Woodhouse College and the Death of Education

Introduction


Woodhouse College, located in West Finchley, London, enjoys a somewhat illustrious educational history. First established in 1923, the institute shares a joint history with Margret Thatcher and Hitler, also claiming to have been in the top five performing Sixth Form Colleges for the last 20 years. As I enjoyed a quaint stroll down the portrait laden corridors, the successes of previous students bearing down upon me, I imagined a young Michael Mcintyre scampering about the courtyard. Perhaps it was while he was telling jokes near the infamous Hitler tree that he first realised he was funny.

I had an interview for a teaching placement at Woodhouse but turned it down, as it appeared to me incredibly selective on the surface. Though they only offered me a placement and not a job, I strongly believe selectivity is unnecessary and detrimental to our society, and that it is only through increased dialogue on the issue that we will start to see progressive change. Selectivity is an important issue for myself because I don’t believe grades are reflective of potential intelligence, especially at such a young age. The attitude progresses into the functioning of the Sixth Form, I’ve witnessed students being funnelled out of the Sixth Form institution I attended when students were underperforming.

Additionally, Woodhouse told me that they encouraged the students to question the teacher to try and catch them out, advising my lessons were meticulously researched and referenced. Whilst self-belief and a somewhat arrogant attitude is sometimes linked with success, it can be incredibly frustrating for everyone else and doesn’t belong in democracy at large. In my opinion, the attitude installed previously at prestigious schools, manifested in our current Prime Minister, and indeed previous Prime Ministers, is currently harming and has harmed our democracy. I do wish to encourage critical thinkers, but I don’t want to encourage an arrogance that will harm self-reflection, engagement with feedback and ultimately progression.

I left with an E in the subject I now have an MA. I attended the University of Glasgow, a Russel Group University. I did this within the bracket (18-25) that the ESFA set as the spectrum of young learners. This bracket also aligns with the four stage, lifelong learning model endorsed by Tom Schuller, 18-25 being what he calls the first stage. That said, the whole point of the lifelong learning modal is to encourage ‘a coherent systemic approach to lifelong learning’. The time frame shouldn’t always be presented as a matter of urgency.

Thus, I attained an MA in what is widely accepted as the appropriate time frame in which to do so, even though the rhetoric of most Sixth Form colleges implies this would be impossible with the grades I attained (C C D E). Furthermore, 25-50, to Schuller, is the recommended time to gain qualifications which will lead to increased productivity, prosperity, strengthening of family life and a deepened sense of personal identity. I would say a Post-Compulsory PGCE is such a qualification, and I am 25.  

Thus, removing students, or disallowing low performing students and those with poor attendance to sit their exams is the wrong decision, violently diminishing the principles of lifelong learning. The only reason I sat my exams is because I broke my jaw when I was 16, otherwise my 27.5% attendance would have been enough to stop me sitting the exams.

I’m not saying pushing students to achieve good grades is a bad thing to do, it is mostly our job to cultivate ability in our students to attain grades. However, presenting an ultimatum that you can’t get to a good university without high grades hiders a healthy approach to lifelong learning. Ultimately it is incorrect.

 As I need to write about another further educational institute for my reflective journal, I thought I’d investigate exactly what I find troublesome though the lenses of the prescribed questions, but first I wish to discuss why I think Woodhouse is selective. The following isn’t meant to be an essay, but I have tried to include evidence to substantiate my opinions.



Why is Woodhouse Selective?



In Woodhouse Colleges own words, it is a self-governed corporation, funded by the government through the Education and Skills Funding Agency. It is of note that Woodhouse is a corporation. I believe they haven’t transitioned into an academy because of the widely read writings of Frank Coffiled and Bill Williamson. Coffiled writes:

‘How, for example, when all 25,000 schools have become academies or ‘free’ schools, which get their funding directly from the secretary of state, will he or she run the ‘system’? We suspect that central government will then intensify its control over the schools and colleges that are directly funded by the state’

Though Coffiled is making a prediction that hasn’t been verified, it does seem highly likely that autonomy will be even more limited for schools than it already is when their budget is completely controlled by the state, by no means a recipe of a healthy democracy. One day the ESFA may resemble an overbearing parent who won’t buy their child, Sebastian, a new pair of skis for their holiday to the Alps unless he gets 5 A*. Sebastian, like the education system, might need some space to grow.

