Moving in Darkness: back to the future at Crown Woods College (FORUM 3)

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Publication date: September 1, 2011

PATRICK YARKER, MELISSA BENN

At the end of July 2011 The Guardian reported on the recently opened Crown Woods College in Eltham, South-East London. The College had been rebuilt on the site of the previous Crown Woods School with £50 million of funding via the Building Schools for the Future project. Its nine buildings include four ‘mini-schools’, one of which is a sixth form, alongside a state-of-the-art gym, a building for children with moderate learning difficulties, special educational needs (SEN) or visual impairment, and a technology and design centre. Media interest was aroused by the way the College had extended its previous policy of streaming students by ‘ability’. Each mini-school (leaving aside the sixth form) operates separately from the others and is populated by students deemed to be only of a particular ‘ability’. Since each mini-school has its own uniform, Crown Woods College students are effectively identified in public by ‘ability’, with mini-school populations prevented from mixing. The Guardian’s headline was: ‘School Colour-Codes Pupils by Ability’. The Guardian’s report, which generated some 250 comments, was picked up by other newspapers. Elements of the original were reproduced on blog sites and Internet-discussion forums. In an article also published by The Guardian, FORUM board member Melissa Benn took up some of the issues raised by the public funding of a segregated state school. We reproduce that article, along with a piece by fellow board member Patrick Yarker, who taught English at Crown Woods school.

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