There is a new selection scandal brewing in education, as apparently some schools are still finding ways to cream off the cleverest children, who often happen to come from middle-class homes, i.e. the ones which have books.
Dame Sally Coates, who turned around Burlington Danes Academy in Hammersmith and Fulham in West London, has demanded an independent review of school admissions policies across the whole nation, to investigate what she claims are widespread use of covert selection policies.
She says that banding tests for five ability groups are too hard in the lowest ability bands, so that even pupils in the bottom set can be brighter than average.
Aptitude tests, allowed to select up to ten percent of pupils in schools which have a specialist subject, such as music or science, in effect become ‘ability tests.’
And in faith schools parents, which in this case seems to apply to Christian schools only, although she doesn’t say it, can be asked to prove their allegiance to a particular religious faith, which she says, is used as a ‘social filter’ to take in pupils from more affluent homes.
Only a very bright person, perhaps someone from GCHQ could make sense of all this, or perhaps someone who has made an academic study of class paranoia.
How does this ‘social filter’ work? Parents either go to church with their children or they don’t. Could it be that yummy mummies are making extra brownies and doing some church flower arranging on the side, to gain an extra favourable letter to the desired school from the vicar? They should be watched closely, with CCTV cameras installed in all our parish rooms and church halls. And how are schools which have a special emphasis, and hope to gain a reputation for their speciality supposed to select if not on the basis of talent and ability? Only in England could a dance academy be required to take in children with two left feet.
Dame Sally says such tests are a ‘smokescreen’ for testing for ability. Heaven forbid that talent and ability ever raise their ugly heads in British schools again. If they do, what will the last fifty years and the likes of Dame Sally and her friends have been about?