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How much does the uptake of Free School Meals tell us?

Discussion in 'Scotland - education news' started by grunwald, Jan 8, 2012.

  1. I read in one of today's papers an article* claiming that schools should no longer blame social deprivation for poor exam results. The article measured FSM against exam results in schools in Scotland's four major cities. At the extremes, a school in East Renfrewshire with 22% FSM was compared with an Aberdeen secondary with 19% FSM. The percentage of pupils in the two schools gaining three or more Highers was 35% and 3% respectively.
    What are we to make of this? Are apples being compared with pears? Is it just sloppy journalism ignoring all thye other variables? And how reliable is FSM anyway?
    Answers on a postcard, please ...

  2. I read in one of today's papers an article* claiming that schools should no longer blame social deprivation for poor exam results. The article measured FSM against exam results in schools in Scotland's four major cities. At the extremes, a school in East Renfrewshire with 22% FSM was compared with an Aberdeen secondary with 19% FSM. The percentage of pupils in the two schools gaining three or more Highers was 35% and 3% respectively.
    What are we to make of this? Are apples being compared with pears? Is it just sloppy journalism ignoring all thye other variables? And how reliable is FSM anyway?
    Answers on a postcard, please ...

  3. 3% is horrendous, although I don't remember the school's standard grade results standing out so spectacularly so maybe the results were ok but the rate of those staying on to S5 is very low? Obviously that also raises questions...
  4. davieee

    davieee Occasional commenter

    Reading the article someone is trying create a notion that there is no link to poverty and educational attainment. Free meal uptake is not definitive but merely an indicator of the socio-economic make up of the school and therefore a strand of evidence which enables academics to estimate / assess levels of attainment.
  5. The Aberdeen school is usually very close to the bottom of the national results table year on year. I don't know much about St Luke's, though I have a feeling they interview the HT quite a lot on Reporting Scotland.
  6. Yes, I think there may be some evidence that there are areas of social deprivation where there is also a parental unwillingness to claim free school meals.
    The Aberdeen school has had problems for generations. Does anyone know if the staff at St Luke's had to 'turn around' a similar situation of generational failure?
  7. Re Free School Meals - my place has highest rate of FSM in Glasgow and 2nd lowest results year on year. But it also has one of the best records on getting weans in work and training schemes.

    However if we go down the route of stating that those from deprived backgrounds are simply not capable of achieving academic results, there lies a dangerous route, and I think that is happening as we speak. It is pointing to a deeply divided society with ghettos of poverty which are getting bigger.
  8. I was wrong - the SG pass rates at 4 or above also stand out as poor.
  9. Flyonthewall75

    Flyonthewall75 New commenter

    It is, of course, only one indicator which LAs, politicians and others tend to use because it can be measured more easily than other factors influencing attainment.
    One possible factor to explain the discrepancy in the correlation between the % of FSM uptake and attainment, in socio-economically similar schools, is the attitude of parents towards education and the influence this has on their children's attitude, and performance, from generation to generation.
    There are still many working class families, with limited incomes, who value education and do everything they can to work with schools to ensure their children achieve all that they can.
    Indeed, one could argue that poverty, and hardship, has been one of the main driving forces that has allowed families to progress educationally, socially and financially, from generation to generation.
    Unfortunately, poverty and hardship can also grind people down, particularly if there are other factors involved such as addiction, unemployment, poor housing etc. In such circumstances, education must sometimes appear a waste of time, for some, if they see little opportunity to break out of those circumstances.
    One of the great things about state education is that it is free at the point of delivery. Unfortunately, what we get for free, we don't always value and there, perhaps, lies part of the problem. There are still too many parents who want the school, and teachers, to make their children successful with minimal input from themselves or their children.
    Mind you, perhaps we shouldn't entirely blame some parents for not valuing their 'free' education as they should as there are others in influential positions who don't seem to value it either if recent submissions are to be believed:
    "Indeed, we would even suggest that the primary role for a teacher should not be to teach children but should be articulated in terms of ensuring the development, well being, and safety of children." (COSLA submission to the McCormac Review)
  10. Couldn't agree more. I did my probation in this school and worked there for 7 years. I would not swop the experience for anything but I was literally on my knees when I left. Couldn't believe the difference in my new school.
  11. Free school meals, whether entitlement or uptake, is a very clumsy tool for predicting how a school should perform, because it takes no account of what the pupils are like who do not qualify for free meals. In some cases, pupils in a school who do not qualify for such free dining only just miss out: in other words, they are still poor, but just not quite poor enough. Other schools have mixed catchments, with a large percentage of pupils on free meals but a considerable number of middle-class pupils as well, and they raise the school's performance. Catholic schools, because they are fewer in number, have larger catchment areas, and thus are more likely to have a mixed profile. St Luke's might be in the "poorer" part of East Ren. (and it's all relative), but there are quite prosperous areas within its catchment, which raises attainment, unlike, say, Drumchapel High, which has only Drumchapel. Other factors affecting performance, such as the proportion of EAL pupils, or a school having a large transient population, are completely ignored; as these issues are faced more by urban schools than others, this allows extra-urban schools to bask in an entirely fallacious sense of superiority.
  12. Unfortunately, what that often means in practice is that RC schools find it easier to kick out poor performers, who then enrol at the neighbouring ND school. I've had first-hand experience of this. Strangely, we find it difficult to reciprocate with pupils who do not share our own ethos.
  13. davieee

