Thursday, December 06, 2007

Is Religion good for something after all?

The academic superiority of faith schools was underlined today as they dominated top positions in new league tables for 11-year-olds.

An article in the Daily Telegraph (United Kingdom)

Two thirds of the 250 primaries in England achieving "perfect" test results were Church of England, Roman Catholic or Jewish schools.

Only one third of the schools are "faith" based yet in 2007 they held 66% of the top places.
I saw the headline and I thought they were interesting statistics, but is it because the teaching is religiously based or is it because these schools are more autonomous and thus free from the constricting burocracy and interferance of the state?
The schools themselves say that it is a result of good teaching and discipline.
Jan Ainsworth, the C of E's chief education officer, said the results were down to schools' "Christian character", which "helps embed strong discipline, a caring attitude, and a sense of purpose".

That's the money quote I was looking for, someone to state that discipline, caring, and a sense of purpose are uniquely christian traits.
Jan Ainsworth doesn't account for North Cheshire Jewish Primary School being 3rd in the league or how to account for schools like St Matthew's CofE Junior and Infant School at the bottom of the league with 0%. (CofE is abbreviation for Church of England)
I suppose that when a faith school does well it is because of the Christian principles they teach and when a faith school does badly it's because of the bloody kids.
The full league tables are here.
What a shame there are no declared atheist schools. Or that it is not possible, from a school's name to determine the actual beliefs of the head and the teachers. Or that the tables take no account for the fact that state schools have to pull pupils from the local community (that's their purpose) whereas faith schools have parents seeking them out. Middle class parents actively searching good schools that they can afford.
However, faith schools performed much less well in an alternative league table that took account of deprivation, special needs and children speaking English as a second language, taking just 30 of the top 200 places on the "contextual value-added" measure.

The value-added measures are explained and discussed in this pdf. Read the head teachers' commenst at the end of the report. They make interesting reading regarding the usefulness of league tables as applied to schools.
I can't find a source for the adjusted league tables. I did find this story about local successes and failure in schools. In Worcester there seems to be mixed results and the league tables don't seem to prove much either way.
Councillor Liz Eyre, Worcestershire County Council's cabinet member for children and young people, said "Any successes on the ground are down to a joint effort and are testament to the hard work of staff, parents, governors and pupils."



Post a Comment

<< Home