I think Woodhouse are a corporation due to Coffiled’s reasoning, because they are suffering as a result. Not becoming an academy has limited their autonomy in other ways, it written in their financial statement of 2018 that they had registered a deficit two years in a row. The reason they give is that they can’t access funding allocated to academies. This is shocking when you consider 95% of their funding is from the ESFA.

So why would an intensification of state control be a bad thing? When I was being interviewed at Woodhouse, we talked briefly about Christian Liberalism in South America. I couldn’t remember much, only having read one article on it a year and a half ago, but what was interesting is that their students are engaging with University level material. One student had written a paper for a competition at a University on a philosopher none us had researched.

In comparison with the booklet given to me by St Francis Xavier Sixth Form College, the institution I will work at, it seems to me that greater control of taught content is probably the received bonus of being a corporation. Whilst St Francis Xavier Sixth Form College isn’t an academy but a college, it also isn’t a corporation, so I think the same principle prevents SFX from having greater autonomy over their syllabus. That said, this argument isn’t conclusive, rather a fallible inductive argument based on what I have read and seen. 

In regards to the schools relationship with the ESFA and Ofsted, gov.net says on 16-19 accountability that:
 
‘Where an ITP is graded overall inadequate by Ofsted, or meets one of the financial intervention triggers, they can expect to have their contracts terminated early, subject to protecting the interests of learners’

Running a financially stable ITP (Independent Training Provider) and meeting the criteria of Ofsted must be a key objective, and this probably leads to stresses on the running of the institution. Whilst failing these objectives would be a magnificent fall from grace, now Woodhouse have set the president that they are in the top five, a significant drop in the league table isn’t a large percentage for them. Due to the deficits it must be an even larger stress.

What is important to remember is that the ESFA dominate their funding, the other 5% belonging to stakeholders, whom according to the report are investigating other forms of funding such as e-learning opportunities and expanding capacity for more students. While the ESFA distribute money in accordance with how many students attend, a minor drop in their Ofsted reports could result in a much bigger drop in the league tables, potentially damaging the interest of their stakeholders and potential stakeholders. Thus, their selective process I will assume to be influenced by Ofsted results in order to maintain their financial sustainability and a high reputation. I assume as such because the following information which this paper discusses is known to them. I do support the move to maintain their autonomy, but selectivity is a problem, as Andy Green and Jan Janmaat write:

‘We found that education systems which select students to secondary schools by ability and make extensive use of ability grouping within schools tend to exhibit more unequal educational outcomes than non-selective comprehensive systems with mixed ability classes’

While they talk about secondary schools, it is clear and somewhat intuitive that selecting students based on apparent ability will not produce fair outcomes, we can’t presume low performing students will always remain as such. If the ESFA fund further education for ages 18-25 then perhaps there could be less of an ultimatum presented to attain the grades immediately. We want to instil a passion for lifelong learning, not ultimatums.

What opportunities do they offer?

On Woodhouse College’s website, the first picture displayed is of about 30 very happy looking students, seemingly from diverse ethnic backgrounds, with a bold tag announcing OXBRIDGE 2019. The Principle, John Rubinstein, personally oversees the Oxbridge program, highlighting that this is the dream that all their students should aspire to. It is their somewhat unique selling point, enjoying special ‘Oxbridge networks’ that will enable a continued perpetuation of successful applicants.

Twenty seven subjects are available for study; creating a list seems non requisite though you can be sure that it dwarfs many other Sixth Forms such as the one I studied at, Farlingaye Sixth Form. Although Farlingaye have increased their choices the list rests at a humble twenty one, which is especially humble when you consider some are vocational and all of Woodhouse Collage’s subjects are what you would detestably define as academic.

