‘The Top 400 Secondary Schools in Ireland’… March 11, 2010Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
There was a certain fascination for me a while back in reading the Sunday Times league tables for “The Top 400 Secondary Schools in Ireland” (note that ‘Ireland’ excludes the North). First up was the yardstick used. A successful school in this state is measured, according to the ST, by the number of people it sends not to third level, why no, but…
‘…by the average proportion of pupils gaining places in Autumn 2008 and 2009 at one of the nine universities on the island of Ireland, main teacher training colleges, Royal College of Surgeons, National College of Art and Design or any English, Welsh or Scottish university or equivalent’.
For those whose offspring arrive at more humble ‘Institutes of Technology’, or what have you, there is a ‘% in Third Level’ figure given in a column to the right of the more exalted ‘% at University’.
In the accompanying article the text argues that;
‘Assessing schools by their progression to university alone may seem unfair to some, but Department of Education procedures mean this is the only way to compare performance’
Er… yeah. Except they had the choice to go with the broader % in Third Level definition as their means of ranking.
For those who send their children to fee-paying schools (surely they mean fee-charging?) the results are in bold… And so, it will come as little surprise to those of us who argue class is a significant functional element in this society, perhaps the most important one, that with but three exceptions after No. 190 fee charging schools are clustered in the highest reaches, including No.1 of the chart. Indeed of the top 10, 8 are fee-charging, of the top 20, 14 are fee-charging, of the top 30, 19 are fee-charging, of the top 50, 27 are fee-charging.
After that there simply aren’t enough fee-charging schools to go around.
Another obvious thought that strikes one on reading it is that for the most part those schools clustered in the Top 20 are Dublin based. And not just Dublin based, for look at the non-fee charging Colaiste Iosagain and Colaiste Eoin, both Gaelscoileanna, both in the Top 20, both in Booterstown, both with 100% of their students going to the more broadly drawn ‘Third Level’. That’s a pattern that is seen elsewhere.
So, what lessons can we draw? Nothing terribly new. Class structures replicate themselves through the transmission belt of education. Those in fee-charging schools will predominantly go on to third level. Their children will predominantly, no not predominantly – overwhelmingly and almost exclusively, go on to third level. And so on. Those who enter the system from beyond the middle classes and upper middle classes will be… a minority. That money remains a massive functional element in all this. That little of it makes sense in terms of our class demographics, that it makes no sense in terms of social equity, social stability, increasing social mobility and so forth and is a living riposte to the notion that we’re beyond such matters as class. And if that isn’t an issue that not just leftists are concerned about, it bloody well should be.
And other schools, those below Number 400… (Patrician High School, Carrickmacross, Co. Monaghan), or one close enough to where I live, Number 399… (St. Joseph’s CBS, Fairview, Dublin 3) who see respectively 85.5% and 67.2% of their students go on to ‘Third Level’, aren’t even at the races. Those schools and students, presumably feeding out much much smaller numbers of Third Level students, let alone ‘%’s at University’ don’t even get a mention.
How many of them are there? Well, there are 715 state funded secondary schools in the state (although the table only included those with more than 100 students on the role). So that’s 315 schools.
I have to smile too, at the heading on the section, ‘Parent Power’. Given that fees in Gonzaga (Number 1) are €5,030 per annum and at Glenstal Abbey School in Limerick (Number 3) €15,000 one wonders what tht phrase actually means. And if you think I’m over-emphasising the issue of fees, well, reflect upon the fact that the main article in the supplement is headlined ‘Fee-paying gamble pays rich dividends’. For those as have it… well, there’s no gamble there at all.
By the by, I’ve mentioned it before, I have an experience of both fee-charging and non fee-charging areas alike. I spent five years and did my leaving in a community school. I then repeated said leaving in a fee-charging school which I’ll leave nameless – to protect the blameless and those entirely to blame. It was in part a sort of experiment between the community school and the fee-charging school, both of which were nominally Jesuit, perhaps to see if a specimen like myself could be transplanted from one to the other. Did it work? No, not really. I’ve no animosity towards the school (indeed read my original piece for some positive aspects of it), but…
I can genuinely say that that if Kilbarrack shaped my politics in one way, the experience elsewhere in the secondary educational system reinforced that. An irony? I got almost precisely the same marks in both sets of exams. A further irony? I didn’t need either leaving as such, bar getting a standard level, in order to go where I ultimately wound up.
And one final thought, I don’t recall, albeit I’ll have to go back and check, as to whether there was any mention of grade inflation in the ST article. But that would hardly be the point, now would it?