School reforms

Johann Hari, who is generally lovely, sidestepped the primary school review thingy and has this to say about secondary schools.

It amounts to a forced mixing up of backgrounds in state schools (so you don’t get post-code apartheid). A quota of free-school-meal kids has to be filled but cannot exceed 40%. Mixing it with the Guardian classes is apparently enough to raise all boats.

The Netherlands has a system where schools get more funding for taking on free-school-meal kids – the idea being it would force all schools to take a few but not so many that it drives results down.


2 thoughts on “School reforms

  1. I read the article and initially agreed with the sentiment of the article. On reflection I think there are a few problems with the idea. This boils down to the fact that there are many ways to divide up a school.

    The problem is that even within schools that have a range of intakes pupils are placed in sets from a young age. And as a techer told me the other day, even before they are officially setted the tables they sit on are often arranged according to ability so even if school intake were more mixed this could just make streaming of pupils within a school more pronounced.

    This implys to me that if we have some kids who are doing well and some who are doing less well in a school intake, however you arrange things you will end up the lower ability kids concentrated together. This may happen through different schools, different classes or even different tables.

    Assuming that we eliminate setting altogether in our schools so we are teaching a wider range of abilities in one class. We may reduce the numbers not engaging with the system at all but we will also reduce the high achievers, as the pace must drop so the interesting but not examined asides will be pushed out.

    So do we need elite classes, schools, pupils? Or should we accept less A*s to get more Cs.

    I personally think that on balance it is right to reduce the attainment of some indivduals for the purposes of encouraging equality.

  2. I guess the seating arrangements can be directed by the teacher.

    I think, firstly, if you have a school with 60% ‘Guardian readers’ rather than 20%, you’ll be better off, no matter where they sit. Then do away with sets as you said.
    Even if the free-school-meal kids sit together, it’s dramatically different to a school concentrated with them.

    Also, the evidence suggests that top pupils don’t get brought down by sharing a school with free-school-meal kids (And by evidence I mean more things cited by Johann Hari – ). So I don’t think it’s a case of giving up A*s to help the Cs.

    It’s all about how you contrive to make it happen – Brighton has the lottery system; Dutch has the funding system; North Carolina has a regional bureaucracy to manage it.

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