Getting into Oxford or Cambridge is an achievement to be sure, but exactly who is this achievement open to? A quote on the website, from who I assume is the Principle, states:

‘Oxbridge are looking for ‘super geeks’ who are, above all, passionate about a particular subject’

I would say this statement is entirely false. Firstly, Oxbridge is not performing the action of looking, potential candidates apply to them. They don’t benevolently search for the magical super geeks. Having Oxbridge as the main subject of the first clause, rather than using geek as the main subject, implies it is Oxbridge in control of finding the traits that form a super geek, not the applicant that is in control of attaining the necessary skills and presenting themselves as a driven student.

Furthermore, the idea that super geeks naturally exist and are ‘found’ implies that there is a specific ‘type’ of person best suited for Cambridge or Oxford, and infers that intelligence is an innate trait, one day noticed like Harry Potter’s hereditary magical talents. The rest of us are not muggles, these skills are acquirable from the institution through work and should be promoted as such. Whilst geek seems to be used in a somewhat tongue in cheek fashion, and it could be argued that it’s use is to denote studiousness and a high work ethic, I don’t think it is made clear here. The word geek has often been used to denote negative character traits that some students may not want to associate themselves with, potentially alienating young adults. More worryingly is that it suggests the traits are fixed.

By saying some people are super geeks you are saying some people are not, thus it endorses compensatory modals of pedagogy, which broadly speaking takes the approach that the teacher is the dispenser of knowledge and that there is something missing with the non super geeks.  Complementary pedagogy provides an alternative, suggesting all students already have experience and talent that needs to be nurtured, or to use the language of Woodhouse, that everyone can become a super geek. Whilst the theories and their application are a more nuanced discussion than I’ve made it out to be, suggesting that a singular type of best student exists ultimately undermines the practice of inclusive education.

Moreover, being passionate about just a singular subject shouldn’t be encouraged, the broad overlapping of the Humanities especially apparent at University. It is highly likely that in the first few years studying at Oxbridge the students will have to take modules in subjects not directly related to their major. While not Oxbridge, in my first year at Glasgow I studied English literature, English Language and Celtic Civilisation. It says on the Cambridge University website about undergraduate courses:

‘In addition, some options/topics (usually called papers at Cambridge) are available in several degree courses where the subjects overlap’

An example they give would be Classics papers on the English course. Thus, the statement Woodhouse makes is entirely false. Whether this is deliberate or not, the clauses and word choices carry meaning. If we consider what Gert Biesta says is one of the three functions of education, socialisation, the existing traditions that the students of Woodhouse will become indoctrinated in seem unhealthy. The hidden curriculum will become for some, that, as a future Oxbridge graduate, they are the superior super geeks. I don’t believe this is a healthy attitude to promote, certainly not in our democracy.  

For my subject, TRS, the student must have attained at GCSE four level 6 grades ( B ) in Maths, English Language, Religious Studies and an essay writing subject. I believe this isn’t necessary for the following reasons.

The first reason is that Woodhouse absolutely isn’t in a position where it needs to cherry pick to that degree, as they have small class sizes, the average class size only being twenty students, allowing the teacher more time to get to know the students and decreasing the likelihood of behavioural problems. It will also have a dramatic impact on the quality of feedback, and the time available to make sure the student has engaged with it. Obviously, the bonuses of small classes don’t stop with feedback. Pick up any text book on good teaching practice, have a flick through and ask yourself ‘would this be easier with a big class or a small class’, and with a few exceptions perhaps relating to group activities and the like, I think you’ll understand my point.

