How inclusive are Brentwood’s schools?

I’m not one for reading statistics, but this table really gave me pause for thought. Church schools were originally founded a little over a century ago to provide education to those who could not afford the expensive public schools of the time. Now, it seems, they may be discriminating against the very people they are supposed to help.

Why am I saying this? Well, let’s look at one very telling measure of wealth, which is whether a child receives free schools meals or not. If church schools really are doing the job of educating the less well-off then church schools should have a higher proportion of children receiving free school meals than is typical for the area in which it is situated. That’s straightforward enough.

The shock to me was that quite the reverse seems to be true. The Guardian printed an article a few days ago looking at this very statistic. This article, based on freely available information, showed that church schools often have much lower proportions of children receiving free school meals. This is certainly true of the affluent Brentwood area.  Of 21 primary schools in CM13, CM14 and CM15 postcode areas, the ones with the lowest proportion of pupils on free school meals are all church schools.  It is the state schools which now seem to be catering (no pun intended) for the children of the less well off.

School %   pupils eligible for FSM Postcode   % of FSM More   or less than postcode %
St   Mary’s Church of England Voluntary Aided Primary School, Shenfield 0.8 5.7 Less
St   Helen’s Catholic Infant School 1.5 5.7 Less
St   Helen’s Catholic Junior School 2.1 5.7 Less
Bentley   St Paul’s Church of England Voluntary Aided Primary School 2.3 5.7 Less
Ingrave   Johnstone Church of England Voluntary Aided Primary School 2.3 7.2 Less
St   Thomas of Canterbury Church of England Aided Infant School 2.3 5.7 Less
St   Peter’s Church of England Voluntary Aided Primary School, South Weald 3.2 9.8 Less
Long   Ridings Primary School 3.5 7.2 Less
Doddinghurst   Infant School 4.1 5.7 Less
Doddinghurst   Church of England Voluntary Controlled Junior School 4.4 5.7 Less
St   Joseph the Worker Catholic Primary School 4.7 7.2 Less
St   Thomas of Canterbury Church of England Aided Junior School, Brentwood 6.2 5.7 More
Mountnessing   Church of England Voluntary Controlled Primary School 6.9 5.7 More
Hutton   All Saints’ Church of England Primary School 9.5 7.2 More
Kelvedon   Hatch Community Primary School 10.2 5.7 More
Holly   Trees Primary School 13.2 9.8 More
Warley   Primary School 15.2 9.8 More
Hogarth   Primary School 20 5.7 More
Larchwood   Primary School 20 5.7 More
Willowbrook   Primary School 25.8 7.2 More
West   Horndon Primary School NA 7.2

 

It is disturbing too that these figures may show a social trend in action. Some of the schools come in pairs, with an infant school feeding a junior school. Where the percentage of children on free school meals is lower in the feeder infant school, which can only mean that, in time, the proportion in the upper school will fall as the pupils move between the schools.

Now, statistics can be misleading, and I certainly don’t suggest that there is some sort of social engineering conspiracy amongst faith schools. There are many factors which can affect the social mix of pupils in a schools and it would be simplistic to assume that schools are not limited by the mix of pupils that apply.  Nevertheless, it does seem that faith schools appeal less to the less affluent and, more importantly, the schools themselves do not seem concerned by that fact. We need to change that, and this is one area where a new proposed school such as Becket Keys can demonstrate that it really does have a Christian ethos.  However, if the social profile of its intake fails to match the aspirations of the church school founders then both education and Christianity will be the worse for it.

Link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/mar/05/church-schools-shun-poorest-pupils

Debbie Foster

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