Go-ahead for 'elitist' selection at Fortismere

PUBLISHED: 12:04 24 September 2009 | UPDATED: 16:27 07 September 2010

Charlotte Newton CHILDREN who are desperate to win a coveted place at Fortismere for next September will sit a musical aptitude test for the first time ever on Saturday. The controversial selection process – which reserves up to 10 per cent of oversubscri

Charlotte Newton

CHILDREN who are desperate to win a coveted place at Fortismere for next September will sit a musical aptitude test for the first time ever on Saturday.

The controversial selection process - which reserves up to 10 per cent of oversubscribed places for musically-gifted children - will go ahead, after the schools adjudicator overruled fierce objections from parents and primary schools in Muswell Hill.

The plan, put forward by governors, will see the specialist maths and music school now accept up to 24 musically gifted 11-year-olds into the school in September 2010, some of whom may live outside the catchment area.

The policy will also apply to students hoping to join the sixth form, if it is oversubscribed.

Jane Farrell, former chairwoman of governors at Fortismere, objected to the move. She said: "There is a shortage of secondary places for children in Muswell Hill. This new test means children in the local area who don't excel in music won't pass the selection process and won't get a place. It will change Fortismere from a local comprehensive to a partially selective school where children travel from outside the area."

The two-fold musical aptitude test includes a 40-minute written exam, which 11-year-old children who want a place will have to sit this Saturday.

Those who pass will be invited back for an oral exam in October and parents will find out in March whether their child has been offered a place.

Headteacher Aydin Onac who is a professional concert pianist, was delighted with the decision.

He said: "We are a specialist school and one of our specialist subjects is music.

"This is about widening access for a small number of students who will have the opportunity to develop their talents to a very high level. I'm delighted at the schools adjudicator's decision and I think it will be fantastic for the school."

Jules Mason, chairman of the board of governors, said: "The reason we introduced this new admissions policy was because of the opportunities it will provide pupils. It will broaden the intake of pupils who excel in music."

Governors at Rhodes Avenue Primary School objected to the proposal on the grounds that it would benefit children whose parents were able to pay for music lessons.

Questions were also raised about the fairness of the test - and whether it was a covert test of academic ability because musically-gifted children often thrive in other subjects.

But Canon Richard Lindley, the schools adjudicator, concluded that the new policy was in line with government guidelines.

He did, however, specify that Fortismere must change part of the test so that children are not asked to "play back" musical notes. Instead, they can be asked to "hum them back".

This, he argued, would ensure that a child's musical aptitude was being tested - rather than their musical ability.

Haringey Cllr Lorna Reith, cabinet member for children and young people, said: "We had concerns about Fortismere's proposals, in particular because of the impact on other schools and because it could reduce the number of local children who could attend the school.

"We will watch the situation carefully over the coming school admission round.

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