Before re-organisation in Ealing, children leaving primary schools had a choice of some ten schools in and outside the borough — independent, grammar, mixed comprehensive, and some of these were single sex schools. With the changeover to middle schools, there are now only two mixed Comprehensive schools — one through no fault of its own in quite unsatisfactory and ioadequate buildings.
Parents in Ealing are in a dilarrsna. There are not enough places irs the two Catholic high schools, if all the children stay on, in the Middle schools until they reach 12 years. Over 60 Catholic children of the borough opted out at II years old this year, the first year of the scheme.
There are Catholic schools outside the borough who will take the children at 11 years and many parents will wish to opt for these schools, for Catholicity, single sex (of very high priority with parents), for smaller units, and for family reasons.
The LEA respects parents' legal rights to opt out at 11 years of the borough's scheme.
The Governors and Heads of the two Catholic High Schools have drawn up a procedure of transfer from Middle to High Schools, Procedure of transfer from middle to high schools;
(i) A letter and choice form will be sent to parents by the Local Education Authority.
(ii) Parents are invited to nominate 3 High Schools.
(iii) The following criteria for differentiating between requests will be used: (a) practice of religion of family.
(b) brothers and sisters in the School in the year of entry.
(c) ease of access. (No boundaries, or streets have been designated.)
(d) special medical or social circumstances
(iv) Priority will be given to genuine first choices (i.e. those who did not opt for transfer at age of 11). This does not preclude the parents from exercising their right to make application to schools where admission is possible at II. Nor does it exclude the possibility of children who have made such application being accepted into the Ealing Catholic High Schools.
These are the principles which the Governors of the Eal ing Catholic High Schools con sider to be the most just to all concerned.
N.B. The above procedure applies to Catholic children currently attending all Middle Schools (Catholic or County) within the Borough or Ealing.
So in September 1976 if no children attempt to opt out at 11 years at least 60 children will not have a place in a Catholic school.
This week forms from the LEA have been distributed to all parents asking them to state a first, second, or,third choice, but a parent who made an un successful attempt at I I years doe S not in fact have a first choice at 12 years, (Because those schools were over subscribed).
The middle school heads will be required to give the information as to which parents attempted the move of an 11year-old — the two high school heads will he told via the managers.
However, three middle school heads at least will not disclose this information. Therefore all the Catholic children in the borough are not having equality of opportunity.
Many views have been stated:
(1) A vhild slaying on in a middle school must have preference in selection over one who stays but made an earlier attempt to opt out, (2) Middle schools must build up a reputation and therefore try to keep academic children.
With falling interest by (3) Catholic parents for Catholic education, high school numbers will fall. This will affect facilities, teachers' salaries, etc.
Nevertheless, far above all these points such as the ego of schools, the long-term effects, the reputed drastic decline in the desire for Catholic schools, there are today's children and those of the next four or five years.
Middle schools are still an experiment; there are not enough places for all Catholic children in the high school; there is an urgent need for single sex schools.
Each individual precious child must have as far as possible what the parents think is right and best for that child, and parents will spare no effort to attain it. Authoritarian attitudes cannot be laid on parents.
All Catholic parents in Ealing should be informed in writing on all aspects of transfer. They should have a chance to discuss these problems. Head teachers of high schools and middle schools, priests of the deanery, and the Westminster Schools Commission should be available to give advice and help, which up to the present has not been forthcoming.
What sort of relationships will result between heads of middle schoolsand parents — when heads are requested to be informers — and between parents and school managers?
Parents depend on advice and trust from teachers who are after all, and let us not forget it, in loco parentis. There is room for discussion, for giving information and explanation. There is an urgent need now to create and further an honest, forthright and friendly attitude between parents, priests and teachers in this Ealing situation, forced upon us, accepted by the Catholic authorities, but so ill prepared for, by the decision makers on our behalf.
(Mrs) Imelda Bolger, Parent. Deputy Head St Gregory's RC Combined First and Middle School, Group 6 I Frinton Court, Clevelands, Ealing, Wl3.