Countdown conundrum

According to the Guardian, the snow prevented David Cameron and Carol Vorderman's PR stunt at Haberdashers, planned for today.

"The Conservative leader, David Cameron, had to cancel a visit to Haberdashers' Aske's Hatcham college, an academy in New Cross, south-east London, where he was due to highlight a package of proposals aimed at improving numeracy, including a maths taskforce headed by the former Countdown host, Carol Vorderman."

Vorderman is uniquely qualified to lead such a project, having capitalised on her adding-up skills to trouser a fortune plugging loan companies to the innumerate.


Anonymous said...

Isn't that a private school? *shakes fist*

nobbly brick said...

It's not a private school but it skims off pupils from the top instead of choosing them comprehensively.

Anonymous said...

Carol Vordermann. Didn't she get a 3rd? In Engineering?

Anonymous said...

Proof indeed that a tossy education isn't everything.

Anonymous said...

glad to see someone is drawing attention to the UK's appalling education standards....

Anonymous said...

No, Nobbly Brick, not quite like that - at the time my children were applying it was doing a non-verbal reasoning test and obliged by its City Technology funding to take an equal number of pupils from the whole range of ability bands shown up by this test. It had a catchment area of three boroughs and such a reputation that it was desperately over-subscribed. This was particularly so in the higher ability bands, to the extent that someone seriously advised that the best chance of getting a place was to tell the child to deliberately fluff things.

Now it is controversially tied in to Monson Primary school to the north of the New Cross Road and also linked to the Mallory School in Downham. The admissions policy has changed but I don't know the details.

Anonymous said...

How many changes in type and name has that school had in recent times?

It don't add up.

Anonymous said...

They should call it 'Abadashaz Arks

Anonymous said...

Good. I don't want that scum round here.

Anonymous said...

I've applied for a place for my son. The admissions criteria are

1. social and medical reasons
2. cared for children
3. musically talented
4. siblings
5. proximity to the school

(perhaps not in that exact order, but certainly the first two are correct and proximity comes last)

and when monson primary is incorporated - if it hasn't happened already - the children from monson will have automatic right of transfer.

Tressilliana said...

A lot of people think that Aske's skims off from the top but that isn't actually correct. It's the parents' views that skew the intake. There are three ways to use information about a child's academic ability in admissions to comprehensive schools:

1. Don't use it at all - I believe this is standard practice in most of the UK. This means that a school in an affluent area will automatically get a more able intake and people who can buy property near those schools get an advantage.

2. Do what Lewisham and most of the other Inner London boroughs do:

- test all the children
- rank them by test score and divide them up into 5 equal-sized bands of ability
- each school aims to recruit 20% of its intake from each band

Where successful, this means that each school has a balanced intake. Unfortunately in our area not all schools can fill their Band 1A (top) places, so it doesn't always work.

3. Do what Aske's and Prendergast do:

- test all the children
- based on the score, allocate each child to one of 9 bands of ability, based on national, not local, standards (the bands here are not going to be the same size)
- calculate what percentage of the applicants come from each band
- divide up the number of places available in the same proportions

E.g. 2500 children apply for 200 places (as happened when we applied to Aske's for our son); let's say (making this bit up) that 1000 of them are Band 1 (top) and 50 of them are from Band 9; so 40% of the places will be allocated to Band 1 children and 2% to Band 9 children. As you should now be able to see, if Aske's and Prendergast were swamped with applications from children at the bottom end of the ability range their intake would be predominantly from that end but what happens in practice is that the reverse is true.

Nobody has yet mentioned the lottery which Aske's uses to allocate some of its places. When we applied that was our only chance and just like the National Lottery we didn't win.

Anonymous said...

Were there any grounds to appeal Tresilliana?

Tressilliana said...

No, no grounds to appeal. Admissions appeals don't have much chance of success, generally. The school demonstrates that it's full and that it correctly implemented its policy and that's that. Unless there are very pressing reasons for taking a particular child that weren't fully considered before, you don't stand a chance.

Anonymous said...

We really need to reform our schools and admission criteria and model them on the New York or Sydney models.

Pete said...

If you're children don't get into Prendergast or Haberdasher's is that a total disaster or are the other secondary schools passable?

Tressilliana said...

Pete, a lot depends on what kind of children they are. Some children will thrive in almost any school, but not all will. Also, schools change. The school that used to be known as Crofton but is now Prendergast-Ladywell Fields is, as the name suggests, under the management of Prendergast(-Hilly Fields). That may make a big difference to it, or it may not. I don't know how much difference Aske's is making to Knights College, which used to be Malory School, but is now part of the Aske's Federation. In that case, it does look as if applications have increased hugely, and that might imply a big change in the intake. That's the key, I think.

Anonymous said...

Apropos HA's order of preference of children, why is it acceptable to reward musical talent but not acdemical talent.

What is WRONG with this country?

Tressilliana said...

The entire admissions system is a mess. The government thinks choice is a wonderful thing and so parents have to try to make sense of umpteen different policies. The government is opposed to academic selection but quite happy to allow schools to select up to 10% of their intake on 'aptitude' for a particular subject. They are absolutely insistent that this is different from academic selection. Yeah, right.

So the parents who are highly literate and numerate, confident in dealing with bureaucracy, have the knowledge and time to plan a long way ahead and have the cash to pay for tutoring, long-range journeys etc get the places at the best schools. Their children already have a head start. Meanwhile the children of parents who can't cope with the complexity of the system go to the nearest school which can take them, which may not be very good. Everybody should get a good education. The job of government is surely to step in and ensure that happens, not to make it next door to impossible for poor children to get into the best schools.

I think comprehensives are the best kind of schools when they work. However, in Inner London at the moment the 'choice agenda' or whatever it's called means some schools are doomed to failure whatever they do. You might as well call them secondary moderns and have done with it.

Anonymous said...

"Apropos HA's order of preference of children, why is it acceptable to reward musical talent but not acdemical talent.

What is WRONG with this country?"

Inverse snobbery

Brockley Nick said...

Agreed with every word Tressliana just said.

Anonymous said...

When I was at Aske's over 20 years ago, it used to be a standard - but just as competitive to get into - secondary school with a strong emphasis on music and art. When it was being converted to a CTC (against the will of most of the girl's school parents, but that's another story...) one of the many concerns about it was that the musical specialism would disappear. Even though I am not very musically able, despite the best efforts of the music teachers, I am glad that the musical bias remains, but not the ridiculous oversubscribing of the school.

Anonymous said...

I knew not having children was a good idea..

Does this explain why lots of families move out of London to bring up children?

Anonymous said...

It's all in a name - if only after the shake up after the War they had called them "Modern Secondaries" - go-ahead, go-getting and practical - that could be seen by all, parents, politicians and governors alike, as an equally valid alternative to Grammars for the children with a non-academic bent there would have been a chance that we would not be in the sorry mess we are in now. But "Secondary Modern" was second class and doomed to failure.

Anonymous said...

"This must be the place, second place in the human race..."

"Secondary Modern" Elvis Costello c 1982

Anonymous said...

Arguably, able children could take the education authorities to the ECHR under a class action - their HR are being eroded.

Oh no actually, it won't happen. An able child has better things to do with his/her (not "their" please note) life.

J said...

Anti grammar arguements that appear to have some merit generally fall into 2 categories:

1. It skims off the best and brightest making other schools worse and reducing other students opportunties.

2. It is elitism, which is wrong.

Addressing argument 1:
- What makes you think the best and brightest will not switch off and underperform / coast if not in a competitive enviroment with other people who match them?
- Why should a child focus on supporting less talented peers instead of developing themselves?
- Who says having selective high schools reduces opportunities for other students? Surely a failing comprehensive is due to the management and structure of the school, not the lack of the best and brightest students.
- Who says selective high schools should only be academic? There are performing arts high schools, technology high schools, sports high schools, etc.

Addressing argument 2

Elitism always exists in society. Elitism is when you offer something to one group (for whatever reason, disadvantage or advantage) that you don't offer to others. As people are different we need have many types of targeted elitism for their specific circumstances to allow all to achieve.

Hence, offering specialised and targeted support to disabled and disadvantaged students is as much elitism as are grammer schools for the best and brightest. Surely we should have both.

My view of an ideal solution is more grammer schools / selective high schools for all people, not chucking everyone in to be mediocre together and muddle it out.

What we have in the UK is a mess which disadvantages all except those who can afford decent public schools or those who play the schools lottery game best (usually the upper and mid middle classes). You want a solution for Brockley, how about this?

1. Give the mayor control of all schools in London
2. Free travel for all school students to any schools in London.
3. Forget the stupid academy model, we go back to grammar schools and other selective high schools, e.g. sports, music. Imaging a dance high school linked to the Laban.
4. The mayor of London sets up a task force designed by and comprising the best teachers to review, manage and monitor failing schools.
5. If a school fails for 3 years in a row, close it and open up at least 3 new schools in the old school premises that are more specialised, targeted and focused.

Habdasher's Aske is a great asset for Brockley that should be cherished, we need to improve the rest, not mock it.

relinquishing my soap box.. ;-)

Anonymous said...

completely agree with Jon.

I have sympathy for the poorer performers but it's the teachers' jobs to get the best out of every child and certainly not each child looking after others or being used to stretch the others' performance.

Kicking selective schools in the face is to ignore the fact that, yes, some people are cleverer than others. Yes, just as others are more sporty/more beautiful/more musical. what is wrong with this? it's life!

Ironically, academics is an area where trying hard can really change results. (That makes it different from truly elite areas areas where eg a particular body shape is more helpful, eg long distance runners, or Michael "I do look quite like a fish" Phelps.)

For goodness sake allow clever children to do well. The money that's spent on our state system should be easily able to achieve it and you know what? our future pensions depend on an educated and able workforce.

Anonymous said...

Plus the current education system isn't working when it comes to encouraging social mobility. According to The Guardian today white, middle class are massively overrepresented in universities particularly the top ones.

That's because social mobility also requires ambition and a culture of achievement through academic success amongst other things - hence home owning asian families are almost two and a half times more likely to go to uni than average UK child.

I for one am not prepared to leave the future of my child in the hands of policy makers who've as yet failed to get it right.

CarolineLD said...

Intrigued that the 'musical ability' ground is seen by other commenters as inverse snobbery. I would have thought quite the opposite, given the cost of the instruments and lessons which are necessary to develop/demonstrate such ability.

Anonymous said...

CLD, I think his/her point was that academic children are being discriminated against and that this amounts to educational inverted snobbery....or at least prejudice.

it is trange that in this country it's great to be sporty (and I agree!), it's great to be msucial (ditto) or artistic (ditto) but academic and trying to get to one of our world leading universities...errr....sorry can't have that. you're only more likely to get a good job, pay a fortune in tax and support everyone else. what good did that ever do anyone? Can't be allowed.

Errr....something funny here but nothing that a few centuries of being behind the rest of the world won't sort out.

Anonymous said...

To be honest, the fact we live in London gives us the biggest head start. The rest of the country is in real trouble and all we can think about it making the priviledged within the M25 more so.

Anonymous said...

not so sure that's right educationwise.

my impression, and it is only an impression, is that schools in the country are much better with smaller classes, better behaviour, more space etc.

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