Are musical aptitude tests for school places ‘elitist’?

FORTISMERE secondary school up in Muswell Hill posted the results of an interesting survey on its website just as Easter broke. The oversubscribed school which is said to have driven house prices up the closer you get to the gates has been mopping up opinion over whether to keep a clause in its admission policies which reserves a percentage of places for children with ‘musical aptitude’. The results were posted on the school’s website on Thursday and show a split on the issue among parents.

Those who like the idea say it ‘builds on the school’s history of exceptional musicians’. I went there and left unable to spit Three Blind Mice through a recorder, but Ray Davies from The Kinks and Rod Stewart passed through the doors too. Another respondent to the school’s survey said: ‘In the context of Mr Gove’s current onslaught on the Arts, it is more important than ever that cultural subjects should be protected and nurtured.’ Another said: ‘Ending the programme now would effectively say to the current students that they have failed and they were never really welcome.’

The antis say private musician tuition at early age – the kind that costs a fair bit of cash – means you could jump the race from the start, making sure little Rowenna can play the clarinet while everybody else is watching cartoons. On Fortismere’s survey, one respondent simply says: ‘The criteria is elitist’. Others said: ‘The real achievement would have been developing musical excellence of the local children rather than supporting them from elsewhere’. There’s a sharper claim on the list of objections but they speak to school politics which happened long after I left.

The upshot is that Fortismere may keep with it for another three years, after which the governors will look at it again. It might be interesting to see whether the team at William Ellis, the popular boys school on the fringe of Hampstead Heath with a similar Londonwide reputation for success, follow what happens there. It too picks a share of student on musical aptitude.

During the endless battles over education between Toby Young, a former student at both Fortismere and William Ellis, and Fiona Millar, the issue has come up before. Fiona, a governor at William Ellis, said a couple of years ago in one of their online spats: ‘I am not sure why governors at the school took this decision as it was taken long before I joined the Governing Body, and possibly dates back to the time you were a pupil there. I think my views on aptitude selection are well known but these are decisions for the full governing body , not for one single member, as I am sure you will find out when if you are to become a governor of your new school.’

1 Comment on Are musical aptitude tests for school places ‘elitist’?

  1. There is a story here if only someone has the nerve to investigate it properly

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: