Tuesday, 26 May 2015

School Catchment Areas

From the BBC

The University of Birmingham School will have new buildings, a strong academic ethos and will benefit from links to the university and its staff and facilities.

And if it used a conventional admissions system, based on distance, it would be very likely to become a magnet for middle-class families and be accused of poaching pupils from existing schools.

But the school is actively trying to do something different.

It is basing its admissions for 11-year-olds on how close families live to four "nodes" across the city. One of these will be the school site in Selly Oak and the other three are in Small Heath, Hall Green and the Jewellery Quarter.

And that will make little difference.

I went to an all-boys school. It's a school that did really well. It was based in quite a nice bit of town, so had lots of boys from the nice areas nearby going there, but as it was also an all-boys school, it also had a catchment area of the whole of town. I knew boys who lived 4 miles away who caught a bus there.

Personally, I thought the school was quite good. There were a number of excellent teachers, and a few duffers. But looking back on it, most of the kids did about as well as their background. Sending poor kids to what was thought an excellent school, with the best results in town, didn't seem to do anything for them. They still left with maybe a reasonable CSE in metalwork and not much else. The sixth form was mostly stuffed with the middle-class kids.

And I've seen this with one of our neighbour's kids. These people aren't rich, but the dad works really hard. The daughter went to a school that's not well regarded and is now doing Maths at university. The eldest son is on track for really good A levels from the same school. How come these kids do well, and there's so many other failures out of that school?

The other thing of note is that good schools are nearly always in "nice" places. Either in large, middle-class villages, or in leafy suburbs. You never find a new school being created in a modern estate that does any better than any other school in a modern estate.

So, how much is a school about the teaching, and how much about the intake? And if it's about the intake, what do you do?


Sackerson said...

Good point. There was a book that came out in the 1970s that studied comprehensives and its conclusion was that even there, children with better support at home came out with their initial advantages multiplied, so the education system couldn't make up for out of school hindrances. So, it went on, schools may at least try to be pleasant for the children.

Random said...

KLN help please?http://www.bondeconomics.com/2014/09/consequences-of-basic-income-guarantee.html?m=0
In the comments. I have no idea what he is on about.

Random said...

"The other thing of note is that good schools are nearly always in "nice" places. "
LVT will sort this all out.

Mark Wadsworth said...

From personal experience, I would have to sort of agree with you.

I can name one exception though: my little lass, being a bit of a show off, was determined to get into the all-girls school with the really high grades instead of going to school in the "leafy suburbs" with her brother, and she managed to get in.

But to look at, her school is awful, it is a square 1960s concrete block in the middle of town with no tree or blade of grass to be seen.

Mark Wadsworth said...

R, the whole thing is bollocks:

"The [basic income]has been proposed as an effective, straightforward weapon for the eradication of poverty.

It is in truth a complex instrument, and its use may lead to unintended and undesirable side effects. In particular, a [basic income] may tend to induce inflation, reduce measured gross national product, and lower the measured rate of growth of the economy."

Bollocks bollocks bollocks.

How can somebody support JG on one hand but oppose BI because it's "complex"??

Random said...

Agreed but he is talking about BIG along with income tax (in the article.)
Could you debunk specific objections:
"But it would mean that smart rich people would just buy smaller than average houses, and they would end up ahead in the system. Based on "The Millionaire Next Door", that's already the case for the bulk of millionaires. It's only the ultra-rich with massive mansions who would get hit, and it is likely that they would adapt and find a way to avoid the tax.
Older retirees with big houses would also be wiped out."

Anonymous said...

Perhaps a few 'encouraging' scenes in the soaps - along the lines 'Jimmy has got a nice desk and some books and a quiet place to do his homework'. Add to which 'Jimmy and Jenny are getting extra tuition'. Apart from raising a few squeals we have to ask 'do we really want large numbers of educated people?', can we really expect to put them to good use. I fear that Whitehall has worked out that we don't and we can't, cheaper to buy them in and keeps Balliol 'nice'.

Random said...

Seems like use of diagonal comparison.

Mark Wadsworth said...

R, those are not "objections" or "arguments" those are known as "completely made up claims to prove a point".

The author is so fucking stupid that he assumes "large mansion" = "high LVT bill"

As we know perfectly well from The Mansion Tax proposal, in some parts of the country, you can get a mansion for a couple of hundred thousand (and the LVT on it would be a couple of hundred quid a year) and in some parts of London you have to pay £1 million for a tiny flat (and the LVT on that would be tens of thousands of quid a year).

Mark Wadsworth said...

Roger: "we have to ask 'do we really want large numbers of educated people?', can we really expect to put them to good use"

I said exactly the same thing to Her Indoors yesterday.

Random said...

MW, agreed. And a fixed income investor opposing a basic income seems a bit... ironic.

Mark Wadsworth said...

R, the only real debate to be had about CI is how much it could or should be. If it's £10 a week, then not worth bothering with; if it were £250 a week then it would be 'unaffordable' and might indeed discourage some people from working.

But somewhere in the region £75 - £150 a week (the higher figure to replace Housing and Council Tax Benefit as well) seems about right.

Bayard said...

"The other thing of note is that good schools are nearly always in "nice" places. Either in large, middle-class villages, or in leafy suburbs."

The left-wingers use that fact to argue for the abolition of private education. "If all the parents who send their children to private schools were forced to send them to state schools, then the state schools would be better, because the state schools who already get a lot of middle class children are the good ones."

The Stigler said...

My mother is an ex-teacher, headmistress and lecturer and reckoned that a school near us had brilliant staff, but terrible results because of some (not all) parents. You get parents who give no support and your averages get dragged right down.

But in your daughter's case, they're selecting on ability. There's a similar thing with an academy in my town which is the 3rd best school. They're not supposed to select on ability, but there's a lot of suggestions that they're doing so in subtle ways.

It'll improve their scores. It doesn't mean they'll be better schools. The left have a bee in their bonnet about private schools, that it allows the rich to stay rich by getting the best education and get into the best universities, but when you consider the intake of private schools (more committed parents, kids that pass the entrance exam, exceptional pupils on busaries), they're going to do a lot better on average, even if the teaching quality is the same.

Physiocrat said...

There is probably a negative effect, in that bad pupils can disrupt entire classes and end up driving away good teachers.

The Stigler said...


I don't really know. But our kids primary in a nice bit of town with generally nice kids had a few shockers.

Pablo said...


There's also this from The Economist May 23rd 2015:

Bayard said...

TS, Also the converse is true, which the left ignore: the good schools have more middle-class children because the middle class parents make more effort to get their children into good schools. So if private education was banned, it would have no effect on the bad schools, which would continue to be almost solely "patronised" by the parents who don't give a stuff. All that would happen is that some good schools would become even better, so that elitism would be perpetuated at the state's expense.