The teachers are specialists in their subjects, many of whom have PHD’s, and they are only asked to teach one subject which is their own. If these allowances could be made for low performing students it would certainly be interesting to see what grades they attained, effort always presenting an opportunity to beat talent. This is particularly galling when you consider that Woodhouse have Beacon Status, which means their practices are observed and disseminated, with the hope to apply them to other intuitions which under perform. I’m sure their teaching is to a very high standard, but it is condescending. Perhaps some techniques would aid once transferred, but the communities of discovery (a bit much but I appreciate Coffield’s attention to linguistics) found in low performing Sixth Forms are going to need their own, unique approaches. Margaret Gregson and Yvonne Hillier write:

‘They argue that what constitutes effective teaching and learning cannot be straightforwardly associated with the idea that ‘what works’ in one educational setting will automatically ‘work’ in another. Coffield (2014) describes as ‘ill-conceived’ and ‘ineffectual’ the notion that teaching can and will be improved simply by identifying and disseminating what is considered to be ‘best practice’ in teaching and learning’  

It is astounding that institutions such as Woodhouse can boast their superiority with such certainty when considering the amount of literature that exists that would suggest that they shouldn’t.

Taking into account the advantages available to them, even requesting a B grade seems to be essentially accepted gaming. On top of all of this Woodhouse reserve the right to not progress a student from Year 12 to Year 13 on the grounds that they do not have faith in their academic abilities, writing:
 
 ‘……..where the student’s academic progress is so limited that we do not have confidence in their ability to pass the A level course’

Confronted with the perks that teachers at Woodhouse enjoy, it is hard to say such an attitude is acceptable. It is up to them to accept such a challenge, instead of hindering the student’s chances of succeeding or applying to another further educational institute. It furthers an attitude that it is the students fault rather than their own. Also, say a student does fail, it doesn’t mean to say that student didn’t learn anything, or that what they learnt can’t be built upon. Failure isn’t always a bad thing. In my mind, if we are truly to teach independent learning, the existence of failure must become an experienced reality in some form.

Not all lessons are instantly beneficial, though in time may germinate, perhaps at a further educational institute. By not allowing this experience or fighting to the bone to stop it from happening, a clear fear of league tables is expressed. A high dropout rate could potentially look bad, but I assume it will lessen pressure on other statistics. Ultimately, if they reserve the right not to progress students on academic ability, it must be because it benefits the corporation in some way. This issue doesn’t seem to be decreasing nationally.  

Another reason these grades are not necessary is because of the nature of the grading system in comparison to subject understanding. As a trend, teaching has been leaning towards focusing on analysing gradable and assessable skills. This is because the notion of understanding and comprehension is incredibly difficult to measure whilst impossible to quantify, as Walter Muller writes:

‘Primarily, the aims are about the most efficient transfer of testable knowledge and skills. Hence, they are about the improvement and increase of human capital’


John Webber also writes:

‘The underlying precept is that learning needs to result in a measurable change in what the learner is able to do. This in turn leads to the advice that verbs such as ‘understand’ should be avoided, on the grounds that understanding cannot be directly observed’

With this is mind, I wouldn’t want to actively take the choice of further study away from a student who didn’t get the best grades but may have latent comprehension of the subject, though this is increasingly how the education system acts across the UK. It seems somewhat ironic to me that teaching itself is an occupation that requires tacit, unquantifiable knowledge, yet we demand the opposite. Frank Coffield and Bill Williamson believe the pressures of globalisation are putting a gun to our heads in order to produce human capital, resulting in factories that produce good exam results, instead of knowledgeable, inquisitive and democratic citizens. Intentional or not, the demand for qualifications in our workforce reflects this in our schools.

Other than that aspect, why is it important my student has a B in Mathematics when I want them to comprehend what Plato’s world of the forms consists of, or developing an original argument concerning Utilitarianism. It buys into the notion that intelligence is innate, but the brain expands, develops and grows to the learning environments we put our students into. The neuroplasticity of the brain will enable learning to take place. How gifted they are at Maths does not concern me and should not concern Woodhouse, especially when these students are so young that their potential to grow is still greatly significant.

Thus, as long as students’ results effect how Ofsted rate a school, as long as the ESFA consider Ofsted when ending contracts and as long as league tables exist, schools like Woodhouse won’t be able to risk helping students who have the potential to do well but not the grades to get into the institution. Woodhouse need to appear profitable in order to draw attention and maintain support from stakeholders to become profitable. It is hard to think of a different reason when confronted with the same literature regarding teaching that is readily available to Woodhouse. If the drive to learn is there, then as teachers, I believe we have a responsibility to facilitate that learning, especially in an economic climate that largely demands qualifications.



