Where does your school rank?

The top 400 schools in Ireland were printed today.

Tonight I am wondering what exactly makes a school a ‘top’ school? Is it really, as these tables tell us, a school with the largest percentage going to University?

Since their inception I have been uncomfortable with the idea of printing these ‘top’ schools. My reasons are many. Among them is the belief we are comparing apples and oranges. Some of these schools have attending them, a majority of pupils who have come from homes where one or both parents went to University. For these pupils, going to University is a given, the only thing to be decided is to which one? These schools are then compared with schools in an area of less prosperity, where the majority of pupils come from homes where it is the exception if a child goes to University. Schools in towns a distance from college where pupils going forward to University will need to live away from home, a cost many families cannot afford. Is this really a fair comparison? Many of the top schools are fee paying? Does that mean we are not doing the best for our children if we cannot afford to pay for their education?photo credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/noomai/2335073217/">Mai...</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">cc</a>

I also ask the question, do we all want our children to go to University? I remember a number of years ago remarking to my husband that the top school that particular year had 100% of it’s pupils go to University. At the time I was impressed. My husband turned to me and said, ‘Was their not a free thinker among them?’. It made me think. He was right. Surely at least one of them should have wanted to do something a little less mainstream? Was free thinking not encouraged?

When it came to choosing a secondary school for my own children I was fairly sure of where I wanted to send them, but I wanted to be sure. So off we went to various open nights of schools in the area. I remember going to a school relatively near to where I live. This school had a new principle and rumour had it he was very driven to improve his schools ranking in these league tables. As I was a less experienced parent at the time, I thought that sounded perfect.

We sat down to the principles address, having briefly toured the school. My son was listening. The principle began by outlining the choices and opportunities that boys attending the school would have, and then he said, ‘However in this school we do not have the resources to deal with those of you who have boys with learning disabilities, such as dyslexia etc. Even though they are very welcome here, we feel it is only right to let you know’. I couldn’t believe my ears. He was politely saying ‘No thank you, to my dyslexic son’. As I have watched this school climb up the league table chart, I have never forgotten how this man, an educator, had treated my son who was sitting in the audience that night. Is this really what ‘teaching’ is about?

As you can imagine instead of this ‘top’ school we chose the local community school. An all inclusive school, with an all kind of everything, population. Over the past nine years it has provided our children with a wonderful academic education, but more importantly an education for life. My son’s dyslexia was never a problem, and he received so much support. I can honestly say most of his teachers went above and beyond the call of duty in teaching him, and some were very emotional when he got the results he wanted in his Leaving Certificate. This was teaching in it’s purest form. These were ‘real’ teachers, working with every type of pupil, from the very brightest, to those with educational and psychological needs, and those who would rather be anywhere but school.

Today as I looked through this years newly published league tables and noted the place our school was on the list, I was proud to see it’s rank. No it is not in the top ten, nor even is it in the top 100, but what does that matter? For myself and the many more who have the privilege of having our children educated there, it is number 1.

19 thoughts on “Where does your school rank?

  1. I often wonder about these rankings as well. We have them here in Australia. The bulk of the top ranked schools are private schools (fee paying). What about schools in lower socio-economic areas? They don’t have the funds to purchase some of the resources that the private schools do and this places them at a disadvantage.
    I believe a school is only as good as its teachers. If you have a good teacher, you will turn out good students. 🙂

  2. I agree about the connection with the teachers. I have been trying to get my daughter into a charter school with a great philosophy here, but I have come to the conclusion it is the heart that I am wanting for my daughter. So she has been at my husband’s school with a new teacher with a great heart.. not the most experienced or the one with the best test scores. And my daughter loves school and learning. I’m not so worried about her getting in to the other school.
    Much love to you! Always good to visit here!!

  3. I totally agree with you on this! I teach in a district where the median income if far above both state and national norms. Kids have nannies, vacations in Europe, tutors, moms and dads with advanced degrees. How on earth does this compare to the cities near us where the income level is at 20% of the state average, parents have no high school degree, kids speak two languages, and there is no enrichment?
    And in the US, insult is added to injury because the higher level (richer) schools are able to pay much better salaries and so have more proficient teachers.
    “Success” and “Income” simply cannot be decoupled.

