The education system in Britain maintains many forms of selection as the great comprehensive dream fades into history. Now a report on faith schools in London shows how schools there “Cherry pick” their pupils The characteristics of their intake are affluent, middle class, and yes, white. Racism is alive and sick here too.
New Labour’s ham-handed way of introducing league tables encourages schools to select children who are judged less problematic. The report above focusses on London and secondary education yet in Birmingham there are some primary schools who find ways and means of selecting their intake. Some of these are faith schools, some are not. One school in inner city Handsworth will only admit children who can show achievement in SATs results. It has been declared “a beacon school”!
Ed Balls speaking for the government declares it has “no policy” on faith schools. “Let the people decide” he declares. Here in Birmingham there is an appetite for privilege and division among different groups in the community. They are aggressive in their wish to get their children into the grammar schools while a local gurdwara campaigns for Sikh faith school at all levels. Since Blair encouraged faith schools some have been opened for Muslim girls in Birmingham. (It’s quite amazing how Blair’s zeal for faith-based institutions quickly gave him grief when they were then supposed to harbour and promote “extremists!”)
Seventh Day Adventists provide a school for mostly African Caribbean pupils. In the latter case there is some justification while racism pervades education elsewhere. Nevertheless the result is division upon division and the community is reaping the consequences.
City Academies are the current answer to inner cities and “underachieving” pupils. The huge amounts of money pumped in allow significant advantages, but what about the other schools which struggle with their deficits? The main currency remains academic achievement with a knowledge base firmly entrenched in traditional values of the dominant group in society, characteristically white male higher classes. These are the status requirements of a competitive society. Some will achieve from whatever background, but the majority will mirror dominance.
The wider society remains in ignorance of the histories and backgrounds of groups living together in our communities. Naoroji became a Member of the British Parliament in 1892 but even the Asian community is scarcely aware of his existence and his achievements. Zerbanoo Gifford‘s wonderful book on him didn’t sell and soon went out of print. CLR James wrote “The Black Jacobins” in the 1930s after painstaking research of French archives. It should be a classic, but who has heard of it, or even CLR himself? This is not knowledge to be valued, and those whose history and background it exemplifies and respects are given a clear message. You, your history and achievements are not valued here whatever their extent and merit.
Divided we stand, divided we fall.