So I’ve used them to compile a sort of Top 40 (Top 38 to be accurate) of Leeds secondary schools. It’s the only chart that matters, folks, based on your votes.
And what does the chart tell us?
Well, the bleeding obvious for a start: that, given the choice, more parents will opt for an oversubscribed, high-achieving school in a leafy suburb over an under-subscribed, under-achieving school with a catchment area that includes what politicians these days call “pockets of deprivation”.
Some random entries caught my eye, though:
The City of Leeds school, for example. Six months after being saved from the axe following a persuasive and well-backed “community” campaign to keep it open, only 22 parents put it down as their first choice in December 2010. That’s only 15% of its yearly intake of 150 pupils (down from 29% in 2009).
Or Alan Bennett’s old alma mater, Lawnswood (Leeds Modern as was), where six out of ten parents of this year’s Year 7s expressed a preference for their children to be taught elsewhere (double the number compared to last year). What’s the new head to do there to raise morale and redeem a reputation that appears to be on the slide?
Or Rodillian in Lofthouse. Three years ago it was being served with a “notice to improve” by Ofsted and now it’s oversubscribed and in the Top Ten!
And here’s a quirky fact: the only schools to see a double digit increase in parents’ first choice preferences (admittedly from a low base in 2009) are the two academies being run by E-ACT – the new East Leeds Academy (that up until July used to be Parklands Girls) and the Leeds West Academy in Rodley.
Post codes and reputations
The charts are about post codes and reputations. Of course schools get reputations for all sorts of reasons – academic achievements, discipline record, extra-curricular activities etc etc. But mightn’t they also be getting a damaging reputation as a direct result of parents having a choice – a reputation as a school that nobody puts down as their first choice?
It’s a bit circular, and it must drive head teachers bonkers. “Oh, we’re not putting down X as first choice for our little Johnny. No-one puts X down first on their list.”
Whatever. Anyone got any thoughts on why their local school is where it is in the charts?
As the BBC says, have your say.
Figures in the table below are taken from here (2010) and here (2009). The figures are a bit skewed by the fact that the cohort entering secondary school in September this year was Leeds’ smallest for a while, with 200 fewer applications than the previous year. That’s probably why there’s a general drop in 1st choice preferences across the board. Because there are fewer kids to go round.
The chart (the red column in the centre) reflects the number of 1st choice preferences given by parents expressed as a percentage of the school’s annual intake.