Harris Academy

(43 Posts)
nennypops Wed 19-Jun-13 23:26:29

Interesting comment underneath this article - www.guardian.co.uk/education/2013/jun/17/new-curriculum-school-direct-ofsted#comment-24399320 - which needs wider circulation.


To clarify, it was more that the recent Sutton Trust report prompted me to dig around a bit in the Harris statistics. Here's some findings which no bugger will care about because they don't quite fit with the predominant conseravtive world view about Harris being the saviour of education.

This is Harris Crystal Palace's DFE dataset. Give credit to the LibDems who insisted on this lot being published. It's really quite comprehensive. Obviously pinches of salt all round, accepting that issues like 5 A*-C rating isn't the most solid of performance indicators once schools have figured out how to game the system. Nevertheless, a few things really stand out :

Harris Crystal Palace is based in a fairly deprived area in Norwood. It's nearest three primaries (1), (2), and (3) have the following indicators :

FSM = (1) 37.6%; (2) 20.5%; (3) 40.4%
EAL = (1) 44.6%; (2) 19%; (3) 39.4%
SEN or School Action Plus = (1) 19.9%; (2) 6.6%; (3) 19.7%

Other local schools have similarly high levels, so we can see that this is a tough area with a high proportion of FSM, SEN and EAL. We'd expect to see Harris Crystal Palace with a similar set of figures. Here are theirs :

FSM = 11.3%
EAL = 15.5%
SEN or school action plus = 3.9%

So as you can see, Harris take far fewer children with FSM, EAL or SEN than those prevalent in their local area. What a remarkable feat for a non-selective school. How do they manage this ?

The answer is that they have a "banded" admissions policy. Here's the words from their own website :

Ten percent of places will be reserved for students based on their aptitude for Technology, which is one of the specialisms of the Academy.

The remaining places will be allocated by placing students, based on the results of their Non-Verbal Reasoning Test, into one of 9 ability groups of approximately equal size. The assessment is not a pass or fail test. It is designed to ensure that students of all abilities have an equal chance of gaining a place at the Academy

So Harris assess all applicants, and take children from across the ability range. Super. Except....

Have a look further down their stats at the section called "Cohort Information". This tells you the nature of the intake based on prior achievement. So those students achieving less than level 4 at the end of primary school are "low attainers", those with level 4 are "middle attainers", and those with above level 4 are "high attainers".
Harris's figures for the 2012 cohort are as follows
Low attainers - 1%
Middle attainers - 29%
High attainers - 70%

Well, well. It turns out that Harris's banded system designed to give access to students of all abilities, only seems to identify those students of average or - the great majority - above average ability. Harris Crystal Palace is a de facto grammar school. It is selective on both social and academic grounds, excluding a hugely disproportionate number of disadvantaged or less able students from its locality. In other words, its admissions policy is a fiction. Its much-praised results have nothing whatsoever to do with its academy status, or the wondrous abilities of Mr Carpet Warehouse. Rather, its results are due to excluding the local population and cherrypicking clever middle class children from much further away (it's a matter of local amusement in my wealthy white middle-class area of Beckenham that kids from here who apply to Harris Crystal Palace always get in, despite it being miles away and theoretically banded - our kids always get in the top 10% of each band, somehow...).

Now that is already an admissions investigation in the making. I'll bang in a complaint, as is my right as a local parent. However I'd expect it to go nowhere, as Harris have friends in high places, and their money goes in the right pockets. So I'll leave you with a little sting in the tail.
My own school (comprehensive in a grammar school area) takes in 10% low ability, 50% middle and 40% high. Good, but not Harris standard. Harris select an overwhelmingly above-average ability cohort. So let's compare results.

Ebacc : Harris (43%); my school (45%)
Average point scores : Harris (383.5); my school (407.5)
Value Added : Harris (998.3); my school (1046.9)

So despite fiddling their admissions, despite selecting an overwhelmingly high-ability cohort, despite receiving more money, having smaller class sizes, more support staff, even a higher average teacher salary, Harris deliver worse results than my poor old, bog-standard comprehensive which doesn't even get the grammar school kids.

I recognise that there's only about 3 people will read this. And none of them will care. I feel like the little boy shouting about the emperor's nakedness, but unlike the story, I'm simply ignored. But I feel better.
PS - Daniel Moynihan, chief exec of Harris, pays himself some £250k. Nice job.

Arisbottle Wed 19-Jun-13 23:56:41

Very interesting

Thought this was about the one in Dundee oops blush

Phineyj Thu 20-Jun-13 09:18:58

It's still a great deal more inclusive than the grammars in Kent I'd say. What's that thing about not letting the best be the enemy of the good?

Also Lord Harris owns Carpetright and not Carpet Warehouse.

chocolatemartini Thu 20-Jun-13 09:39:06

I think he sold carpet right.

Interesting post thanks.