What kinds of people take part?

Education intrinsically favours the middle and upper classes of our society, being selective with grades will benefit these classes disproportionately, as supported by academics such as Frank Coffield and is obviously known to the staff of Woodhouse College. Though class is a very tricky term to define, education is certainly the key to social mobility, a fact that was at the centre of Dame Sally Coates’ Unlocking potential: a review of education in prison.If we look at the statistics of Woodhouse College’s diversity report, in 2014 fifty students had a parent who had a degree compared to forty that did not, in 2015 fifty six had degrees whilst forty did not and in 2016 fifty six had degrees and thirty nine did not. Suspiciously, the number for each year of students who did not know was five. I do not have access to the figures of later years, but an increasing divide can be seen from these figures.

What I am trying to say is that students from middle or upper class backgrounds will have much more of a chance to get into an institution such as Woodhouse, as their parents are more likely to have degrees, giving them previous knowledge and probably a higher earning power to get better resources to achieve the necessary GCSE grades, and that the resources then available at Woodhouse increase their chance to get into University tenfold. This is further supported when considering the figure of the students who claimed bursaries, free meals and Economic Deprivation Funding. In 2017 only 5.1% needed EDF, 7% free meals and 19% were on a bursary. I do not believe these figures to be representative of the demographic of North London. If compared to, say, Falmouth School, which failed its last Ofsted report, we find in 2016/17 that 29% of students qualify for a bursary called Pupil Premium funding, aimed at students who come from economic hardship.

The truth is in the statistic for free meals, used in SELECTIVE COMPREHENSIVES Admissions to high-attaining non-selective schools for disadvantaged pupils by Carl Cullinane, Jude Hillary, Joana Andrade and Stephen McNamara. It was published in March 2017, the same year as Woodhouse’s 7% statistic. At 7%, Woodhouse accept less students who qualify for free school meals than the norm of high performing selective schools. The norm has already been highlighted in the Selective Comprehensives paper as an issue.

It is worth noting that a PISA study in 2009, which tested the literacy skills of 15 year olds across the world, found that the UK’s scores where particularly unequal. They found that social character of the students accounted for 70% of a performance difference.


Furthermore, Coffield relates qualifications to class as:

‘The long-established International Baccalaureate and the new Cambridge Pre-U exam for the elite.

A-levels for the middle class

Apprenticeships and employment with training for the skilled working class

Diplomas and now vocational training for the rest – for other people’s children’

Though this statement isn’t backed by quantified data, I remember hearing the same things in the discourse of students and parents from my old Sixth Form. From what I have seen and heard in my life, I believe this is a general attitude and, to a point, a lived reality, not that it should be. By having such a strong focus on attaining an Oxbridge placement, Woodhouse present themselves as being synonymous with an International Baccalaureate, being suitable for the elite, and will attract such students. Catchment areas are not enough to protect against this, it written in Selective Comprehensives:

‘House buyers willing and able to pay a substantial premium to live in the catchment area of a top school are likely, over time, to lower the accessibility of the school to those from disadvantaged backgrounds’

I am not saying wealthy people don’t deserve a good education, or that they can’t experience hardship, but it is important that as a country we provide equal opportunities. We aren’t currently.


I’ve already talked about class, so the only other thing that seems worth broadly discussing, and the only information I have to further discuss the students with, is race. When we look at the table of ethnicity this is what we find.

https://static.wixstatic.com/media/fca101_84d94b2cc8e74eff9ff6ec60d8903bb5~mv2.png/v1/fill/w_925,h_433,al_c,usm_0.66_1.00_0.01/fca101_84d94b2cc8e74eff9ff6ec60d8903bb5~mv2.png

As we can see, the quote optimistically states this is a good result (if that is the correct term). It says the Barnet borough is 64% white, but what we need to remember is that Woodhouse draws from 180 surrounding schools. It is not Barnet bough that concerns us but rather the specific students we are discussing.