    1. Agreed. I am sure that many of those teachers in the ‘top’ schools are great teachers, but in my own experience I have encountered amazing teachers. I think these tables give the wrong message. This is not what I believe to be the measure of a great school.
      I also think that life in a privileged school is not all plain sailing either. There is a different sort of pressure especially if it is deemed you are being paid well to ‘do you job’.
      We owe so much to good teachers such as you. I know I do.

  4. Really interesting post on a really interesting topic. We are in a difficult situation with trying to choose a secondary school for my daughters, and I’m weighing up my old school, but still not sure.. I’m also reading your post with particular interest, knowing that if we’d stayed where we were instead of moving to Dublin, your community school is the one I’d have gone to. Great post.

    1. I have come to realise that the vast majority of children are happy with their secondary school, because most schools are actually child friendly. It is more likely that parents might not be happy.
      However I personally went to an all girls school which did not suit me. I ended up repeating my leaving in a mixed no uniform school and I thrived.
      I’m sure whatever you chose your children will do well because parental backing is the key to your children doing the best they can.
      I thought of you as I wrote this post, because this school really is special. It is huge now but still super. My sister is in Dublin and chose one of the top schools. Maybe DNA is not everything!

  5. A student could get the best teacher in the top school and still not do well. Also, I’m sorry to say, some teachers just plain do not like some kids. I have a child all teachers loved and one that only ever had two teachers in her life that liked her. My daughters are Peruvian and Caucasian mixed but one looks more white than the other… the one less white looking was treated badly. The one that looked more Peruvian was not expected to read or write well so the teachers always thought she copied the work from others. She gave up trying to defend herself because you cannot change a person’s racism or prejudices. This one went on to get her English degree in spite of the bad teachers.

    1. Oh Jackie that is awful, to have two children treated so differently. I am so glad to know she rose above it and succeeded despite them not because of them. Well done her.
      Teachers really can make all the difference in a childs life.

      1. Yes, she proved to herself that she was better than people thought of her. But, Tric, just when a parent or other person says hurtful things, it stays with her. She is 32 and still talks about plagiarism accusations because Hispanic kids don’t read and her father must have made the folk art piece because “a girl” can’t do things like use power tools. Yes, they made a difference in her life and the hurt is still there.

  6. I refuse to even look at it. Before I even read your post I knew exactly what I was going to say in response to your question. I dislike this ranking exercise for precisely what that principal of that school said to you. Children with learning disabilities and diagnoses (ASD, Aspergers, ADD, ADHD, Dyslexia etc) will be excluded, or politely encouraged to go elsewhere to a school more ‘appropriate to their needs’. These children can be very bright and with the right supports can do just as well as their peers. They also have a lot to offer, and have every right to the same educational opportunities. This ranking will cause ‘cherry picking’ of students, although the Dept Of Ed discourages that and is actively encouraging inclusion…..with one hand. And with the other it is actively reducing the supports to make this inclusion a success, as the recent SNA circular indicates (a circular that I have blogged about, at least twice) In fact that circular has the capacity to cause ‘cherry picking’ too. xx

    1. I do want an education for life for my children, not one for exams, but that is difficult in the points driven society we live in.
      Thanks Beth.

  7. I am not sure what I feel about these ranking systems. I’m not sure how as a parent you are supposed to decide on the best school for your child. Some of us have more time and more nous when it comes to sussing out the right school. I sometimes wonder if some kind of ranking could help those schools to attract pupils when otherwise parents may not look past some individual characteristic that doesn’t appeal, perhaps the area where the school is located.

    My son has also been discriminated against, though not overtly , but as I’ve said before: before diagnosis he was offered places at all 4 local primary schools. After diagnosis the only school that offered him a secondary school place was the one that had to take him. That says a lot to me.

    1. That speaks volumes. And I dare say his school was not one of the top ten!
      I don’t think these league tables actually help parents chose a school that suits their child, as not every child is highly academic, which the very ‘top’ schools are. Nothing else about these schools is judged.

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