    davieee Occasional commenter

    I think the "ethos" of the denominational sector and its impact on attainment is, if not an urban myth, vastly overplayed.
    Firstly, over the past 4/5 years the schools who are consistently at the top of the "league tables" tend to be in more affluent areas. It is rare to have any more than RC 5 schools in the top 100 with St Ninians (East Ren), St Ninians (East Dun), St Thomas Acquins (Edinburgh) & Turnbull High (East Dun) being the most prominent while St Lukes in Barrhead only made the top 50 last year.
    By looking at the "league tables", the most common denominator appears to be that the most successful schools are situated in affluent suburbs. This correlates with the many studies conducted and the mass of research produced that indicates that wealth (or lack of) and parental expectation are the main influencing factors in a child's education.
    I have yet to see any evidence that suggests that by simply being in a Catholic school raises attainment or that non-denominational schools do not have a positive ethos. Also, how is Ethos measured, how do you quantify it and do only Catholics, or any faith group, have ethos?
    It is true that there are pupils who are not RC but attend RC schools because of the perceived "ethos" but the reverse is also true in that many Catholics send their kids to the local school rather than bus them 3 miles away. In my school it is estimated that as many as 20% of the pupils come from Catholic families.
    With particular regard to St Lukes, I reckon its rise in the leagues table over the 2 years has more to do with the new HT and less to do with the perceived influence of the Catholic faith.
  14. Because they're not really comparable. In East Ren, you've got St Luke's or St Ninian's, which is oversubscribed, for parents who wish to send their kids to RC schools. So, if your kids don't get into St Ninian's, you've no choice. However, ND parents in Barrhead can choose, theoretically, from Barrhead HS, Williamwood, Eastwood, Mearns Castle, Woodfarm. Barrhead is therefore much more likely to lose pupils through placing requests than St Ninian's. However, the RC schools in Glasgow which are in uniformly poor areas- All Saints, St Roch's, St Paul's- perform just as dismally as their ND counterparts. The top performing RC school in Glasgow is Notre Dame, which is a girls' school. On the face of it, Notre Dame outperforms the ND school in which I work; however, the girls in my school outperform the girls in Notre Dame, it's just that these figures are never presented in the right way.
  15. Flyonthewall75