I would argue that, to determine whether this is good or not, we would need to know the ethnic profile of those 180 schools from that year, with reflection on the applicants and whom was successful. Thus, this entire graph is nebulous. What I see is that white dwarfs all other ethnicities at 40% and has continually done so for four consecutive years. It would only be by adding all the other ethnicities together that it could be considered fair, and I’m dubious if that would be the correct way to proceed, especially when you look at the degree outcomes by entry qualifications and ethnicity published by the HEFCE.


If it is the case that, nationally, white people are doing significantly better than all other ethnicities, then the problem is that is Woodhouse only draw from those 180 schools. I accept that the population of England and Wales is 56.1 million and that 86% of the population are white (according to the 2011 census), but since the white population are doing so much better statically in regards to gaining degree level qualifications, and keeping in mind London is the most ethnically diverse place in the United Kingdom (40.2% Asian, black, mixed or other), institutions like Woodhouse could do more to try and balance the statistics. Furthermore, the ‘other black’ category suffered a significant fail rate as seen below.

For what reason the ‘black other’ suffered a lower pass rate in 2016, or what black other exactly means I am unable to comment upon, though it does show white students performed better than both categories of black students. Other ethnicities did do as well or better than the white category, though there are also many more white students, thus more white students succeed than other ethnicities. When looking at the white population of students this is what we find.

Whilst the divide is narrowing, white English people, overall, enjoy occupying the most places at Woodhouse collage. The known link between class disparity and race in the United Kingdom calls for greater action. Whilst this might be in accordance with local demographics, the Principle in his blog states:

‘And I am a woodhouse parent. Both my daughters went to local schools and then came here for sixth form, and my son, currently in Year 11 in a school in Crouch End, is looking round today.’

He goes on to inform us that both of his daughters are currently at University, one doing Music and another Math, which is, obviously, delightful. It strikes me that affiliates and employees may have an easier time manoeuvring their children through the Woodhouse application system than other hopefuls. It also strikes me that while I don’t know all their ethnicities, I know at least that the principle, who openly made sure all his children went to one of the highest performing Sixth Form colleges in the country, is wealthy and white. I don’t believe Woodhouse are a racist organisation, but I do believe such institutions can provide a reflection of the ingrained inequalities of the United Kingdom.

Where do they get their teachers from?

Currently, on the staff vacancies page, it says:

‘The College is committed to equality and diversity and encourages applications from minority ethnic groups which are currently underrepresented.’

On the matter of where the teachers come from, it is of course from wherever the applications are sent. This could be anywhere in assumed commuting distance, but, as Woodhouse states, it isn’t. Why not? They are in London after all. I will take a massive leap and say that it is quite possible that such institutions, on the most part, self-sustain themselves by sending students of to Oxbridge, leading to receiving teachers from Oxbridge, whom I’d imagine tend to believe going to Oxbridge is more important than graduates from other Universities. If a higher percentage are always white and English, the pool of applicants will remain as such, preventing their students from learning from diverse role models and discouraging the attitude that we live in an inclusive democracy. In their defence, we don’t. The Principle writes in his blog:

‘I attended school in Beverley, East Yorkshire, at a small boys’ grammar school, a very old school founded in 700AD (supposedly the oldest state school in England).’

Though not Woodhouse, it does feed into a narrative of prestigious schools producing teachers for more prestigious schools. That said, I didn’t go to a prestigious school or Oxbridge and they talked to me, though this was only for a placement. It was the case however that the woman interviewing me did recognize my course at UCL, having done it herself. She said to me that she wanted to give me the chance to teach Philosophy, in case I didn’t get the chance as she did the same post-compulsory PGCE. Although lovely of her, it does highlight recognition of the same qualification was what drew her to me. In their defence it is impossible to tell why and who they hire from this side of the fence, but I would imagine it is a multifaceted decision, unfair to comment on, certainly in response to one anecdote.

Do they have vacancies?

There is currently an opening for an Assistant Accountant to join their team. 21.6 hours of work a week for £30, 942 a year. I picked the wrong job.

Qualifications of teachers and experience?