CecilyP Thu 20-Jun-13 10:37:15

You would certainly expect it to be more inclusive than the grammars in Kent, but at least the Kent grammars don't claim to take full ability range. OP, have you any idea how they manage to have such a skewed intake? I know that Thomas Telford in Telford, has a similar banding system, again using NVR, and has a similar intake in terms of KS2 result but I don't really know how this comes about.

KandyBarr Thu 20-Jun-13 17:53:44

Interesting post, thanks OP. I don't doubt the figures, and it's clear that all sorts of exaggerated claims are made about HCP.

But '....so we can see that this is a tough area'

Really? A family house in Crystal Palace costs about half a million. You can't move round here for Bugaboos, restaurant openings and arts festivals. Are those three nearest primaries a good indicator of the intake across the Harris CP catchment map?

And surely with a 30% intake from middle and low ability bands, it's a stretch to describe HCP as 'a de facto grammar'.

Caoimhe Thu 20-Jun-13 18:55:59

I think the OFSTED Dashboard for Harris Crystal Palace looks "interesting"!! - see here

CecilyP Thu 20-Jun-13 22:12:18

And surely with a 30% intake from middle and low abity bands, it's a stretch to describe HCP as 'a de facto grammar'.

While the intake does not compare to the London superselectives, it is on a par with the less selective Dover Grammar Schools eg

Low attainers - 1%
Middle attainers - 30%
High attainers - 69%

Low attainers - 0%
Middle attainers - 33%
High attainers - 67%

ToffeeCoffee Fri 21-Jun-13 07:32:32

Yes, but it's supposed to be a non-selective comprehensive. The question is how it got to such a skewed intake.

nennypops Sat 22-Jun-13 20:08:11

I find it interesting that, despite manipulating its intake, Harris doesn't get better results than properly non-selective comprehensives. It must, therefore, in effect have a minus value added score. Yet Gove keeps throwing money at them to start up new academies.

CecilyP Sun 23-Jun-13 15:10:17

There is nothing in the admissions criteria that particularly suggests that it manipulates its intake. Do you think that having to go and sit a test (although it is a test with no pass or fail) would put off parents of lower ability children?

Do all the Harris Academies have a similar test and similar intakes?

Minifingers Sun 23-Jun-13 15:19:37

It is selective on both social and academic grounds, excluding a hugely disproportionate number of disadvantaged or less able students from its locality

Thank you for digging this out.

Want to say first off, that although South Norwood IS a deprived area, Crystal Palace isn't. Harris CP sits on a road, to the immediate north of which are the leafy streets of SE19 - beautiful and massive Victorian villas, some which are still single houses, worth 800K plus. In fact I can think of three houses within a few hundred yards of the school which have sold for this amount in the last year. Further up the hill (5 minutes walk from the school) are street after street of 500K to 700K family homes. On the other side of the school it is more deprived, and there are about 4 social housing estates which fall very much within the school catchment area.

However, I myself have questioned the admissions policy (to myself!). My dd went to Harris South Norwood, which is one mile down the road from Harris CP. Their intake of high achieving pupils is 22%. I took her out after a year and sent her to Sydenham school which shares some of Harris CP's more affluant catchment area. The intake of high achieving children at this school is 31%.

There is clearly something going on with their admissions policy but I think they are a law unto themselves with regard to this. Until local parents kick up a stink nothing will happen, but given that the sort of parents who would be prepared and able to raise their voices in organised protest tend to be those types of parents who are getting their children into Harris CP, this is not going to happen......

Mintyy Sun 23-Jun-13 15:25:09

Nennypops - I am sort of interested in what you have to say, but its such a long op. Can you summarise?

Minifingers Sun 23-Jun-13 15:35:06

nennypops - I'm listening. And I'm angry too!

Not quite as angry as I would be if my dd hadn't got a place at Sydenham school, where the intake falls like this:

21% low attainers
48% middle attainers
31% high attainers
17% with statements or on school action plus
30% EAL
23% on free school meals

Average GCSE grade for high attainers at Sydenham? B+
Value added at Sydenham? 999.4
Average GCSE grade for high attainers at Harris CP? B
Value added at Harris CP? 992.7

Despite the fact that the spend per pupil at Harris CP is probably much, much higher.......

meditrina Sun 23-Jun-13 15:51:33

One (slight) confounder in this is that level 4 is the expected level of attainment for end of primary. So those who are average would indeed be at level 4. Below that is underachievement. So having lower numbers in the under-achieving cohort shows that despite challenging indicators of deprivation, the primary schools are doing well.

As the school is, as minifingers points out, as much on the edge of a more affluent area as it is to the more deprived one, then we need the deprivation stats for its whole admission footprint, not just the poorer end.

But schools with added value below 1000 are underachieving relative to intake, are they not?

nennypops Sun 23-Jun-13 16:21:07

Minty: here goes -

Harris CP is supposed to be a comprehensive school offering places regardless of social background and ability level. In fact, it has a "banding" system for admissions which should mean an even spread across all abilities.