    Flyonthewall75 New commenter

    St Thomas of Aquins has a city centre location. Its associated primaries are located in different parts of the Capital and they, for the most part, have mixed catchment areas. It also has applications for places from parents with children in other schools.
    Is anyone suggesting that?
    Despite the regularly quoted aspiration that all children, and young people, should go to the same school, the reality is that most pupils attend a school within the catchment area in which they live, or where their parents can afford to live.
    Nationally, approximately 85% of publicly funded schools are non-denominational and 15% denominational. In most large towns, or cities, the real division is in the socio-economic profile of a school's catchment area.
    What is clear is that some schools are situated in fairly prosperous areas, some enrol pupils from a mixed catchment and others are located in areas of significant social deprivation. In addition, given that a significant number of parents choose to send their children to non-district schools, it is not difficult to see how some schools, despite the best efforts of staff, can struggle to raise attainment.
    Indeed, I know of one LA that regularly identifies two secondary schools on a list of potential school closures and justifies the selection based on low school roll and poor attainment in external exams. Is that really the fault of the schools concerned or the way housing has been planned over the last 60 years?
    Yes we do, indeed, need to be aware of any political agenda that seeks to turn schools, and communities, against oneanother in order to conceal the real reason for inequality and under-attainment in our education system and society.

  16. You've hit the nail on the head. This vicious circle of "free school meals =under achievement" is one perpetuated by LAs to the point of the creation of a real underclass.
  17. It was in Jordanhill when my mother attended, um, 50 years ago.
  18. sbf

    sbf New commenter

    Either you or I is missing the point, not sure which and can be botherd thinking about it!!
  19. counttoten

    counttoten New commenter

    I have never said that Barrhead should be compared to areas of Glasgow. My point was that Barrhead is not an affluent area. Sure, there are better bits - I know it well Freddie, as may you - but you cannot say the pupils at St Luke's are any different from most other schools in most other authorities. However, the idea that the school did so well because it is East Ren is a nonsense. 24% of children in poverty, I would consider as deprived. Nowhere near Glasgow's level, but high enough.
    <table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" style="width:332pt;border-collapse:collapse;">

    <tr style="height:25.5pt;">
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    <td style="border:0px black;width:101pt;background-color:transparent;" class="xl70">Percentage of children in
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    <td style="border:0.5pt solid #d8d8d8;height:12.75pt;background-color:white;" class="xl75">East Renfrewshire</td>
    <td style="border:0px black;background-color:transparent;" class="xl71">10%</td>
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    <td style="border:0px windowtext;height:12.75pt;background-color:transparent;" class="xl73"></td>
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    <td style="border:0px black;height:12.75pt;background-color:transparent;" class="xl76">Neilston, Uplawmoor and
    Newton Mearns North</td>
    <td style="border:0px black;background-color:transparent;" class="xl77">11%</td>
    <tr style="height:12.75pt;">
    <td style="border:0px black;height:12.75pt;background-color:transparent;" class="xl76">Barrhead</td>
    <td style="border:0px black;background-color:transparent;" class="xl77">24%</td>
    <tr style="height:12.75pt;">
    <td style="border:0px black;height:12.75pt;background-color:transparent;" class="xl76">Giffnock and Thornliebank</td>
    <td style="border:0px black;background-color:transparent;" class="xl77">8%</td>
    <tr style="height:12.75pt;">
    <td style="border:0px black;height:12.75pt;background-color:transparent;" class="xl76">Netherlee, Stamperland and
    <td style="border:0px black;background-color:transparent;" class="xl77">4%</td>
    <tr style="height:12.75pt;">
    <td style="border:0px black;height:12.75pt;background-color:transparent;" class="xl76">Newton Mearns South</td>
    <td style="border:0px black;background-color:transparent;" class="xl77">5%</td>
    <tr style="height:12.75pt;">
    <td style="border:0px black;height:12.75pt;background-color:transparent;" class="xl76">Busby, Clarkston and
    <td style="border:0px black;background-color:transparent;" class="xl77">7%</td>

  20. counttoten

    counttoten New commenter

    Went off at a tangent there. Of course, Freddie, we all know that deprivation and results go together for the reasons I and other posters have mentioned, but is there anything wrong in saying well done to a school where it seems otherwise? It doesn't take away from the fact that a good number of us in other schools battle every day to get pupils, with English as their first language, to motivate themselves to not only do well, but to actually come to school and to work while they are there, with very little parental support. And for this, we get hammered by SMT and the authority in August when the results come out. Perhaps we're all rubbish teachers but I doubt that.

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