local authorities from imposing city-wide admissions lotteries.

But figures obtained by the Telegraph show that lotteries or banding systems are used by large numbers of schools in some areas to allocate places for this September.

In Hackney, east London, 10 out of 15 schools employ fair banding and two – The Petchey Academy and Mossbourne Community Academy – use both systems.

Speaking to the Telegraph, Sir Daniel said all Harris secondary academies used banding and two also employed lottery systems.

“I don’t think there is anything inherently fair in saying, ‘if I live right next to a school I need to get a place’,” he said.

“We have got some schools in quite affluent areas where there are multi-million pound homes – think Crystal Palace – and it would be wrong for that school to take its entire intake from right next door because it would be socially exclusive.

“So it uses fair banding and a lottery to take its children from a wider spread and that seems fair.

“I don’t see why it’s fair for someone living a quarter of a mile away to have a smaller chance of getting in than someone who’s next door because they can pay higher house prices.”

This week, a report from the Sutton Trust will show the full extent to which random allocation and banding is employed within England’s state education system.

It will recommend the adoption of a national banding exam for schools that choose to use the system – ending the current policy in which secondaries use a myriad of different tests.

Conor Ryan, the trust’s director of research, said: “Access to the most popular comprehensives should not be limited to those who can afford to pay a premium on their mortgages or rents. Banding or random allocation can allow pupils to access these schools from a wider area, and this can mean fairer admissions in heavily oversubscribed inner city schools.”

The latest issue of The Good Schools Guide – released this month – says lotteries “are starting to appear in popular city schools”, adding that there is “no known way of working this system to your advantage and when lots of schools in an area ballot for entry it can lead to parents having no effective influence on where there child goes”.

A DfE spokesman said: “More and more parents have the choice of a good school place thanks to our reforms – the number of children in failing secondary schools has fallen by a quarter of a million since 2010.

“We have turned these schools round by allowing outstanding sponsors and brilliant heads to lead them. We have given our teachers the freedom to teach the way they know works best. We are introducing a rigorous new curriculum and tough new exams that will match the world’s best. We are also allowing good schools to expand and great new schools to open where parents want them.

“The new admissions code is clear that all school places should be allocated in a fair and transparent way.”


Fury at school places lotteries: Local children losing out on best places as one in 12 comprehensives shun traditional catchment areas

Local pupils are losing out on going to the best schools, as new figures reveal one in 12 comprehensives are shunning traditional catchment areas.

In an attempt to break the middle-class stranglehold on top state schools, many are using 'lottery' systems to choose children from a far wider area than in the past.

Some are using a method of random picking of names out a hat from all applications; including those from miles away with no preference for children living nearby.

Others are using a system called 'fair banding' with aptitude tests for all applicants and then selecting equal numbers of 'bright, average and low ability' pupils.

The findings come from a survey of 1,400 schools - around 43pc of those in Britain. One in 12 used one of these systems, and fair banding was twice as common as random allocation of places.

The practice has become widespread with half of local authorities questioned saying there was at least one school in their area which used these methods .

Brighton council introduced controversial rules in 2007 requiring all local schools to accept pupils based o random allocation.

The Coalition has banned local authorities from using citywide admissions, but the Department for Education say schools and councils can otherwise run their own admission policy as long as places are 'allocated in a fair and transparent way'.

These systems are believed to be spreading across the state sector after being pioneered in academies and free schools, and are aimed at giving poorer children a better chance of success.

The head of one major chain of academies said it was no longer 'inherently fair or good for society' to let parents move into the catchment area of a good school to guarantee their child a place.

But the policy provokes anger among parents, whose child has lost out on a place at a school across the road due to a 'roll of the dice'. In the past schools usually allocated places based on the distance of a pupil's home from the school gates. A good school in an area can add £30,000 to local house prices.

Janette Wallis, senior editor at The Good Schools Guide, told the Sunday Telegraph: 'Lotteries for school places are unpopular with parents. It makes school allocation feel excessively random and you end up with awful cases of children who live on a school's doorstep being given a school across town.'

A report by the Sutton Trust think tank this week is expected to bolster the case for random allocation, saying comprehensives should 'not be limited to those who can afford to pay a premium on their mortgage or rent.'

So far 1,014 state schools have been taken out of local authority control.

But Sir Daniel Moynihan, the head of the Harris Federation which is one of the largest chains of academies yesterday spoke of the 'very very heavy resistance' this programme has attracted from local authorities. He accused councils of being too willing to accept 'failing' schools as inevitable.


Inner-city academy investigated after being accused of 'side-lining' its non-Muslim staff and trying to put Islamic studies on curriculum

An 'outstanding' inner-city academy is to be investigated over claims non-Muslim staff are being treated unfairly and staff are attempting to introduce Islamic studies to the curriculum.

Non faith-based Park View Academy in the Alum Rock area of Birmingham was the first academy in Britain to be rated 'outstanding' by Ofsted.

It will now be investigated by Department of Education (DfE) officials following a complaint by an employee.

The complaint is believed to include claims non-Muslim staff are being treated unfairly at the state school - which also manages two other schools in the city.

The unnamed employee also claims the school has been attempting to introduce Islamic studies on to the curriculum, it is believed.

This is not the first time the DfE has received a complaint about the school. In 2013 Ofsted was informed the school ruled female students were not to be taught tennis by male teachers.

Today, the department said they were aware of the concerns surrounding the school and they will take firm action is any breaches of statutory public sector equality duty are found.

The case will no doubt draw comparisons to controversies surrounding Britain's first Muslim free school - the Al-Madinah school in Derby, which will now stop teaching in summer.

The Government was forced to step in after an Ofsted report warned the academy in Derby was in chaos.

The schools inspectorate report detailed concerns over quality of teaching and the curriculum at the academy, amid claims it was imposing strict Islamic practices such as forcing women to wear headscarves.

Schools minister Lord Nash said at the time: ‘It would simply not be in the interests of parents or pupils at the secondary school to continue to fund provision which has failed them in the manner now apparent.’

A source in Whitehall told The Sunday Times the DfE did not want the school to 'become another Al-Madinah'. They added the department were keen to make sure the school was still viewed as one of the best in the country.

Lindsey Clark, Park View's executive head, said faith classes were being organised - but for after school lessons. She said it was a 'safeguarding issue' for children being hit in local madrasahs.

She said a large number of Muslims worked among a mixed workforce at the school.

She did however admit the school's governors ruled female pupils must only be taught my female teachers.

The DfE said: 'We are aware of concerns around this school and are looking into the issues raised. All state schools must comply with the statutory public sector equality duty.

'We will not hesitate to take firm action if breaches of these requirements occur. It would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.'


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