It is in an area which appears to have a high percentage of children who qualify for free school meals, do not have English as their first language, or who have SEN. However, it takes a significantly smaller proportion of pupils falling into those categories than its neighbouring schools do, and somehow manages to take a massive 70% of its cohort from the highest achieving categories of applications, with only 1% from the lowest achieving.

Despite all that, its scores from those who have been through its system are lower than those achieved by a genuinely comprehensive school with an intake genuinely spread across all ability and social levels. And that is despite having more funding, paying teachers better, having more support staff, and smaller class sizes.

As I say, one question is why, with results like that, Gove continues throwing money at Harris to set up new academies. And another question is how they get away with so blatantly manipulating their intake.

If anyone on here is appealing for a place in a Harris school, I would strongly advise them to look at that school's statistics to see whether they are genuinely following their own rules, or whether there is anything similar to the phenomenon pointed out here. If so, you should insist on some very good explanations.

Mintyy Sun 23-Jun-13 16:30:00

Thanks Nenny. Very interesting. I thought Harris CP had a tiny catchment and was much sought-after, and it puts aside a significant percentage of places for pupils outside the catchment who sit an exam. And I thought those were selected on ability, ie. only very high-achieving non-catchment pupils would be offered a place?

Am I wrong?

Yes, it has occured to me that that seems incredibly strange in a so-called comprehensive school, but then Kingsdale, Askes and Prenderghasts all do it (with their "scholarships") and I am just too weary with all the school admissions crap to really fight against it any more. No one seems to care.

nennypops Sun 23-Jun-13 17:56:54

Mintyy, so far as I can see that isn't the system for Harris CP. You can find details here - www.harriscrystalpalace.org.uk/127/admissions-introduction.

I quite agree that Harris is not the only school to manipulate its intake. Every so often someone does a study which confirms that, the DfE comes out with formulaic expressions of concern but does nothing effective about it - I suspect because the current system suits them.

What is interesting though is that schools such as Prendergasts, London Oratory etc which appear to manipulate their intake do at least usually manage to produce results which reflect that intake and show that they have added value. Harris, by contrast, actually manages to produce a value added minus score, despite having more money, better facilities etc. It's quite extraordinary.

Caoimhe Sun 23-Jun-13 18:09:18

Harris CP's current Y11s are the first intake who didn't have to submit their latest school report as part of the application process.

In addition, the school used to admit pupils in each band pro rata to the number of applicants in that band - so if 70% of their applicants were in band 1 then 70% of their admissions would be from band 1 (or at least that was how it read way back when I looked at it several years ago). From what others are saying they now take the same number from each band.

They run a lottery system which is about as clear as mud, frankly.

Minifingers Sun 23-Jun-13 19:50:12

Harris CP's 2012 KS4 results as listed on the BBC league tables info show that they have 0% children with statements or on school action plus. Further up the table it says that 3.9% of their children are on SAP or have statements. That is the lowest by quite a long way of any school in the borough.......

goingmadinthecountry Mon 24-Jun-13 22:29:19

I taught there in the year before it became a then CTC. Plenty on free school meals/EAL/SEN reg back then! From the start there was quite a bit of social engineering, I'm led to believe....

SmellOfBurntWiggle Thu 27-Jun-13 21:06:32

ooh realy interesting, thanks..

Been digging up info on the Harrises as DD had a leaflet home in her bag last week about a new Harris Academy opening in Croydon North just along from West Croydon station on the old Hospital site.. advertising that its catchment area will be Thornton Heath.

I think I'm understanding correctly that it's breaking new ground for the Harris franchise as before they've taken over strugging schools but this is a new build with no existing schools in the location.

camilamoran Fri 28-Jun-13 16:39:45

I have a DC in Harris CP.

The school has a very big catchment area, covering some relatively well off areas and some much less so.

The intake is indeed different to other Harris schools, including those which actually share the same catchment area. I'm interested to see these detailed figures that nennypops has dug up, but not really surprised.

When my son went to Harris CP, it was the only school which we had to apply to separately. Everyone who applies then has to do the entry test.

What this does is select out the children whose parents care least about their education, and those who are least confident, because they do not want to bother to fill in an extra form and go off to set an extra test. So it does not as much select in as select out. It selects out the least academic kids and the parents who think education is a waste of time - these children are the hardest to educate and the hardest to discipline.

Its an eye-opener, though, that they literally manage to have only 1% of the least able children.

camilamoran Fri 28-Jun-13 16:48:22

I will say, though, that it is a pretty good school, in an efficient, sausage factory sort of way.

Harris will soon be running nearly all of the non-faith schools in Croydon - they are taking over Westwood in the north of the borough and as a previous poster noted, building a school in West Croydon on a site that has been derelict since the hospital was demolished.

This I think is bad from a parental choice point of view. Even if I thought they were much greater than they are, the best thing since sliced bread or fitted carpets, I would like to see schools with a bit more diversity.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now