As previously stated, all teachers are described as experts in their field on their website, I haven’t found a list of staff and associated qualification, but some certainly have PHD’s as advertised and I’d be surprised if they accepted anything under an MA. Of course, they would also have to have an associated teaching qualification. The one bit of information I found was from the principles blog in regards to his school reunion:

‘Interestingly, at our age (most of us are 58), no one really cared about conventional measures of success, who had the best job or earned the most money, and so there was no sense of competitiveness.’

Though nonspecific, I’ll take an educated guess and say John Rubinstein has some experience and is somewhat qualified.

Concluding thoughts

Whilst Woodhouse isn’t really unique in the concerns I have highlighted, and the institution I will work for probably has many of the same issues, I do believe Woodhouse is an extreme example of an Oxbridge focused corporation, celebrating their success whilst knowing they had the perfect incubator for it the whole time. Focusing on sending as many students to Oxbridge as possible to me seems a naïve waste of what they have, when most of these students have the ability to succeed with much less, proven throughout the country by a multiplicity of institutions. Additionally, due to the nature of tacit and intuitive knowledge, alongside neuroplasticity, we shouldn’t base who proceeds primarily on the grading system. The candidates received will disproportionately represent the upper and middle classes of our society.

It is clearly not advisable that such an institution is compared with others who don’t and cannot create such an environment destined for opulent results. Whether it is even fair to put them on the same table of excellence as, say, Felixstowe Academy in Suffolk, who failed their last Ofsted report, seems debatable. Woodhouse are in an advantageous position. That said, if Woodhouse even have the choice to take on students who on paper are risky is uncertain, especially since they reported a deficit two years in a row. They may need success to market themselves in other avenues as larger amounts of funding aren’t available from the ESFA. Maintaining good Ofsted results is clearly, for them, of the upmost importance.

As for the ethnic diversity element, when considering that white citizens perform higher than all other ethnicities nationally, 40% white is to a high number in comparison to the percentages of other ethnicities that Woodhouse accept, especially since they are in London. Certainly, quoting the demographic of the area isn’t sufficient in itself to prove that they are doing their bit. I do believe more of a concern, though admittedly a linked concern, is that 81% did not need bursaries in 2017. For such an established and successful institution, I believe it should make more of an effort with underprivileged learners, or perhaps increase the number of applicants they accept. Admittedly they are looking into this, though only because their stakeholders want to become profitable, and these applicants will go through the same selective process. As is true with many other Sixth Form Colleges, the facilities Woodhouse possesses when combined with a change of direction could act as an efficient vehicle of social change.


John Rubinstein claims to have been a rebel, stating:

‘I was a bit of a rebel at school. I started a branch of the national union of school students, as I was reminded, got detentions for wearing Anti-Nazi League badges (and also once for attending a demonstration when I was supposedly off sick but my image was spotted on TV)’.

Rebellious indeed Mr Rubinstein. I’d be interested to see what you made of some of my Glaswegian friends’ stories of their school experiences. Mr Rubinstein claims to be liberal at many points in his blog, which he most probably is, but vague political notions aren’t enough to promote real change in the lives of thousands of students let down by the education system annually. I accept the pressures of Ofsted are real, but the kind of naivety displayed by such a remark doesn’t, in my opinion, belong in an institution for further education.

How can a man whose idea of rebellion is forming a union possibly relate to the real traumas experienced at large in our society, and it is this inability to relate from the government which perpetuates an endless chain of good people with no qualifications, an inability to become self sufficient and a persistence of the abhorrent class structure that the education system enshrines. We live in an age where knowledge is instantly accessible but qualifications that lead to work are few and far between, where social mobility isn’t easily moveable because it’s largely kept in circles of wealthy or wealthy-ish citizens. Either way, John wonders what his students will remember of their school experiences at his age. That is, of course, completely up to him.


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Published by Coffee & Alex

Alexander Clarke is a sole trader who writes and teaches. He’s published articles, blog posts, short stories and poems. He’s taught philosophy, theology, ESOL and PSHE.

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