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Scrap the school admissions lottery now

Seaton Nick Seaton of the Campaign for Real Education says that if the Schools Secretary Ed Balls accepts a lottery for school places is wrong then he should scrap the system.

As everyone will know, last week Eric Pickles urged Conservatives to 'get in touch with their inner Tory'. Conservatives, he said, should stop trying to deliver Labour's agenda and push ahead with distinctive
Conservative solutions.

Not before time, these are pearls of wisdom from someone who cut his political teeth in local government.

Thanks to ideological confusion, we now have a situation where true Conservatives who support conservative principles are fighting other Conservatives who accept discredited socialist solutions – and enact them.

Nowhere  is this more true than in the matter of school choice.

This week has already seen a decision by education secretary Ed Balls to look again at his government's decision to encourage the allocation of school places by lottery. As usual in such situations, Ed Balls has
not simply said he will scrap school lotteries.  He has merely told his unaccountable quango, the Office of the School Adjudicator, to look at whether lotteries are unfair or used too often.

More time will be wasted. More bureaucratic effort and taxpayers' money will be spent in the vain hope of salvaging something that won't stand up to scrutiny. The use of lotteries has been part of mainstream political thinking for at least two years. Brighton local authority has already found it caused a rise in those who failed to get their choice of school from 16% to 22% in a single year.

When the whole idea is untenable, why hasn't it already been scrapped? It can't be anything other than socialist because it totally denies reward for personal effort. And it gives equal priority to those who are lazy and feckless – the very antithesis of normal conservative principles.

This unfolding situation will need watching. If lotteries do disappear, they may well be replaced by more use – and manipulation – of catchment areas. And  'fair banding' that is also manipulative and unfair to everyone, whether they are academically minded or not.

Some sensible Conservative councillors have already begun to pursue obvious solutions to the issue of school choice.  Instead of de-stabilising good schools, they are leaving them alone to do what they do well. In a few local authorities, the efforts of councillors and their officials are entirely concentrated on improving under-performing schools to make them attractive to parents. Elsewhere, this is not the case.

After 11 years of failed left-wing policies, a choice of good local schools that meet the individual needs of their child has become a key demand from parents. They want more choice, not less. Yet for many the question remains: after a decade of deceit and political obfuscation, can we be sure the Conservatives will deliver?


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